Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Velvet Light Trap Call for Papers

Call for Papers

The Velvet Light Trap Issue #78: “Considering Kids’ Media”
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The Payne Fund studies of the 1920s and 1930s attempted to discover—with questionable scientific rigor—whether attending the movies was emotionally and physically harmful to children. Was it the case that disturbing scenes and sensory reactions to light and sound caused children to become nervous, agitated, and upset? Although the Payne studies were controversial and inconclusive, they reflected a general concern about the effect of films on children’s well-being that would influence media regulation and discourse for years to come. Many popular and academic conversations about kids and media are still dominated by the belief that children are vulnerable, developing bodies in need of constant oversight. David Buckingham famously defined these discourses as pedagogical and protectionist, and argued that they can limit the study of kids’ media. Like Buckingham, we see potential pitfalls with the pedagogical and protectionist approaches, including regressive views of audiences; arbitrary boundaries between adult and child cultures; and a neglect of formal analysis and historical inquiry. Significant work has been done in a number of disciplines that seeks to address these challenges and concerns, but there is more to add to the film and media studies conversation that recognizes the complexity of children’s media and the cultures surrounding them.

For this issue, The Velvet Light Trap seeks historical and contemporary studies of kids’ media: that is, media aimed exclusively at kids, media produced with kids in mind as part of the larger audience, or media made by kids themselves. Submissions should add to the study of kids’ media as a creative, social, and cultural phenomenon by moving beyond the protectionist and pedagogical binary. We welcome topics that reflect the agency of young people, acknowledge the complexity of these media texts, and expand film and media histories. We will consider papers that concern people under the age of 18—teens, tweens, “young adults,” infants, and everyone in between—and topics with a national, regional, or international scope. The following subjects offer some topic areas, though submissions are not limited to the following:
  • Issues of gender, race, and the queering of childhood
  • Children as producers of content, online and in film or TV narratives
  • New research methodologies: issues when studying kids or using kids as co-researchers
  • Merchandising, toy culture, franchising, and paratexts of kids’ media
  • Traditional kids’ media forms and genres—fairy tales, animation, fantasy, etc.—and their boundaries and hybridity
  • Child stars and the stars of children’s shows or films
  • Sites of kid fandom and kids’ fan culture
  • Age and age differentiation within the realm of kids’ media
  • Texts with crossover appeal to multiple age demographics
  • Industrial studies of kid-focused networks, studios, websites, etc.
  • Children’s film festivals and other sites of exhibition
  • Historiographic inquiries into the conditions affecting children’s media: technological change, taste cultures, distribution and exhibition practices, external censorship, self-regulation, etc.
  • Institutional and educational media

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. The entire essay, including block quotations and notes, should be double-spaced. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Photocopies of illustrations are sufficient for initial review, but authors should be prepared to supply camera-ready photographs on request. Illustrations will be sized by the publisher. Permissions are the responsibility of the author. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to Submissions are due August 15, 2015.

About the Journal:

The Velvet Light Trap is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media studies. Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas-Austin coordinate issues in alternation. Our Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Ben Aslinger, Harry Benshoff, Mark Betz, Michael Curtin, Corey Creekmur, Kaye Dickinson, Bambi Haggins, Lucas Hilderbrand, Scott Higgins, Mary Celeste Kearney, Jon Kraszewski, Nicholas Sammond, Jacob Smith, Beretta Smith-Shomade, Jonathan Sterne, Cristina Venegas, and Michael Williams. For more information, please visit the journal’s website at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Stories from the Hunter S. Thompson of Texas

The exploits and irreverence of Gary Cartwright's larger-than-life persona has led some to compare him to gonzo god Hunter S. Thompson. The comparison is apt, but Cartwright's fully-lived life seems less dogged by self-loathing. In his new memoir, The Best I Recall, the Texas journalist saunters through his wild years and arrives at a wisdom earned not just from befriending strippers, dope fiends, inmates, and politicians, but from harrowing heart surgery and losing his son, two wives, and a handful of friends to cancer.

There are laugh-out-loud moments, eloquent passages on

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friendship and grief, and the kind of you-can't-make-this-up stories your wild uncle might come up with if he had run-ins with the likes of Jack Ruby and Dennis Hopper. Here are a couple of the things you'll learn from reading The Best I Recall.

Come see Gary Cartwright himself this Saturday at Austin's historic Scholtz Garten on San Jacinto. Gary will be signing copies of his book from 3 to 5pm.

You Could Get Away With Some Stuff in 1970s Mexico

Some of Cartwright's exploits read like the plot of Argo but with much-mitigated consequences and more drug-fueled decision making. Cartwright and his "soul mate" writer Bud Shrake filmed a movie in Durango starring Dennis Hopper (Kid Blue, 1973). Before they got to the set, this happened:

We crossed into Mexico at Eagle Pass, where I convinced an overly diligent Mexican customs agent who was about to refuse Pete entrance because of his long hair that we were filming a movie about Jesus. Pete had been obliged to grow the facial hair, I explained to the confused customs agent, in order to convincingly portray the role of Our Savior.
On the same film shoot, the eccentric director made up his own rules for helming a feature film production. Cartwright recalls, "When his mostly British camera crew complained of fatigue and heat exhaustion, Marvin [Schwartz] laced their cocoa with amphetamines." Now that's problem-solving.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

8 Ways Moving to 1830s Texas was . . . Different

In 1834, a German immigrant to Texas named Detlef Thomas Friedrich Jordt, aka Detlef Dunt, published Reise nach Texas, an informative and entertaining little book that praised Texas as a land of opportunity for European immigrants. The first English translation, Journey to Texas, 1833, provides a vivid glimpse into pre-Revolutionary Texas life and when read in light of our experiences as contemporary Texans, is as illuminating as it is amusing.
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We've compiled a list of eight notable ways life in Texas has changed since 1833, or hasn't. You can read an excerpt from Journey to Texas in the May issue of Texas Co-op Power Magazine and on our website.

8 Ways 1830s Texas was . . . Different


There were no vegan dining options.

Detlef Dunt writes, "Meat, which, from every kind of animal, is much tastier than in Germany, is eaten fried in the morning at breakfast, as well as at noon and in the evening."

There's no telling what animals were fried up besides cattle and hogs, and Dunt doesn't elaborate, but we can be sure there were no processed foods!


International travel to the Austin area was a little less convenient.

Compare Detlef's advice for the best fare from Germany to America to modern transatlantic airline fares:

"Passage from Germany to New Orleans should not exceed forty-five dollars per person . . . personal belongings free." However, the journey to cross the Atlantic took seven weeks and he advises Europeans NOT to arrive between July and October because, you know, yellow fever.

Detlef also includes some very explicit advice about how to get your sea legs which we will not quote here out of consideration for sensitive stomachs.


Your fellow passengers did more than just hog the armrest.

". . . they find merit in out-doing the initial perpetrators when it comes to bad manners and vulgar conduct. When on top of this there is also gossip, tippling, and immoderate indulgence, then steerage assumes a veritable village mentality, and a wolf's lair is an Eden by comparison."

An etching illustrating steerage passengers

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Remembering Photographer Mary Ellen Mark

A giant of the photography world has passedWe were fortunate enough to have worked with Mary Ellen Mark and the Wittliff Collections on a book of her photographs from India and Mexico, Man and Beast. She had such kind words to say about her experience publishing with us that we feel as if we've lost a loyal friend.

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015)
Image from Man and Beast

Here is fellow Magnum photographer Eli Reed (A Long Walk Home) on Mary Ellen Mark:
I heard of Mary Ellen Mark's passing late today with some shock and sadness. She was and is one of the foundations of true photojournalism in a time that needed her kind of important additions to what is needed to tell important stories with truth, beauty, and a healthy respect for her subjects. 
They were not just subjects. Many became friends that stayed in touch with her throughout her life. The dimming of her light is an extremely important loss at this time in photographic history. There are so many well meaning professionals and amateurs who have tried to copy the work of photographers that possibly inhabit the same space that she lived in and the well meaning failed for the most part. 
One needed to have the same kind of faith in your own original vision that Mary Ellen Mark displayed time after time. It seems too many photographers did not get that very important memo. Particularly the part of that memo that tells you to get ready for failure so that when victory comesit will be as sweet as a Georgia peach. 
Mary Ellen could have been a very tough US Marine if she had somehow and for some reason thought to go in that direction but fortunately for the rest of usshe chose the path of being as gentle as the sweetest kiss from a Summer's sweet breeze celebrating the coming of a sultry night. 
Mary Ellen Mark was a magnificent human being who gave, through the work she produced, much more then she received and I mourn her passing. She was a special kind of a living day and night that brings to the front very beautiful mornings. Sweets dreams to her is a good thing.

Read Mary Ellen in conversation with Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of Aperture Foundation, and Martin Bell, Mark's husband, former politician, and British UNICEF Ambassador, in this excerpt from Man and Beast.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

'We Could Not Fail' In the News

Once We Could Not Fail left the launchpad, so to speak, it hasn't slowed down. Authors
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Richard Paul and Steven Moss have appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's Science Friday, BBC World News, as well as many NPR affiliates across the country. The book has garnered praise from the New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Booklist, and Library Journal. We're so proud of all this much-deserved attention that we've gathered all the media the book has earned so far. 

The story of We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program begins with an incredible three-month period leading up to the integration of NASA during the height of the civil rights era. Check out the timeline below to get a sense of how much changed for humanity in such a short amount of time.

Media Coverage


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Remembering Josh Ozersky

Since news of food writer Josh Ozersky's untimely death hit Twitter, those who knew him have called him the 'maharajah of meat', an 'epic food storyteller', a 'titan', and a 'mensch'. Josh wrote a biography of Colonel Sanders for us (Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, 2012) and his appetite for life could not be overlooked. He did a book signing at Austin's own Lucy's Fried Chicken and it was clear that his friends and fans alike drank up his energy, bravado, and clever insight on everything food and drink. 

Josh Ozersky talks with food blogger Ilana Sztaimberg during a book signing
at Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin on April 27, 2012.
Josh was in Chicago for the restaurant portion of the James Beard Awards ceremony. He would have reveled in Aaron Franklin's win. Here are a few remembrances of his all too brief career as a celebrated food evangelist:

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For those who have never read Josh Ozersky's writing, take the time today to read some of his best pieces. Ozersky also produced a series of web videos, appeared on TV, and created Meatopia.

'Solitary Man'
Saveur, November 2013
For one struggling artist, food was solace, and chefs the ultimate muse

'The Hidden Virtues of Tweezer Food'
Esquire, April 2013

'Gastrodamus Speaks! The Future of Food in America, Revealed!'
Time, January 2013
Pink slime shall rise, horned bulls shall wane and other culinary predictions for the 22nd century

'Found: The Incredible Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere that Nobody Knows About'
Esquire, February 2014

'Ozersky's Rules for Dining Out'
Esquire, June 2013

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Building on 'God Help the Child'

Some scholars may know the satisfaction of having the themes of their work penetrate the mainstream news cycle. Our author Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman has watched acclaimed author Toni Morrison's new book coverage deal with the issues she has studied: colorism, racial hierarchy, and stigma in family and community. Here, Elizabeth writes about how both fiction and scholarship can contribute to a broad conversation about painful issues of race.

Musings on Toni Morrison's God Help the Child
By Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman
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When I read early publicity that Toni Morrison’s newest book, God Help the Child, was a novel written about a dark-skinned black woman who is brutalized by her mother because of her color, it struck a chord. It resonated with me because my first book, The Color of Love: Racial Features, Stigma, and Socialization in Black Brazilian Families, is a sociological book that will be published later this year addressing similar issues. I relished in imagining that Morrison and I may have vibed on the same conceptual wavelength without knowing it, pondering questions of colorism in black families, and leading us to publish a book on similar topics in the same year. I eagerly pre-ordered Toni Morrison’s new book, with excitement and incredulity … and then fear crept in. As a fledgling sociologist, I thought that Morrison’s book could only mean one thing: the kiss of death for my book. But wait, this was no irrational fear. Anyone who has read Morrison’s work knows that when she gives a theme her treatment, she forfeits the necessity of any more words. She articulates with ease in 150 pages, what I can not accomplish with a modicum of the same impact in 350 pages. Visions of us intellectually vibing were now overcome with the sense that her book would render my book redundant and, at worst, mundane. I had the sinking feeling that Toni Morrison had stolen my thunder.

Immediately after this thought passed through my mind, I was overcome with laughter. A laugh that lasted several times longer than the original thought itself. A laugh that was borne out of how completely and utterly preposterous it was to imagine Morrison “stealing my thunder.” What thunder? All I could do was laugh at the absurdity of this idea, as my passion for reading, my desire to write, and my interest in colorism, all find themselves linked to the reverberations of Morrison’s thunder. My childhood memories of her books on my mother’s bookshelf, the same ones that later migrated to my own shelves trace a more accurate truth – my work is the sociological undulation, a mere residual of her oeuvre. Toni Morrison, literary genius and Nobel Laureate, does not and can not steal anyone’s thunder - She IS thunder! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Yucatán Wins Two James Beard Awards

Last Friday night, the food world gathered in New York City for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony. Our very own David Sterling walked away with the top book award for Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition. Chef Sterling was awarded two medals for his work, 2015 Cookbook of the Year and International Cookbook, and in his speech he confessed to being obsessed with the Amazon rankings of his 6.5 pound, 576-page tome and revealed that it was inspired by a meal of smoky pork belly on the Mexican peninsula.

Read Sterling's guest blog post here.

Listen to Chef Sterling on our podcast:

Well-deserved congratulations to Chef David Sterling! See the full list of winners below.

2015 Book & Journalism Award Winners

The James Beard Foundation would like to acknowledge the generous support of Breville.

Book Awards

Cookbook Hall of Fame

Barbara Kafka

Cookbook of the Year:

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition
David Sterling
(University of Texas Press)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hard Landings: Climate Change and Cheap Wine

In observation of the 35th Annual Earth Day on April 22, we asked award-winning writer Seamus McGraw, author of Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change, to combine his signature humor and measured approach to the climate change debate for a guest blog post.

'Hard Landings: A Tale of Cheap Wine, Broken Bones and Climate Change'
By Seamus McGraw

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It wasn’t until weeks later--long after the half-gallon of Carlo Rossi red I had swilled and the painkillers that came later in the night wore off--that I actually felt the impact. Sure, I had some vague recollection of the fall, of trying to hop up on the banister in the atrium of my college dorm, three floors above a flagstone foyer, and of missing it by a good six inches. If I racked my brain while recuperating in my bed at home, I could dimly recall a fleeting Wile E. Coyote moment of clarity as I realized that I had indeed missed. And if I really tried, I could even feel myself plunging ass-first through the air as if I were doing a cannonball down onto the stones.

But that’s all. I had no recollection of hitting bottom, no memory of the thunder clap of savage pain that shot through my whole body as part of my hip snapped. What’s more, I had no memory at all of what happened next; how, in an astonishing display of the power of blind, late-adolescent stupidity, I got up, broken hip and all, and, I’m told by several witnesses, tried to run back upstairs, as if rolling the whole episode back to the beginning and doing exactly what I had done again, only this time a little more gracefully, would erase it.

And then, one night, weeks after the incident, while lying in bed half asleep, it all came back, all of it, unbidden-- the panic as I plummeted, the bone-crushing pain as I hit. It was as if it was happening right then and there. But it was, in a way, worse, because with it came a hot rush of shame, not just for being stupid and arrogant enough to do what I did in the first place, but for being such a coward that I wouldn’t even allow myself to fully feel what it was that I had done until I knew I was safe.
That was years ago, and, to the relief of everybody who knows me, I’ve long since given up the Carlo Rossi. But I’ve found myself thinking back to that event a lot in recent days. Most recently, it was when US Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and perhaps that august body’s most strident voice against doing anything to combat anthropogenic global climate change, strutted into the Senate with a snowball in his hand.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Announcing Information & Culture Special Issue

Our journals department is proud to announce the Information & Culture Special Issue: The Histories of the Internet.

The current issue of Information & Culture—50(2), available in spring 2015—focuses on the topic “Histories of the Internet.” Guest editors Thomas Haigh, Andrew L. Russell, and William H. Dutton explain the purpose of this special issue:

We explore the gap between broad conceptions of the Internet common in daily life and the rather narrow framing of most existing work on Internet history. Looking at both scholarly histories and popular myths, we suggest that the expanding scope of the Internet has created a demand for different kinds of history that capture the development of the many technological and social practices that converged to create today’s Internet-based online world. Finally, we summarize the articles in this special issue that collectively demonstrate that there is more than one history of the Internet.

The six articles in this special issue answer the question: What is the history of the Internet the history of? Topics include popular histories of the Internet’s pioneers, social perceptions of the Internet, networked computing in education, the genesis and development of networks, and the free and open source software movement. One study concerns the case of a small town’s early adoption of computer networking and its ill-fated municipal fiber project. The authors are known area specialists, including Merav Katz-Kimchi, Christian Oggolder, Joy Rankin, Valérie Schafer, Nadine I. Kozak, and Kevin Driscoll.

Individuals can order the single issue 50(2) at a cost of US$22 within the United States, US$35 in Canada, and US$40 international. Annual subscription for Volume 50 (2015) includes four issues. For information on ordering, see:

Information & Culture publishes historical studies of topics that fall under information studies as it is practiced by the interdisciplinary information schools. The journal is edited at the School of Information at UT Austin. For more information about Information & Culture, see:

Friday, April 3, 2015

UT Press at the San Antonio Book Festival

On Saturday, April 11, the University of Texas Press and 8 of our authors will enjoy the 3rd annual San Antonio Book Festival at the Central Library and environs in downtown San Antonio. We'll have a booth in the Exhibitor Tent with tons of titles for sale at a great discount. There are a lot of great authors in attendance (Maureen Corrigan! Neal Pollack! Luis Alberto Urrea!), so we’ve distilled our authors' appearances into a single UT Press schedule.

Get The SABF App For Your Smart Phone. Just go the App Store on your device, download "Eventbase Free" and click on the San Antonio Book Festival tab.

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10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
The Face of Texas
Location: The Studio (Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Campus, across Augusta St. from Library)
Author: Michael O’Brien

A two-time recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for outstanding coverage of the disadvantaged, Michael O’Brien has photographed subjects ranging from small-town heroes to presidents. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Life, National Geographic, Texas Monthly, the London Sunday Times, and the book Hard Ground, which pairs his portraits of the homeless with Tom Waits’s powerful poetry. O’Brien’s photographs are in the permanent collections around the United States, including the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Click here for more info about Michael O'Brien.

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11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Texas on the Table: People, Places and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State
Location: The Central Market Cooking Tent (Southwest School of Art, in the southwest corner of the Ursuline Campus parking lot)

Author: Terry Thompson-Anderson

Thompson-Anderson is the author of several previous cookbooks, including the best-selling Cajun-Creole Cooking, Texas on the Plate, The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise, and Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes, coauthored with Frances Strange. She also writes a regular wine feature for Edible Austin magazine. Thompson-Anderson has taught over 20,000 students at cooking schools all over the country and does restaurant/wine consulting and cooking events around Texas. Her latest book, Texas on the Table: People, Places & Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State has been nominated for a James Beard Award.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Q&A with New JHS Editor Annette Timm

Mathew Kuefler, the editor of the Journal of the History of Sexuality for the past ten years, is passing the torch to Annette Timm, an associate professor of history at the University of Calgary, Canada. A contributor to past issues of the JHS, Timm has published articles for other journals, chapters for books, and her own works, The Politics of Fertility in Twentieth-Century Berlin and Gender, Sex, and the Shaping of Modern Europe: A History from the French Revolution to the Present Day, which she co-authored with Joshua A. Sanborn. 
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Her current work in progress is Lebensborn: Myth, Memory, and the Sexualization of the Nazi Past. Timm has co-organized conferences such as the 2011 “Popular Sex: Mass Media and Sexuality in Germany,” which was combined with PopSex!, an exhibition of archives from Berlin’s early twentieth-century Institute for Sexual Science and original work by artists in Calgary and Berlin; and the 2007 “Democracy and Intimacy: Toward a Moral History of Postwar Europe.”

To help readers learn more about the new editor of the Journal of the History of Sexuality, I conducted an interview with Annette Timm. She discusses her scholarly background, the future of the journal, and the important role of academic journals.

Could you tell us about your academic background, and how your research has prepared you for your new role as editor of the Journal of the History of Sexuality?

I received my B.A. in history from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and both 

Annette Trim
my M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern European History from the University of Chicago. When I began writing my dissertation, I was most interested in the history of health care. (This certainly had something to do with the experience of being a Canadian in the U.S. during Clinton’s first administration.) But my interest in eugenics and population politics in Germany— the various efforts of twentieth-century regimes to increase the birth rate— quickly led me to issues of sexuality. I had chosen to focus the dissertation on all aspects of these policies before conception because I wanted to be able to employ a truly relational approach to gender with an equal focus on men and women. But focusing on everything leading up to conception of course meant focusing on sexual choices. I looked at venereal disease control and marriage counseling, because health officials believed that these were the areas of health care where they could exert the most influence on individual Germans’ choices about when, with whom, and with what intentions they should have sex. (Before penicillin, venereal diseases frequently caused sterility and congenital disease, and in my time period, marriage counseling was primarily eugenic.) In revising the dissertation into a book, I refined my argument to insist that these efforts to create a sense of duty around sexual choices were central to the social construction of the German citizen during most of the twentieth century. Turning the “personal is political” slogans of the sixties and seventies on their heads, I argued that it was only after sex was somewhat reliably separated from reproduction that the justification for the worst intrusions into private decisions in the sexual sphere ended. Sex, at least for heterosexuals, could become private again. In Germany, this story was intertwined with the process of overcoming two dictatorships and reestablishing rights to individual bodily integrity. But I believe that similar stories could be told elsewhere and that the demise of a notion of the duty to reproduce was one step on the road to sexual freedoms and family rights for gays and lesbians. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

William Goyen’s Six Women

It's been said that behind every great man is a great woman. For William Goyen, a Texas writer of startling originality whose work attracted the praise of Joyce Carol Oates, there were six women who deeply impacted his life of writing. In honor of Women's History Month, we asked author Clark Davis (It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing, May
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2015) to reflect on the strong women who influenced Goyen's life and work.

William Goyen’s Six Women

By Clark Davis, author of the forthcoming It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing

In the mid-1970s, at what was arguably the lowest point of his life, William Goyen began writing a letter to his old friend and fellow Texan, Margo Jones. Goyen and Jones had met in 1937 when he was a graduate student at Rice and Jones was assembling the group that would become the Houston Community Players. Their friendship continued through the 1940s and early 1950s when Jones made her reputation as an innovative Broadway director, most notably of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie and Summer and Smoke. By all accounts, they were very close—two East Texans (she from Livingston, he from Trinity), each with a high artistic drive and fervid personality.

There was nothing unusual, in other words, about Goyen writing to an old friend, particularly when he was in distress . . . except for the fact that Jones had died in 1955. Alcohol played a role in her early death, though the direct cause was carbon tetrachloride poisoning: she had fallen asleep on a newly cleaned carpet in her hotel in Dallas. (Goyen had been with her a few nights before and felt helpless and guilty in the face of her depression and drinking.) In the twenty years since, he himself had become an alcoholic and not long before writing Margo had attempted suicide in a hotel in Newport Beach, California. Now, as he remembered her “Texas-girl sweetness and . . . full-faced smile” he saw their lives as parallel: she was his “sister—demonic, rapturous insane in booze and in reverie and golden dream,” and writing to her was his chance “to speak amends of love.”

This letter to Margo Jones became part of Goyen’s never-completed autobiography, an interwoven collection of imagined correspondence addressed to several older women who had been vital presences in his life. “They were women of style and fashion, art, theatre, Letters,” he explained to one potential publisher; “all seemed . . . to be searching for, enjoying, or fleeing, an image of life that was counter to the conventional one of woman as Serving Wife, Listener Only, Mother.” The list included Frieda Lawrence, whom Goyen had come to know in Taos, New Mexico in 1946. A legendary and sometimes scandalous figure, she had left her husband and three children in 1912 for D. H. Lawrence, the author of The White Peacock, eventually moving to the US and settling with him at Kiowa Ranch, high on Lobo Mountain in Taos County. Some years after Lawrence's death in 1930 she began to spend most of her time at her house in El Prado, just a few miles from Taos Plaza.

Dorothy Brett, Frieda Lawrence, and Goyen in Taos.
Source: Harry Ransom Center, 
the University of Texas at Austin.
It was during this period that she met the thirty-one-year-old Navy veteran who was waiting tables at the Sagebrush Inn. In the winter of 1946 Goyen and Walter Berns, his fellow officer from the carrier USS Casablanca, planned to drive from Texas to California where they would live and write in the San Francisco area. They were captivated, however, by snow-covered Taos and decided to stay, attracted more by the landscape, as Goyen later admitted, than the literary community. When the manager of the restaurant introduced him as an aspiring writer to the table that included Frieda, Mabel Dodge Luhan, the printer Spud Johnson, and Tennessee Williams, Goyen was both embarrassed and captivated. A short time later Frieda invited him and Berns to dinner, letting them look through some of Lawrence’s manuscripts, and giving them advice that Goyen seems never to have forgotten. He described the scene in a letter to an old friend in Houston, explaining that Frieda was “a grand old woman, like a peasant Queen, a marvelous smiling face and deep husky Germanic voice, and she answers every question with a lusty and throaty, ‘Ya!’” She “was really inspired several times; and once, as a kind of valedictory, she leaned her head back, looked up toward the ceiling and said, ‘And now . . . I am old and you are young. I say to you that you must fight and refuse to compromise, refuse absolutely to compromise. I lived with a fighter and I know what it is to fight. . . .’”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

'Books that Made Me a Feminist'

To celebrate International Women's Day (and Pretty/Funny coming out in paperback), we're
re-blogging our friends at to feature our author Linda Mizejewski on the most formative texts of her career as a gender studies scholar.

Books that Made Me a Feminist
By Linda Mizejewski
Originally posted on

The books that made me a feminist were the books that got me into trouble. I lost a lover, alienated friends, angered students, got into arguments with teachers—all because of books that followed through on the clichés: something clicked, a light snapped on. But sometimes the click turns into a slammed door, and what we find in the bright light is something we hoped not to see.

When I was in college in the early 1970s, the women in my dorm were passing around books that nobody assigned in classes—Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963) and Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying (1973). We were fascinated with the anger of the narrators who—unlike the heroines of our reading lists (Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Jane Eyre), didn’t believe that marriage or love or even sex (Jong’s famous “zipless fuck”) was the answer to their seething discontent.

In an English class, a professor told us that novels about women ended with the main characters married or dead. That was the larger cultural sentiment about women, too. But this was also the era of free love and the birth control pill. The Bell Jar and Fear of Flying struck a chord because these heroines were caught up in mixed messages. One of my all-time favorite literary images is Plath’s alter-ego character Esther tossing designer clothes from a rooftop in Manhattan. The things in her life that were supposed to make her pretty and special instead were making her crazy. The arguments started when I went to graduate school and was told these books weren’t “real” literature.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Five Myths about Corpus Christi

What U.S. state has the most tall tales and great American legends? Of course Texans would say Texas, with our colorful history full of personalities like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie at the Alamo, but often myths and legends need the tempering of history to get to the truth. We asked Professor Alan Lessoff to draw from his new book Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History to dispel some of the myths about Corpus Christi.

Five Myths about Corpus Christi
by Alan Lessoff, author of Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History

I subtitled my book Corpus Christi and Its History because I was less interested in recounting the city in a narrative and detached way than I was in understanding the many
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ways that Corpus Christians write, talk, and argue about their history and how those varied perspectives shape the city now. Sophisticated historians know that their job is not merely to use facts to disprove myths, though one has to do that sometimes. Myths are themselves historical forces that require study, since they serve as vehicles through which people express their identity, values, and goals. Anyone who has taken a halfway decent sophomore humanities class knows that true stories take on mythic qualities when people wrap them in epic grandeur. Much of Corpus Christi’s significance to Texas history starts from its having been a place where Texas’s two largest true myths came against one another: the south-to-north Hispanic Texan epic of explorers and empresarios and the east-to-west Anglo Texan lore of the frontier, ranchers, rangers, and town boosters. Within the context of those two epics, numerous other stories have appeared, some of which veered into myths in the sense of misconceptions that need clearing up. Where Texas Meets the Sea treats each of these misconceptions respectfully, because they meant a lot to the people who adhered to them and revealed much about them and their city:


Explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda named Corpus Christi Bay on Corpus Christi Day in 1519. This story, which one still sometimes finds in tourist publications, is believable only if one discards all normal rules of historical evidence. No written record of the Álvarez de Pineda expedition has survived. The first Spanish document that refers to the bay by name dates from the 1740s, and that document assigns it another name. The earliest documented use of “Corpus Christi Bay” dates from 1766, in connection to the colonizing expedition that finally set up a continuous Spanish presence in the vicinity. In a 2011 article, the Corpus Christi librarian and historian Herb Canales summarized the evidence pointing to the reasonable conclusion that someone in that 1760s expedition named the bay. On top of all that, before the 1920s, local accounts sometimes claimed that members of France’s ill-fated LaSalle expedition named the bay on Corpus Christi Day in 1685, a provenance only slightly more plausible than Álvarez de Pineda. As my book recounts, Anglo promoters, in keeping with the early twentieth-century fashion for Spanish colonial romance, spread the Álvarez de Pineda story in the 1920s and 1930s. Decades later, Hispanic heritage activists became the story’s guardians, in part as a vehicle for expressing ethnic pride and dramatizing Hispanics’ prior claim upon the region. In print—and on the Pineda monument in Westside Corpus Christi—supporters have usually been careful to label the story a “legend,” but through the 1990s, people would tell one in conversation that they believed it.