Letter from Surfside Beach

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Since 1963, we’ve spent time each year at Surfside Beach, Texas. From 1994 to 2015 — that’s 22 years! — we also hosted an epic annual party there called the Winter Reading Week. This year, Kip and I took just our dogs, Lucky and Nora, and some supplies. A few people, including my mom, visited briefly. Otherwise, it was us, the wind, the waves and a lot of reading. Plus a little cooking, eating, drinking and movie watching.

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I got through three months of The New Yorker back issues. But my concentration fell on five books.

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The most satisfying was Kirk Lynn‘s “Rules for Werewolves,” a novel told in dialogue and inner monologue about a pack of suburban runaways who turn out to be more canine than one might expect. It’s rich with insight. See Joe Grossalert feature story on the author. TV series in the making?

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I also finished Andrew J. Torget‘s “Seeds of Empire,” which emphasizes how cotton economy and culture dictated the interactions of the Spanish, Mexicans, Native-Americans, Anglo- and African-Americans in Texas in the early 19th century.  A worthy complement to Sven Beckert‘s magnificent “Empire of Cotton.”

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I finally dove into John Graves‘ classic “Goodbye to a River,” a lyrical account of a canoe trip down the upper-middle Brazos River before some of this gorgeous stretch of Texas waterway was dammed. Should be an inspiration for “Texas River Tracings: 50 Trips by Car and on Foot.”

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I sat next to Louisa Hall at the Humanities Texas Winter Book Fair for three hours. I was charmed, not only by the author, but by the premise of her novel, “Speak,” set in six different places and times. Like Lynn, she teaches at the University of Texas.

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The inimitable Eddie Wilson recommended David Richards‘ memoir, “Once Upon a Time in Texas,” as an introduction to Austin political culture in the 1970s. It’s pretty cool. Just in time for my story about the impact of the 1970s on Austin culture.

Hey, if you missed it while I was on vacation, my book, “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories,” was the subject of a Statesman Shots podcast with Tolly Moseley and Omar Gallaga. Keep track of where you can buy the book at this Facebook site.


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