San Antonio-based artist Chris Sauter, whose work is part of the Mission Branch Library, discusses the grotto installation Carlos Cortes created for the river's Museum Reach.
- Monday, 04 February 2013 11:55
- Rod Davis
In memory of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle:
“It is so hard becoming a civilian," Kyle said. "When you are in the military, everything you do is for the greater good. And as a civilian, everything you do is for your own good.
“When you’re in the military, you are facing life and death every day. And then you come home and hear people who are unhappy about the little things. And you think, are you kidding me? Two weeks ago, I was shot. And this is your problem. … They train us how to become warriors, but then they don’t teach us and train us how to become businessmen.”
– Dallas Morning News, Feb. 3, 2013
I am late getting to the party on Ben Fountain’s acclaimed, relentless novel that is not a war novel but a combattere interruptus about what happens to soldiers when they return home. And then have to go back. And maybe not come home. I don’t actually know if that’s a literary (or Latin) term, any more than I know why Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk didn’t win the National Book Award. I’ll let the writing speak for itself, after these digressions.
First, a confession. When I started reading, I was immediately taken with how much the language of young warriors rang true and has remained so constant over so many conflicts. Direct and no-bullshit, it is chiefly concerned, in no special order, with sex, chow, bitching, getting wasted, dumbasses, boredom, loneliness, and not getting killed. In this complex military world both truncated and expansive, terrible things become comic. The mundane leads to transcendence. Even vulgarity is destroyed and reborn holy. Consider the word “fuck.” Among troops, it assumes any syntactic form, always with complete precision. You could make whole sentences out of fuck. Fuck knows I’ve fucking heard them. I thought, this fucking guy fucking knows his shit. When the fuck did he serve?
- Saturday, 26 January 2013 14:19
- Jacob Muncy
One of the things that strikes me most about Houston is that it has two skylines. From the right place in the city, it seems as though the city center is both behind you and in front of you. “Like mountains beyond mountains,” sings Arcade Fire on their 2010 album The Suburbs, which was influenced by growing up in Houston. “If the world's so small, how can I ever get away from the sprawl?”
It's this feeling, a mixture of vertigo and deja vu, that Andrew Porter's novel In Between Days is trying to capture. The book focuses on the fractured Harding family, a suburban middle-class Houston clan that fell on hard times and then just fell apart. The novel deftly jumps between the perspectives of the four family members: Elson, the father, a cynical alcoholic and washed-up architect; his ex-wife, Cadence, neurotic and lonely; his post-graduate son Richard, struggling with a latent desire to be a poet; and his daughter Chloe.
Chloe is the catalyst for the plot of the novel. After a mysterious incident at her New England school, she is suspended for a semester and has to return home to Houston, where she distances herself from her parents and refuses to discuss what happened, other than that it involves her and her boyfriend, Raja. This incident becomes a fulcrum point for the novel, and comes into greater clarity as the book progresses. It gives the novel a narrative that straddles the borderline between domestic literary fiction and light mystery.
Andrew Porter is the head of the creative writing program at Trinity (in the fall of this past year I was a member of a fiction writing workshop he led), and it shows. Porter's description of Chloe's school in New England owes something to Trinity, and the whole novel is enveloped in a sort of post-graduate haze, with the characters soaked in alcohol, wondering about their future.
- Saturday, 29 December 2012 17:35
- Rod Davis
For better or worse, the star football quarterback has been an iconographic figure in Texas and American culture since the pigskin was used for something other than cooking. The most recent example is Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, whose Heisman capped a storybook season, but the list is very long. Paul Hornung, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Troy Aikman, the Mannings — any fan can create a list. For Joe Holley, the list begins with Sam Baugh, the Texan who changed the game starting in the 1930s, when quarterbacks were just part of a wing formation and tailbacks made some of the biggest plays.
“Sam was the bridge between the leather-helmet era and the modern,” writes Holley, a seasoned journalist who once worked at the Express-News and is currently political editor at the Houston Chronicle. “Before Sam Baugh, football closely resembled rugby, with tightly packed linemen trying to open holes for ball carriers running primarily between tackles on a tighter field without hash marks. Confident enough to throw the ball from any spot on the field, on any down, Sam wrenched football free from its sclerotic past and made it a hell of a lot more fun to watch.”
The subtitle of Holley’s Slingin’ Sam —“The Life and Times of the Greatest Quarterback Ever to Play the Game”— is a straightforward declaration of a straightforward history, laden with games and stats.
- Thursday, 20 December 2012 11:56
- Rod Davis
The gruesome, complex plot in Karin Slaughter’s latest, Criminal, holds its own nicely, but the takeaway for the reader is a more encompassing horror. Amid the waves of torture as the storyline shifts from mid-1970s Atlanta to present day is a pervasive portrait less about the sociopaths who perpetrate the damage than the ceaseless abuse that is wreaked on the novel’s women — cops, criminals and victims. This twisted world — a thinly disguised, familiar reality — demands both tactical adherence to role-playing in a men’s game and fearless, heroic opposition to it.
I will admit that I had trouble settling into the story. There was the porn-violence of the assaults, the jolts of time-jumping, and the relentless declarative sentences that made me feel as if I were reading a newspaper feature story. Somewhere it began to kick in; an anger so deep it had to be approached in oblique, terse syntax. It became impossible to look away. I admit I got hooked.