Review of Texas Hill Country by John Graves and Wyman Meinzer
Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 9/20/09
Texas Hill Country is a pleasant looking coffee-table book put out by the University of Texas Press that revisits the beauty and essence of the Texas Hill Country via way of John Graves’ essay within, as well as the numerous photographs by Wyman Meinzer. Both the essay and photos run nicely along side one another, but the book is what it is essentially for the photos.
Graves discusses his personal attachment to the terrain, as well as noting how he would like to return to the more rustic parts, rather than those parts that have since been overrun with commercialism. The essay offers a quick 101 level history lesson, discussing the German influence, as well as the many changes that have occurred to the land and its people over the centuries.
The photos are seasonal and scenic, reflecting the many Texas weathers, including the beauty of the vistas in both sunlight and rain, or when the landscape is layered in a sheet of fog. The overcast shots are probably the most memorable, offering the grim yet striking vista as something independent from that of human ownership.
The essay also touches upon the first Anglo-American colonists in Texas, as well as those that later migrated after Texas became a state in 1846. The battles that resulted among the many settlers are also noted, and likewise, the photos that run along side these tales are sometimes related to the story at hand, and other times not. Certain photos definitely carry more historical heft than others, such as the landscape and building shots, which are the essence of this book, as opposed to the floral shots that, despite being nice to look act, serve more as filler.
Texas Hill Country is without a doubt a pleasant book, but it’s one that is also surface level. The information offered is one of reflection and overview, both in essay and photos, rather than (with a few exceptions) specific spots one traveling to the Texas Hill Country will recall or need to visit. Overall, Texas Hill Country puts more emphasis on terrain over that of detailed landmarks. The photos are those one can easily be lost in, and for the landscapes alone, I recommend this book. Graves’ essay gives a little added flesh to the flourish, but for one searching for more in-depth coverage of Texas history, this would not be the book.
Rather, Texas Hill Country is a collection of moments that is more artful than functional, but also one that accomplishes what it intends: to offer readers an introductory slice of Texana, and a universal reflection upon the beauty, history and terrain that is the Texas Hill Country.
“So be it, I suppose, for in an era like this, few places on earth manage to stay as they have been, and why would a should a wrinkled piece of Texas receive exemption?” Graves asks in his essay.
Thus, it is to be enjoyed it for what it is, both in mind and in land.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Examiner.com website.]
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