For a quick and easy look at what Texas is all about, try All Hat & No Cattle, a collection of somewhat irreverent observations on Texas fashions, cuisine, music, animals, and the like by humorist Anne Dingus. Before Frederick Law Olmsted became a landscape architect -- New York's Central Park is among his famous creations -- he was a successful journalist, and his 1853 A Journey Through Texas includes a delightful section on his impressions of early San Antonio. William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, had a newspaper office in San Antonio for a while. Two collections of his short stories, Texas Stories and Time to Write, include a number of pieces set in the city, among them "A Fog in Santone," "The Higher Abdication," "Hygeia at the Solito," "Seats of the Haughty," and "The Missing Chord."

O. Henry wasn't very successful at promoting his newspaper Rolling Stone (no, not that one) in San Antonio during the 1890s, but there's a lively literary scene in town today. Resident writers include Sandra Cisneros, whose powerful, critically acclaimed short stories in Women Hollering Creek are often set in the city; and mystery writer Jay Brandon, whose excellent Loose Among the Lambs kept San Antonians busy trying to guess the identities of the local figures they (erroneously) thought had been fictionalized therein. Rick Riordan, whose hard-boiled detective novels Tequila Red and Southtown take place in an appropriately seamy San Antonio, is also a resident.

Two Austin writers use San Antonio settings: Novelist Sarah Bird's humorous The Mommy Club pokes fun at the yuppies of the King William district, while Stephen Harrigan's The Gates of the Alamo is a gripping, fictionalized version of Texas's most famous battle.


And the Beat Goes On . .. -- Both Janis Joplin, who attended the University of Texas for a short time, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, enshrined in a statue overlooking Town Lake, got their starts in Austin clubs in the 1960s. During the 1970s, the area was a hotbed for "outlaw" country singers Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Jerry Jeff Walker. During the 1980s, there was a national surge of interest in local country-folk artists Lyle Lovett, Eric Taylor, Townes Van Zandt, Darden Smith, Robert Earl Keen, and Nanci Griffith. And the tradition continues with Austin's current musical residents, including Grammy Award winners Shawn Colvin and the Dixie Chicks, among others.

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