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B o o k R e v ie w s 3 6 3 erature, psychology, and philosophy. Surely, these references will aid Steinbeck scholars who want to understand how the myriad of Ricketts’s interests impacted the writer and were reflected in his prose. The letters are convincing proof that, as a scientist, an amateur philosopher, and a consummate consumer of the arts, he was an individual whose influence on others is just beginning to be known and whose life is deserving of far more attention by scholars. Readers can be thankful that Rodger has undertaken this task and that she intends to publish Ricketts’s major essays as well. If this volume has any flaws, it is the brevity ofRodger’s critical commentary (sometimes assuming too much about her readers’ background knowledge). Yet, another disappointment, though minor, is the fact that the index is missing such significant names as John Elof Boodin while including such entries as shark liver oil and plankton. On the whole, however, this is a volume well worth the reader’s time. Adventures with a Texas Humanist. By James Ward Lee. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2004. 284 pages, $24-95. Reviewed by Robert Murray Davis, Professor Emeritus University of Oklahoma, Norman In “The Function of Criticism and the Criticism of Regional Literature,” an essay from Adventures with a Texas Humanist, James Ward Lee asserts that the critic’s job is “to make literature accessible to the common reader and not to ‘valorize’ criticism itself” (152). Readers and critics of regional literature, he argues, tend not to be “theoreticians and philosophers and ideological terror­ ists” (153). The deconstructionists, who embarked on a quest that began with the Romantics, are “the end result of mankind’s redefinition ofGod” (158). Lee classifies himself not as a philosopher but as a bookworm. The spirit of this piece, which concludes “Texas Literature,” the first and longest section of the book, pervades the seven essays which precede it. Lee contrasts the age of J. Frank Dobie—romantic, longhorn-oriented, and fairly to largely ignorant about literature—with the age of Larry McMurtry, ironic, grotesque, and increasingly urban. Besides making generalizations about the development of these two periods of Texas literature, the essays give what are essentially annotated reading lists mixed with some rather sharp commentary on McMurtry’s tendency to stick in irrelevant sub-plots and to work increas­ ingly with caricatures because, “after the film success of Hud and The Last Picture Show, he has tended to see his work in terms of film scripts” (43). The lists are useful to the non-Texan because many of the books, including the work of Shelby Hearon and Betsy Colquitt, each of whom gets extended treatment, have not traveled well outside the state. Judging from Lee’s descrip­ tions, though, there are at least half a dozen books, fiction and nonfiction, which deserve to be included in the canon of Western and even so-called mainstream literature. W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 5 Perhaps the most useful essay in this section is “The Old South and Texas Literature,” in which Lee reminds us that, until the end of World War II most of the published writing dealt with the eastern part of the state where cotton and timber and then oil were supreme. Even now most of the population resides there, though residents now seem to regard themselves as Westerners. Section 2, “Folklore and Texas Culture,” contains pieces that Lee originally delivered to the Texas Folklore Society and other organizations. Lee is justly best known as a speaker, and I suspect that these work better live than on the page. Sometimes, as in “The Use of Folklore,” one notes the peroration, exhorting the audience to go forth and do better; the generalizations carefully laid out so that the listeners can remember them; and, especially in “SmallTown Texas,” the catalogues of familiar objects to put his listeners at ease. To the reader, “Folkways of the Arklatex” will provide the most new information, though B-Western film...


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