Steven L. Davis

This author appeared at the 2009 festival. Please view the list of authors appearing at this year's festival or see our suggestions for similar authors below.

Steven L. Davis at the 2009  Texas Book Festival

The subtitle of Davis' biography of Southwestern folklorist J. Frank Dobie is A Liberated Mind, which seems entirely appropriate – it becomes clear early on in the book that the struggle of Dobie's life was to become a liberated mind. Dobie is widely considered the first Texas writer to earn national prominence (unlike his contemporary Katherine Anne Porter, a more elegant and thoughtful writer, Dobie made his fame actually writing about Texas, at one point proudly brandishing the moniker "Mr. Texas" for his knowledge of and pride in all things Texas). Dobie, who grew up on a ranch in Live Oak County in South Texas, was a pioneering writer whose books A Vaquero of the Brush Country, The Longhorns, Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver, and Coronado's Children established Texas and the Southwest as fertile literary ground, though Dobie has been criticized for not valuing the cultural contributions of Mexican-Americans in his writing. Dobie was in his prime from the 30s through the 50s, partly because of his newspaper column, and he was as famous for his avuncular but also irascible personality as for his books. He waged an uphill battle to get the University of Texas to value regionalism and the Southwest as topics worthy of study, he became fed up with Texans' provincial bragging, and he eventually left UT, where he had been one of the most well-known professors on campus ("Hell, when I want to say something I say it out, and I don’t go around behind tree stumps to get it suggested," Dobie wrote). A legendary storyteller who helped establish the Texas Institute of Letters, a talented self-promoter, and a committed mentor to young writers and folklorists, Dobie's life makes for fascinating reading. Davis provides an invaluable context for Dobie’s life. Larry McMurtry says that J. Frank Dobie is "a crisp, reliable, and thorough biography …. Steve Davis gives us a much richer understanding of Dobie than we have had previously." Davis is the assistant curator at the Southwestern Writers Collection/The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University – San Marcos; he is also the author of Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and Beyond.


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