Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and beyond

By Steven L. Davis | Go to book overview

52.
“DOING
INDEFINABLE
SERVICES TO
MANKIND”

As mentioned before, J. Frank Dobie dominated Texas letters from the 1920s to the 1960s. In addition to his numerous books and magazine articles, starred on radio shows and penned a syndicated column that appeared in newspapers around the state. His interpretations of Texas culture were sacrosanct, and he was a well-loved celebrity. During his lifetime, Dobie was known, simply, as “Mr. Texas.”

Dobie was a singular inspiration to dozens of writers, many of whom also understood that he “exercised considerable control over what was published about Texas.”1 In 1939, when the newly established Texas Institute of Letters inaugurated its annual award for best book, Dobie won out over Katherine Anne Porter. She was an artist of national and international acclaim. He, on the other hand, had Texas in his back pocket.

Dobie cast such extraordinary light in his lifetime—much of it by the dint of his formidable personality—that many of his contemporaries were blind to the limitations of his prose. After his death, the inevitable reappraisals began, and Dobie’s literary reputation went into rapid decline.

Dobie remains celebrated for his vigorous spirit. Schools, streets, and buildings are named for him, and rare volumes of his work are still prized by collectors. But his writing is no longer of scholarly conse-

-451-

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Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and beyond
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Texas Literary Outlaws 1
  • Part One - Coming of Age in Texas 7
  • 1 - A Rebel in West Texas 9
  • 2 - A Texas Oasis 25
  • 3 - The Gay Place 39
  • 4 - Fort Worth’s New Journalism 55
  • 5 - The Texas Beats 72
  • 6 - Big D Meets the Flying Punzars 84
  • 7 - A Gathering Force 96
  • 8 - A Long Way from Beaumont 109
  • 9 - Dallas, 1963 118
  • Part Two - Too Much Ain’t Enough 127
  • 10 - A New Beginning 129
  • 11 - The Doors of Perception 140
  • 12 - Literary Comanches 152
  • 13 - These Happy Occasions 157
  • 14 - The One-Eyed Man 166
  • 15 - Cowboys and Indians 172
  • 16 - Harper’s on the Rise 183
  • 17 - Obscure Famous Arthurs 188
  • 18 - Absurdism in the Southwest 198
  • 19 - Busted in the Oasis 207
  • 20 - Harvard’s "White Racist" 215
  • 21 - Land of the Permanent Wave 220
  • 22 - Mad Dog, Texas 228
  • 23 - King’s Road 239
  • 24 - Outlaws 250
  • 25 - Hack Observations and Literary Feuds 259
  • 26 - Redneck Hippies 268
  • 27 - Strange Peaches 275
  • 28 - Semi-Tough 281
  • Part Three - Texas… Chic? 287
  • 29 - A New View of Texas 289
  • 30 - The Cowboy Professor 294
  • 31 - Live Music Capital 298
  • 32 - North Dallas Forty 302
  • 33 - The Regenerator Erection Laboratory 309
  • 34 - Challenging Texas 315
  • 35 - Changes at Sports Illustrated 320
  • 36 - Texas’s Gonzo Journalist 325
  • 37 - Texas Brain Fry 334
  • 38 - LBJ, Speed, and Paranoia 341
  • 39 - Hollywood vs. Sports Illustrated 349
  • 40 - Whorehouse 355
  • 41 - A Fraction of His Talent 362
  • 42 - Measures of Success 367
  • 43 - Hitting the Wall 374
  • 44 - A Recovery 381
  • 45 - "Ever a Bridegroom" 385
  • 46 - Third Coast 394
  • 47 - Faces in the Fire 397
  • Part Four - How Time Slips Away 401
  • 48 - Jenkins 403
  • 49 - King 417
  • 50 - Cartwright 433
  • 51 - Shrake 441
  • 52 - "Doing Indefinable Services to Mankind" 451
  • Notes 460
  • Bibliography 492
  • Index 502
  • About the Author 512
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