Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wyatt Back Deep in the Heart

My copy of Wyatt's Deep in The Heart contains an inscription by the author:
for Elizabeth---
who will surely go to Texas before long. It's terrible and beautiful -- as I hope this book shows. I also hope you enjoy the people here, who, troubled as they are, are close to me.
Wyatt Wyatt
20 March 1981
I had been thrilled to learn that he had written a second novel, and was struck by the title because it seemed to indicate that he was at last returning to a part of himself he had disowned when he went to New York and became enthralled with Perle and the romance of becoming an author.

The setting is the town that Wyatt and I grew up in, during an intense drought in summer:
It was the beginning of the dog days. Amarillo was bone dry. In the throat of the afternoon the temperature stuck at a hundred and eleven degrees Fahrenheit -- in the shade --if you could find shade. Between noon and six, you couldn't touch the door handle of your car without a glove or a handkerchief, and the ground had slowly cooked into a friable crust that flaked off and rose in the wind and tinted it. People said there was blood in the sky. On restless days -- nearly every day -- the wind beat at the town with the hack hack of a great rusty blade, flinging out a spray of dust that settled like a dry red mist down over everything whether it was alive or still.
This review can be found on
Wyatt Wyatt (author of "Catching Fire") scores big in his second novel "Deep in the Heart"--- a well-crafted tale of sex, love, and violence in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo. His prose is rich and imaginative and deserves a wider audience. Boone Randolf is the central character who struggles with his emotions and his friends in a personal quest for sanity in the midst of irrational and tormented characters. His people ring true, and yet, loom larger than life: Grady Hornsby, a legend of fiery wildness, a volcano always on the verge of eruption; Rowena, Grady's love, a sultry goddess tormented by a desire to control, Sue Pam, a 19-year-old sexual feast eager to live life fully; Dennis, Sue Pam's husband, protected and sheltered by wealth; and Lloyd Hollister, a cynic corrupted by power. Full of surprises, Wyatt Wyatt mixes these ingredients with abandon and shrewd observations that will stay with you long after you finish the book. But the real star is Texas itself, and Wyatt spins us through a devastating summer drought and welcomed respite of September rain. His descriptions weave an unforgettable texture of torrid temperatures and temperaments.

Wyatt Wyatt was a Texan who ran from his heritage most of his life and returned to himself in this wonderful tribute to a vanishing frontier of the freedom to be wild. Reading this book makes you wish for more, but sadly Wyatt Wyatt passed away in 2002, which makes this book all the more poignant and precious.
It really is a wonderful second novel, full of promise for a third, which was not to be. If there are flaws, they might be traceable to a tendency to be too driven by the plot, keeping the characters encased in the narrative. As though he was aware of this trap, Wyatt wrote "Already, I've been tempted to explain more than is necessary, to justify or ameliorate." He always ties up the loose ends, and life is never quite that orderly.

Wyatt writes of an Amarillo of the 1970s, and it is a city full of contradictions and wild living. The people are struggling to find an identity in a Texas that cannot come to grips with its heroic past and estrangement from modern life. It is a Texas that yearns to be the wild west, but is caught in the throes of a betrayal of itself. This treachery is manifest in Boone's deception of his best friend Grady, and through this deceit the extraordinary becomes merely ordinary. "The wild, reckless, best part of him had dried up, it had split off and blown tumbling across the plains in the wind until it vanished."

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