John Graves, Author Beloved by Fellow Texans, Dies at 92
August 1, 2013 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Graves died on Wednesday at his home, Hard Scrabble, outside Glen Rose, Tex. He was 92. Most autumns, the water is low from the long dry summer, and you have to get out from time to time and wade, leading or dragging your boat through trickling shallows from one pool to the long channel-twisted pool below, hanging up occasionally on shuddering bars of quicksand, making six or eight miles in a day’s work, but if you go to the river at all, you tend not to mind. You are not in a hurry there; you learned long since not to be.

John Graves’ most significant work is Goodbye to a River—part history, part memoir, and part travelogue—based on his canoe trip down the Brazos River in 1957. Goodbye to a River, like many Texas narratives, uses the journey for structure, and the journey takes on symbolic significance as well. This journey is a personal process, a trip to recover a wanderer’s sense of history and place. By returning to places that have meaning, the persona-narrator demonstrates how one regains a rootedness that gives life meaning.

Texas Highways magazine revisits the book in 2010.

A longer portrait of the writer, from 2011: The Cliffs Notes version, distasteful to a true fan or acolyte—for how do you fit ninety years into a few sentences?—must nonetheless be presented. He was born in 1920, in Fort Worth. Despite the drift of his childhood friends to the University of Texas in Austin, he attended Rice. It’s an old story: An intelligent young person meets professors who change his life. Despite the ravenous bookishness of his studies and his formidable intellect, he’s never been snooty—like many Texans, he has leaned perhaps overmuch in the other direction. This may be one of but many reasons Texans love him so much. He has not just maintained his rural roots but has tended them and preserved them, with integrity­—has embraced the rough edges that many Texans find so hard to sand down.

John Graves was born in Fort Worth in 1920 where he explored the Trinity River bottom before it became littered with beer cans. He graduated from Rice University, received a master’s degree from Columbia, and served in the Pacific as a firm lieutenant where he lost the sight in one eye. He taught at the University of Texas and Texas Christian University before writing four notable Texas books, Goodbye to a River, Hard Scrabble, From a Limestone Ledge, and Myself and Strangers. Over the years, Graves has also contributed to Texas Monthly and written for the Sierra Club, the Atlantic, Esquire, and the New Yorker. -- an introduction to his collected contributions to Texas Monthly.

His obituary in the Austin American-Statesman.
posted by Devils Rancher (4 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Austin Chronicle interview '04
posted by BlueHorse at 9:14 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by anadem at 9:35 PM on August 1, 2013

posted by fremen at 7:56 AM on August 2, 2013


As a Fort Worth native, I know how much his writing meant to me and my father. RIP.
posted by hillabeans at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2013

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