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A Guide to the UT Press Collection of A John Graves Reader

Descriptive Summary

Creator: The University of Texas Press
Title: UT Press Collection of A John Graves Reader
Dates: 1995-97, n.d.
Abstract: Five boxes of photocopied articles and short stories, galley proofs, correspondence, clippings and publicity material document the production of the book, A John Graves Reader, published in 1996 by The University of Texas Press.
Identification: Collection 090
Extent: 5 boxes (3 linear feet)
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos

Biographical Sketch/Historical Sketch

Born August 6, 1920 in Fort Worth, Texas, John Alexander Graves III grew up in that city until moving away to attend college in 1938. He graduated from Rice Institute (now Rice University), served as a Marine in World War II, and earned an M.A. at Columbia University in 1948. Graves taught English from 1948 to 1950 at The University of Texas at Austin, then left to pursue a career as a freelance writer, spending over two years living abroad.

In November of 1957 Graves completed a three-week canoe trip down part of the Brazos River that he feared was about to be changed forever by dams. This journey eventually resulted in his first major book, Goodbye to a River (1960). The book attracted national attention and critical praise for its original style. In the meantime, Graves took a teaching job at Texas Christian University, married Jane Cole (his second marriage) and purchased the first of his limestone acres in Somervell County near the town of Glen Rose.

After three years assisting in and writing for a U.S. government study of pollution of the Potomac River, Graves returned to Texas and focused on converting his country acreage from a weekend getaway into a permanent home with a manageable farm and cattle ranch. His observations and ruminations about his relationship with the land as a farmer and rancher led to the publication of his second major book, Hard Scrabble: Observations on a Patch of Land (1974). Starting in 1976, Graves again focused on life in the country in a series of essays that were published in Texas Monthly magazine. The essays were collected and published for Graves’ third major book, From a Limestone Ledge: Some Essays and Other Ruminations about Country Life in Texas (1980).

Although Graves has not published an extensive number of books, his contributions to magazines, books and anthologies spans over five decades. In 1996, as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series, the University of Texas Press published A John Graves Reader. The book gathered together fiction and non-fiction pieces, both published and unpublished, including a long, reworked excerpt from his failed novel, The Spotted Horse. More recently, Graves wrote text for the photography books Texas Rivers (2002) and Texas Hill Country (2003), and in 2004 Knopf published his memoir, Myself and Strangers, which focused on his years abroad as a freelance writer.

The Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series originates from the Southwestern Writers Collection, an archive and literary center established at Texas State University-San Marcos to celebrate the region's writers and literary heritage. The Book Series is published by the University of Texas Press and the University of New Mexico Press. Series Editors: Connie Todd (1997-2006) Steve Davis (2006-ongoing). The University of Texas Press also publishes the Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography Book Series.

NOTE: See the John Graves Papers (Collection 010) for more biographical information. See http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/about/about.html for more information on The University of Texas Press.

Scope and Content Note

Five boxes of photocopied articles and short stories, galley proofs, correspondence, clippings and publicity material document the production of the book, A John Graves Reader, published in 1996 by The University of Texas Press. The collection has been arranged into four series: Possible Selections for Book, Correspondence, Drafts and Galleys, and Publicity.

The first series provides a good overview of Graves’ writing through the years, with four subseries: Articles, Stories, Journals and Notes, Contributions to Works by Others, and Reviews. The second series contains mostly correspondence between Graves, Bill Wittliff, and UT Press, but also includes a newspaper clipping and photograph, and copies of the book contract, a bibliography and writing pieces. The third series shows the progression of the book from early typescript to galleys and dust jacket. Finally, the fourth series contains examples of publicity for the book, including a catalog and clippings of reviews.

Note: The “Reading Notes” journals in Box 2 may not be viewed or duplicated without the permission of John Graves or Bill Wittliff.


Access Restrictions

Some materials restricted. Please contact the SWWC for information about access.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

The UT Press Collection of A John Graves Reader, Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos

Acquisition Information

Donations since 1987. Donors: Bill and Sally Wittliff.

Processing Information

Previously processed by Amanda York and Tina Ybarra, 2002. Revised by Joel Minor, 2007.

 Notes to Researchers 

See The John Graves Papers (Collection 010) for a guide to the majority of Graves’ archival materials held at the Southwestern Writers Collection, including documents on A John Graves Reader that were donated by Mr. Graves.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Series I: Possible Selections for Book, ca. 1996 [contents: 1946-82, n.d.]

Box Folder
1 1 List of short story and article titles
Box Folder
1 2 "All That Litters"
"Aunt Clara's Luminous World"
"The Banana Germ"
"Big River"
"Blue and Some Other Dogs"
"The Brazos of the Northwest Texas Frontier, Today"
"The Bright New Waters"
"The Bright New Waters of Texas"
"Building Fever"
Box Folder
1 3 "The Chew Road to Knowledge"
"Controlling Condensation"
"Drifting Down the Brazos"
"Fencing Myself In"
"Goats Need Love, Too"
"Good As Gold"
Box Folder
1 4 "The Hard-Used Land"
"The Heat Treatment"
"Lord of the Flies"
"The Loser"
"Of Bees and Men"
"One Man's Music"
"Poultry in Motion"
"Rice University: The Pangs of Change"
"Sacred Cows"
"The Snuff of Dreams"
"The Southwest as the Cradle of Winter"
"Speech to Texas Institute of Letters"
"Stayin' Alive"
Box Folder
1 5 "Texas as Maybe a Place"
"Texas Myths and Texas Writing"
"Thoughts on the Occasion of the Second Vietnam Moratorium"
"Through All Kinds of Weather"
"T.I.L. Piece"
"To Voters Who Care What Happens to Somerville County"
"Tribute to George Williams"
Box Folder
1 6 "U.S. Go Home"
"The Water of Life" (1st draft)
"The Water of Life" (2nd draft)
"Whose Woods Are These?"
"Why Work?"
"The World to Wine"
Short Stories
Box Folder
1 7 "In the Absence of Horses"
"In Avila"
"The Aztec Dog"
"The Compress"
Box Folder
1 8 "Davis Birdsong and the Secretary of France"
"The Dreamer"
"The Emergency Stop"
"The Farthest Place"
"Fishing the Run"
"Friends of the EE. UU."
"The Green Fly"
"His Chapter"
Box Folder
1 9 "Home to Candelaria"
"Hot Day in Baptist Country"
"An Irrelevance"
"The Last Running"
"The Laughter from the Western Islands"
"Love vs. Pedro Rakoozy"
"The Meaning of Moonlight"
Box Folder
2 1 "Mixed Signals at Roaring Valley Institute"
"The Off-Season"
"A Rouse"
"A Valley"
Journals and notes
Box Folder
2 2 Rio Conchos journal
3 Reading Notes [RESTRICTED]
4 Contributions to Works by Others
"Catalogue Note for Frontier Guns Show"
Foreword for Gringos in Mexico, ed. Edward Simmen
"Hester Book Preface"
"Introduction to Ray Rector Photos"
"The Old Breed: A Note on John W. Thomason, Jr."
"Recollections of Childhood"
"The Region and the Place" foreword to Texas Heartland: a hill country year, photos by Jim Bones
"Some Notes on Texas Landscapes"
"Texas as Maybe a Place"
Introduction to This Stubborn Soil, by William Owens
Box Folder
2 5 Reviews
"Firecrackers Without Synthesis"
"The Spanish Myth in Literature"
"Stout Cumberland Pioneers"
"The Truth of the West"


Series II: Correspondence, 1995-97, n.d.

John Graves with UT Press and Bill Wittliff
Box Folder
2 6 January (includes contract) - June 1995
7 July 1995 - February 1997
Bill Wittliff with UT Press and John Graves
Box Folder
3 1 February 1995 - February 1996
2-3 n.d.


Series III: Drafts and Galleys, ca. 1996

Box Folder
3 4-5 Early draft
Box Folder
4 1-2 Annotated draft
3 First unedited proof
Box Folder
5 n/a Galleys (includes black and white photo of Graves)
Box Folder
4 4 Dust jacket


Series IV: Publicity, 1996-97

Box Folder
4 5 Catalog
6 Reviews, September 1996 - January 1997