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Arts & Culture

Turbulence undergirds offerings by these Texas authors

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

Never let anyone try to tell you what a Texas writer is supposed to be. Here are three Texans that cover everything from the skin trade to cautionary schoolyard YA fiction.

Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession By Tyler Stoddard Smith / Adams Media / $14.95, 256pp
There are a slew of sexy surprises in this too-funny who's who of whoring. You might for instance have already known (can't believe that I actually did) that that Inside the Actors Studio stiff James Lipton was a pimp in Paris back in his boho dancing days, and maybe you even came across an old People magazine article about Rosanne Barr turning tricks before becoming a Domestic Goddess, but the juicy info about Nancy Reagan giving the best head in Hollywood, and the section on Marcia from the Brady Bunch selling herself for coke and being offered an apple by Steven Spielberg before being shown the door after screwing up an audition for Raiders of the Lost Ark, makes this taut tome of prurience as eye opening as it is hard to put down. Recalling the prose style of Strachey's Eminent Victorians by way of Kenneth Anger, this is one pillow book you'll want to keep on your shelf.

Growing Up Dead In Texas By Stephen Graham Jones / MP Publishing / $14.95, 254 pp
Stephen Graham Jones, an author who has experimented with horror writing as well as done his fair share of horrible experimental writing, has become a master of the novel/memoir. In Growing up Dead in Texas Jones takes us to a West Texas world where a mysterious fire splits a community apart. Someone took a match to the cotton fields of Greenwood, and why does nobody care to find out who? Why has no one ever come forth or been caught? As existentially trying as it is just plain eerie, this work puts the NEA recipient and Shirley Jackson Award finalist on a new path of myth slaying biographical deconstruction. Like a way less affected reconfiguration of Cormac McCarthy territory, Growing up Dead in Texas is as haunting as it is humble, and should be filmed by the Coen brothers while they're still hot off the heels of their last Southern Gothic.

Choke By Diana Lopez / Scholastic Press / $17.95, 240pp
With all those terrible kids teasing the hell out of that grandma bus attendant on YouTube, and certifiably masochistic page turners like The Lying Game turning decent decadent French titillation like Dangerous Liaisons into ABC Family franchises, it's refreshing to come across a young adult novel like Diana Lopez's Choke – which at first brush comes off like a Mexican version of Mean Girls. Choke takes readers into the tough world of public-school peer pressure, but it also puts a scary focus on the disturbing phenomenon of junior high school kids asphyxiating each other in order to get high. Did you know kids were doing this? I did not. Lopez, whose previous books include Confetti Girl and Sophia's Saints, is a charming writer; her jokes work, and her language comforts. Sometimes, amid all the garbage that degrades — like that other book called Choke about sex addicts and colonial theme parks — there emerges fun and instructive fiction that actually cares whether the people who read it live or die.

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