Two Books About Texas
By Glenn Dromgoole
Lonn Taylor, who lived in Fort Davis and wrote a very literate weekly column for the Marfa newspaper, died last summer, just a few months after his most recent book was published — “Turning the Pages of Texas” ($22.95), one of the best books ever written about Texas books.
The book is a collection of columns he wrote about Texas books, authors, photographers, cookbooks, and book festivals – basically anything having to do with Texas literature. He wrote about books you might have read – like A.C. Greene’s “A Personal Country” – and many you probably haven’t heard of, covering a wide spectrum of topics and genres. He also included essays on such things as browsing in used bookstores and libraries, collecting cookbooks, and attending a book festival.
There are 64 pieces in all, each one about three and a half to four pages long. You can pick it up and randomly turn to an essay and spend 10 minutes or so enjoying Taylor’s fine prose and his knowledge of Texas history and literature.
In fact, while writing this column, I did just that. I opened it randomly to a piece he wrote about the book “My First Thirty Years” by Gertrude Beasley, a teacher and writer who grew up in Coleman and Abilene, attended Simmons College, wrote her controversial book that was published in Paris and was banned in England, and then mysteriously disappeared. Taylor tells how Alice Specht, the longtime Hardin-Simmons library director (now retired), finally discovered the truth: Beasley was committed to a New York mental institution in 1928 and died there from cancer in 1955.
Bill Wright and Marcia Hatfield Daudistel included an excellent profile of Lonn and Dedie Taylor in their book, “Authentic Texas: People of the Big Bend.” I never had the pleasure of meeting Lonn, but I have enjoyed reading his erudite essays.
There’s another book about Texas books that I modestly recommend: “101 Essential Texas Books,” which I co-authored with Carlton Stowers a few years ago. Each of the 101 books we recommend is covered in a brief one-page article, with notes about other similar books. In addition to the 101, we mention another 250 titles worth considering.
What we tried to do was offer a list of 101 Texas books, still in print (or at least were in print when we wrote our book), that provide a balanced representation of Texas history, culture, and literature. Obviously, I’m biased, but I think it ought to be in every library in Texas.