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Obituary Stories

Texan's seminal work compared to Thoreau

| Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

AUSTIN — Texas literary legend John Graves, author of “Goodbye to a River,” has died in his home, Hard Scrabble, near Glen Rose, at 92.

W.K. “Kip” Stratton, president of the Texas Institute of Letters, on Wednesday announced Graves' passing after a long illness.

Graves' 1960 book, “Goodbye to a River,” detailed a canoe journey down the Brazos River with his dog and became a landmark of writing in Texas. Graves was a past president of the Texas Institute of Letters and a winner of the Lon Tinkle Award.

“Goodbye to a River” established Graves as a singular literary voice. Part personal meditation, part history lesson and part elegy for the Brazos River, which was set to be altered by a series of dams, the book was, more than anything, an examination of the sometimes-perilous consequences of the intersection of humans and their environment. Published at a time when Texas and the nation were about to be quickly urbanized, Graves' work urged readers to slow down and look back.

The book is frequently compared to Thoreau's “Walden,” and it set the tone for Graves' writing for the rest of his career.

Austin author Stephen Harrigan said that Graves' work influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring writers and that his books will endure.

“He very deliberately wanted his writing to be timeless,” Harrigan said.

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