In the Deep Heart's Core
Reflections on Life, Letters, and Texas
Literary Criticism - Texana
6 x 9, 160 pp.
Pub Date: 06/01/2000
Tarleton State University Southwestern Studies in the Humanities
Price:        $16.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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In the Deep Heart's Core

Reflections on Life, Letters, and Texas

By Craig E. Clifford

The subjects of Craig Clifford's ruminations range from Willie Nelson to Walter Prescott Webb, from German philosophers to an Irish immigrant out to save the American West, and in them Clifford voices the concerns of a new generation of Texans and other earthlings.

Deep-hearted Texas expatriates, well-rooted transplants, natives, and brand-new Texans alike will have an almost tactile encounter with the feeling of what it means to be a Texan in this age in which freeway, microchip, and shopping mall have replaced Chisholm Trail, lariat, and trading post. Together with the author, readers can come to grips with the meaning of Texas and Texanness, and by the way of these personal and provincial reflections, with the role that rootedness and uprootedness play in the lives of all humans.

What Readers Are Saying:

"Craig Clifford is a young man whose first book would challenge the capabilities of an old codger with years of observations and novels behind him. . . . His deep but not blind affection for Texas becomes obvious in these essays discussing not only writing, but also ecology, 'ethnic terrains,' Willie Nelson, freeways, highways, and the Like." --Houston Post

" 'Texanness' dwells deep in the heart. Drawing from his experiences, the author examines this being-Texan, subjectively, philosophically and intellectually. The reader learns what it can mean to be "from somewhere." Very Texan, with universal Overtones." --Books of the Southwest

"Readers of books about Texas and observers of life in Texas may understand the native Texan and his loyalties better after reading Craig Clifford's essays. What is more important, however, is that they may understand better their own rootedness in a place and its connection with their creative impulses. . . . In these literate, absorbing discussions, Clifford argues with Larry McMurtry over the definition and importance of Texas myth. . . . Ethnic concerns, country music, and Texas freeways provide philosophical starting points for Clifford's facile Pen." --Western American Literature

"In these ten entertaining essays, Houston-raised Craig Clifford considers what it means to be a Texan. He tackles the issue of whether Texas is Southern or Western (and concludes it's big enough to be both), ruminates on music and Willie Nelson, and considers how in this nuclear age we can use the traditionally Western spirit of rugged individualism to our country's—and the world's—best Advantage." --American West

" . . . you don't have to be from Texas, or the Southwest, or the South to read this book. It made me think, feel, and remember. It made me think about who I am in a compelling way. That is all we can expect from good philosophy, or literature, or whatever you want to call this hybrid collection of Essays." --Randolph M. Feezel, Creighton University

"'Reflections on Life, Letters, and Texas' is a proper subtitle for this slim (140 pages), literate, easily read volume of personal essays on Texas cultural history, pop culture, literature, and philosophy. . . . The book, with four literary chapters and others on ethnic issues, Willie Nelson, presidents, etc., should be welcome to Texans, western writers, and a general audience . . . . Craig Clifford is most enjoyable when he leaps into the Texas literature debate with the cranky confidence of a thirty-four-year-old conservative. McMurtry's revisionism has run its course, he says, and we need to return to the good old values of Dobie, Webb, Bedichek, and others. Clifford is a good-humored, fair-minded debater, and since the New York Times Book Review has recently covered Austin literary conferences and has used McMurtry as reviewer, one could claim that the debate is national (or that the Times feels American culture is slipping from its grasp and wonders where, post-California, it has gone). . . personal reflection is itself becoming an old fartiness, and should be kept alive, even studied, folk-lored, and Renewed." --Western Historical Quarterly

"The key event in this book of sprightly and penetrating essays on Texas letters and identitiy is the publication nearly twenty years ago of a similar book of essays by a young Texas novelist, Larry McMurtry. . . . Clifford writes finely and insightfully about the notion of Texas as Texan. He is equally fine when he writes about John Graves and Ronnie Dugger; about the southern nature of Texas; about Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and the cowboy image; about Willie Nelson. He is at his absolute best—although he may value his other material more—when he writes very personally, whether delicately about the death of his Aunt Trixie, or nostalgically about the generations of an oystershell road and how it feels under your feet. For those who enjoy thinking about things Texan, this is a fine piece of work." --Arnold Rosenfeld

"The book is wonderful. Buy it. Better yet, send it to a friend, especially an intellectual or academic who has moved out of state. Your friend will hate you for it. But you might find him camped on your doorstep several weeks later—for all the reasons In the Deep Heart's Core." --Lee Schultz

" . . . one of the most candid and touching young man's books I've read in a long time. Mr Clifford . . . describes for us in a clear and incisive prose his love of his native ground, and his fears for that love." --Willie Morris

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