Find a back issue

The New York Times on David Ritz

We can still say David Ritz is a Dallas guy. Maybe. Kinda. Anyway, he has written a number of stories for the magazine, the most recent being “The Last Hat Salesman,” a meditation on his the occasion of his father’s passing. David’s one of the coolest people I’ve met. He’s filled with fascinating stories from a life of ghostwriting books for famous folks, many of them musicians. Some of those stories are about Aretha Franklin, who autobiography he ghostwrote. The process of writing that book was a difficult one for David, and though the book wound up an accurate portrayal of how Franklin sees herself (or how she wants the world to see herself), it didn’t wind up being what David hoped it could be. So he wrote a straight-up biography of the woman. “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,” was published last week. The Times says, “[I]t will stand as one of his greatest and most unusual achievements: a rich, definitive portrait set in motion by a bit of unfinished business.” You should read the entire article and consider buying the book.

Oh, and this is just one of five new books David will publish this year. He also wrote Joe Perry’s “Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith.” And next year’s Willie Nelson autobiography will be David’s, too.

Full Story

Two Dallas Dudes Paired Up at Texas Book Festival

Though Rod Davis doesn’t currently live in Dallas, we can still call him a Dallas dude. He did two stints with D Magazine. He’s got a lifetime membership. Harry Hunsicker is definitely a Dallas dude. Harry has written for the magazine, and his most recent novel is The Contractors. Rod’s newest is South, America. Both books are set in the South, and this Saturday at 1:45, the gents will together discuss how geography plays role in their gritty fiction. If you are headed down to the festival, I definitely recommend that you catch these two guys let Rod know in the Q&A portion of their talk that you think Harry has better hair than he does. The full schedule is here.

Full Story

A New Dallas Book You Maybe Might Perhaps Should Read (Possibly)

If the headline of this post isn’t clear (and my boss thinks I’m often not), let me tell you that I am ambivalent about the just-released ebook The Green, the Black, and the Deep Blue Sea. Oddly, my ambivalence has nothing to do with the prolix title. No, no. It’s more about the tandem of authors whose names appear on the book’s cover, my relationship to them, and the genesis of this 3,785-kilobyte story. To wit:

Full Story

HP Grad Writes in New Yorker About Those Banned Books

A kind, alert FrontBurnervian points us to this story on the New Yorker’s site about the aborted book ban at HP ISD. It was written by Annie Julia Wyman, an HP grad and a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard. A taste:

My own story provides some evidence of how books can expand the horizons of a kid growing up somewhere like Highland Park. As a young woman with desires for things that I’d read about but couldn’t find in my home town—including what felt like non-negotiable forms of social and economic justice—I stayed away from the Park Cities during and after college. I refrained, too, from talking about where I came from, because it embarrassed me. I could see only that I came from homogeneity; I was terrified I would be rejected from the new life I’d stumbled into, a life that was richer and more complex. But I should have been more honest. I never would have known to be embarrassed had I not gone to world-class public schools where I read whatever I wanted. Books were there, and they had taught me to value difference.

Take a minute to read the whole thing. It’s short. And smart.

Full Story

Laray Polk on the State of Bookstores in Dallas

Last week, prompted by an Observer cover story that bemoaned the state of the bookstore scene in Dallas, we had ourselves a productive conversation about letters. Laray Polk took some time to think about it and then sent me a note to share her thoughts. Laray has written for the magazine. She’s an artist. And she wrote a book with Noam Chomsky. With that introduction, here are her smart words, which she sent under the title “Tough Love From The Himalayas”:

Full Story

Ang Lee To Direct Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

If you were sitting around today wondering what was up with the film adaptation of author and pool basketball enthusiast Ben Fountain’s fantastic novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, you are some sort of wizard, because today there is news: celebrated director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) has decided on it for his next project. The script is by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire).

In other words: just about as good a situation as anyone could have hoped for.

Full Story

The Paris Review Has a Few Words With Merritt Tierce

My apologies to those of you who are tired of posts from me about Merritt Tierce’s debut novel, Love Me Back. It’s a great book, and I want to see a local writer get the attention (and sales) she deserves. The book is out today. Tierce will appear at The Wild Detectives September 25 to talk about it. To whet your appetite, here’s a Q&A with Tierce that The Paris Review published today. (Side note: the woman who conducted that Q&A is named Thessaly La Force, one of those names that only exists in real life, because if you gave it to a character in a novel, it would just sound dumb.)

Full Story

Merritt Tierce’s Debut Novel Is Great, and You Should Buy It

In our September issue, I wrote a little ditty on Merritt’s Tierce’s first novel, Love Me Back (Doubleday), which comes out Tuesday. You should pre-order it right here. As I said in our pages, “it is a beautifully bleak, sex- and drug-filled story.” Yes, I just quoted myself. Writing for Texas Monthly, Michael Ennis said, “[T]his first novel could well emerge as a milestone in Texas literature.” Seriously. It’s a great book. Tierce is a protégé of Ben Fountain’s. I’m not saying this book is going to do what Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk did. But this book belongs on the same shelf. In fact, these two books can be read as companion pieces that explore some of the same themes — alienation, excess, money — in two very Dallas settings, a Cowboys game and a steakhouse.

Anyway, the book’s narrator is a sexually adventuresome (and deeply damaged) waitress named Marie. Much of her story takes place in a steak joint she calls The Restaurant. The book is autobiographical, though, and Tierce worked for years at Nick & Sam’s. So while The Restaurant isn’t exactly Nick & Sam’s, it’s pretty much Nick & Sam’s. Folks who know the score will recognize real-life Dallas characters in the book.

For the magazine piece, I just had Tierce tell funny stories about celebrities she has waited on. (She was really high on coke when she waited on George Clooney.) There was a whole bunch of stuff, though, that Tierce and I talked about that I didn’t have space for. Like, you know, what’s Joe Palladino going to think about this book and all the screwing and snorting it suggests goes down in his restaurant? Here’s a transcript of the material that didn’t make it into the magazine:

Full Story

Benny Binion To Appear at The Wild Detectives Tonight

Well sorta. Not really Benny Binion himself. Just a guy who knows a lot about Binion.

Perhaps you read the excerpt from the new book Blood Aces that we ran in our August issue. It’s a good book. Definitely worth your time and money, especially if you dig on Dallas history and colorful characters who do things like bootleg whiskey and kill people and invent the World Series of Poker. Doug Swanson, the Morning News investigative reporter, wrote the book. He’ll be at The Wild Detectives tonight at 7 to give an engrossing talk and sign copies of book. There will be drinks. There will be blood. Recommended.

Full Story

St. Vincent On Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back

St. Vincent, aka erstwhile Dallas resident Annie Clark, was recently interviewed by Andy Morris for GQ UK. The entire thing is entertaining, but I guess the relevant portion for our purposes is when she recommends Merritt Tierce’s new novel, Love Me Back.

Can you recommend a good book?
I just read a book called Love Me Back by a woman from Dallas, Texas called Merritt Tierce. It’s excellent. It’s fiction but it seems to be cut pretty close to her life: she talks about her life in the food service industry (which sounds like it could be a very boring premise) but it’s an awesome book. It’s especially poignant for me reading it because I knew every restaurant she was talking about in Dallas: they remind me of a time in my life. I remember when you were 14 and you’d used to go to Chillis [sic] to hang out on a Friday night and think it was very wild. All the tchotchke Americana on the walls: amazing!

Full Story

The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: A Visit to the Hole

I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.

Full Story

The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: More Like George Bernard Flaw

The other day I was holding forth to one of my fellow inmates about the perfidy of the federal justice system and what have you, noting that the great majority of its “offenders” are guilty of nothing more than consensual crimes like selling drugs and crossing national borders.

“Yeah, they shouldn’t be going after the drug dealers, but they have to crack down on these illegals because they’re wreaking havoc on the economy,” said the inmate who robs armored cars for a living.

Full Story

Go See Rod Davis This Thursday at Louie’s

Rod Davis, for those who don’t know, has done two tours of duty at D Magazine. His last cover story for us, about the drought draining North Texas lakes, came in 2006. Now he’s the director of the Veterans Support Office for the Texas A&M University System. And he’s a novelist. On Thursday, he’ll be signing copies of his new book, South, America (yes, there’s a comma in the title), at Louie’s. Here’s Gary Jacobson’s review in the News. Signing starts at 6, but if I know Rod, he’ll be there earlier.

Full Story

Catch Laray Polk at CentralTrak on Thursday

You might recall Laray Polk’s name from the 2010 story she wrote for us about Harold Simmons and he stood to make millions by storing nuclear waste in questionable way. It was titled “Harold Simmons Is Dallas’ Most Evil Genius.” Well, Laray co-authored a book last year with Noam Chomsky (yes, that Noam Chomsky) called Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe. She’ll talk about the book Thursday at CentralTrak. Here’s how the evening is billed:

Topics in the book will be explored in relation to Texas as it has over time become a dumping ground for the country’s radioactive waste. The state has also become a convergent point for environmental activism over the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The discussion will include images of West Texas’ “Nuclear Alley” and acts of recent nonviolent protest in East Texas, followed by a Q&A.

Full Story