Saturday, June 28, 2014

Texas as seen through recent fiction

I regularly interview Texas authors for the San Antonio Express-News. Tomorrow they'll run my interview with Bret Anthony Johnston, a Corpus Christi native who sets his debut novel Remember Me Like this there. Here's how my piece begins:

Bret Anthony Johnston's fiction shapes Corpus Christi into a literary character, but he has a confession: He hates the beach. The sand itches; the salt water clings.

“I never felt the pull that everyone else had,” Johnston said by phone from New York City, his latest stop on a whirlwind national tour for “Remember Me Like This,” a deeply human novel that follows a broken, battered family dealing with the return of a son four years after his kidnapping in a fictional Corpus Christi suburb.

The beach may get short shrift, but the Sparkling City by the Sea glistens in Johnston's taut prose.

“The longer I'm away from South Texas in general and Corpus Christi specifically, the more clearly I see potential for stories that can only happen there,” said Johnston, who was born and raised in the city but now directs the creative writing program at Harvard University.

Read the rest here.

I also recently interviewed Jim Sanderson, whose two new books are set in West and East Texas. Here's a taste:

East Texas and West Texas might as well be on separate planets, but Jim Sanderson straddles the divide and puts both under the microscope in his two recent books of fiction.

The San Antonio native's “Nothing to Lose” is a mystery novel set in Beaumont where Sanderson, chair of Lamar University's Department of English and Modern Languages, has long taught writing. The story collection “Trashy Behavior” is primarily set in Odessa, where he was a college instructor for seven years before that.

Sanderson evokes the names of other Texas writers — Tom Pilkington, J. Frank Dobie and Billy Lee Brammer — who saw the state as a borderland with a mindset focused on the “end of things.”

“Within 200 miles in much of any direction you're almost in a different state,” he said. “The geography changes, the culture even changes a little.

Read the rest here.

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