Category Archives: Prose

New Growth in Texas Fiction: An Introduction

She said if you’re from Texas, son,

Where’s your boots and where’s your gun?

“She Never Spoke Spanish to Me,”

Butch Hancock

One might expect the editor of such a volume as this to begin with bold assertions about the power and range of fiction in Texas: as virile as a Texas bull, as varied as the Texas landscape—that sort of thing. I will spare us. Whenever fiction from this region is presented as in this volume, it is inevitably attached to the word Texas: Texas Fiction. Texas Literature. And off it goes into the back room to be shelved with the Texana between the boots and the spurs. I would like to fight that. Continue reading

Open Borders: Literary Journals in Texas Today

Twenty-nine years ago, in the final paragraph of the essay “Small Presses in Texas” (Texas Observer 1977), Dave Oliphant, usually a reserved and cool critic, becomes prophetic. “The ingenuity, persistence, and dedication of Texas’ small press publishers have contributed to a growing movement that is clearly here to stay.” By “small press,” Oliphant is referring to a person or group of people who publish a periodical or short run chapbook or book. “There are various types of small presses established in the state; the smallest—and most numerous—are those devoted to the publication of poetry.” In his essay, Oliphant, the publisher of a small press himself, attempts to prove that an important shift had occurred in literature as it is practiced in Texas, that there had been “the return to Texas of native publishers.” Oliphant loves such Western-tinged phrases. This one reminds me of The Return of the Magnificent Seven—the poor exploited farmers combating, with a little help, the corrupt capitalists from afar. Continue reading

A Drive Home in Summer

We’ve been very sad around our house this summer. In July, my wife’s father died. It occurred suddenly. He went into the hospital for tests on a Tuesday, and by Friday he was dead. Yes, we’ve been sad, and because much of this issue of MAN! magazine concerns fathers, putting this issue together has not allowed us to hide from our grief by working. Continue reading

Talking With Guys about Love (With Readings and Soundtrack)


Lyman is in his den.   He’s sitting in his favorite chair. His father’s chair. Big and leathery. It makes him feel masculine just sitting in it. He thinks of pouring himself a drink, a scotch maybe. His dad drank in this chair. A scotch? he asks himself, do I want to get a little high. No. I’ll get sleepy, and I want to finish the new book I’ve been reading. Continue reading

Recovering from a Good Mother


The Ghosts in These Muscles

Four years ago, at age thirty-four, I had had enough. I had emptied my bag of life tools. It was time to admit that my life would be either painful repetitions of the past or a scary adventure into new territory. When I came to this realization, circumstances (or was it God? A higher power?) offered a ticket for adventure. This ticket states: “You can change your life if you so desire. But if you accept, you will change your life in ways never imagined.” Continue reading

Hiding Out at the Kerrville Folk Festival

We were somewhere be­tween Fredericksburg and Kerrville whirring past peach stands and clusters of Mexican hat, golden wave, and firewheels. The Hill Country was sucking us in as it did the Johnsons, the Bunions, and everybody since. “You know, white boys can’t con­trol it,” Boy George and Culture Club crooned on the tape. “You know, white boys never hold it.” I thought of settlers bolting into this country across the ninety-eighth meridian. “These were men who fled the furnishing merchant,” Robert Caro has written, “who furnished the farmer with supplies and clothing for the year on credit, and the crop lien, which the merchant took on the farmer’s cotton to make sure he ‘paid out’ the debt. And they fled the eroded, gullied, worn-out, used-up land of the Old South.” In the Hill Country they found lush meadows of stirrup high grass and low mountains rising into a clear, clean, sapphire blue sky. Continue reading

Part-time for You and Part-time for Me

Most people know that our schools use language strangely, especially in their use of obfuscation and euphemism. During the last four years that I have been at Austin Community College try­ing to teach my students grammar, I have also been trying to teach myself the meanings of all sorts of curious words and phrases that I had never heard or seen before. For instance, I teach full-time in a division called Parallel Studies, euphemism for developmental studies. Developmental studies, for those who do not know, is a euphemism for remedial studies. Austin Community College also has a Learning Resource Center, which is what most of us call a library. Learn­ing the dozens of strange words floating about the college almost requires a workshop with hands-on material. Yet all of these words are necessary, we are told, to emphasize the new directions community colleges are taking. Continue reading

The Stuff of Dreams

I hate moving.   First, there are the books. I don’t know how many, a few thousand, I guess. To me, a writer and English teacher, the quantity does not strike me as anything really totally outrageous, but it’s enough that movers give me an unenthusiastic stare when we do the walk through for the bid. “Are all these going?” I say, “Yep,” and spare them the story of my life, the interests, the hobbies, the career moves, the failed career moves, the fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams and desires that these books represent. Continue reading