Has anyone ever told you that they’d be gone for “the duration”? Meaning: who the heck knows how long? That’s the linchpin of Austin writer Carolyn Osborn’s new memoir, titled “Durations” (Wings Press, $16.95 ). As a young child early in WWII, Osborn’s father, an artillery officer, sent the family home from a California army base for the duration, which turned out to be span when a lot happened, like mom getting sent to the state mental hospital for schizophrenia. Recipient of the 2009 Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters, Osborn is a wise and honest writer whose voice is truly comforting.
Cinco Puntos, the hardest working little press in West Texas, has two stellar books in its fall lineup: “The Last Cigarette on Earth” (Cinco Puntos, $15.95) by the inestimable Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and a mind-expanding children’s book, “All Around Us” (Cinco Puntos, $17.95), by Xelena González, with illustrations by Adriana M. Garcia, both of whom have roots in San Antonio.
Sáenz, the El Paso writer best know for the story collection “Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club,” as well as award-winning YA novels, began with poetry.
In his seventh collection, Sáenz peels off his own skin and slices open his heart — that of a gay Latino man who has struggled with addiction and “broken love.” He writes with simple beauty: “He wants to remember/and understand the crooked roads/he has walked. He will step into the landscapes/where he lost and broke himself. He saw miles/of perfect lawns/but when he stepped/discovered weeds/and stickers everywhere/his clothes torn/his feet bleeding/his idiot tongue/cursing the ground.”
“Granpa says circles are all around us. We just have to look for them.” So begins “All Around Us,” a powerful little book about the cosmos, the environment, life and death, vigilance about the world around us (and under us), told in the straightforward language of a conversation between a grandfather and his granddaughter. Definitely a book for the philosopher in all of us — no matter the age — with absolutely gorgeous, otherworldly illustrations.
Most San Antonians know the story of how the word maverick came into the American vernacular, something about Texas Declaration of Independence signer Samuel Maverick and his ornery, unbranded cows. San Antonio historian Lewis Fisher explores the etymology of the word as well as all of its manifestations in his new book “Maverick: The American Name that Became a Legend” (Trinity University Press, $27.50).
A Maverick by marriage, Fisher has spent years wrapping his head around the Maverick myth. His book is a tale that encompasses cowboys, rustlers, movie stars, athletes, novelists, lawyers, mayors and congressmen — as well as maverick brands ranging from Ford cars and air-to-ground missiles to computer operating systems, Vermont maple syrup and Australian wines.
Is old, weird Texas gone? Vanishing? On the wane? Veteran journalist Joe Holley and photographer Peter Brown seek out the, ahem, maverick elements remaining in situ in “Hometown Texas” (Trinity University Press, $32.50).
Searching for no less than what Brown has described as the “collective, various, remarkably complex soul that makes Texas unique,” the intrepid explorers divide the state into five topographical regions and squeeze more than three dozen stories and 80 photographs out of their concerted efforts.