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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

A Grandson's Hot Butter Rum Toast to Donald Culross Peattie

by David Peattie on

Donald Culross Peattie and his wife, Louise Redfield Peattie, with their son, Malcolm, uncle of David.

I [David Peattie] never met my grandfather. Or if I did, I was too young to remember. He died when I was growing up in Japan, so all the stories I heard, in addition to a few old photographs, formed my memories of him. That, and of course his books.

He was a gentleman and a gentle man. You could tell that in his writing, but also from the tales my father, Mark Peattie who passed away earlier this year, told me. Those remembrances were not focused on his chivalrous nature, but the side notes made that clear. For instance, when he would take his children for a hike and share his knowledge of all things flora and fauna, he often wore a coat and tie.

While he was soft-spoken both in praise and criticism, he did not shy away from speaking up about what was right. In the period following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for instance, he spoke out eloquently against the internment of Japanese Americans, and wrote letters to the editor in their defense.

My grandfather was nothing if not a civilized man. And that included his love of cocktails, especially making them. When his three sons were in their teens, he even taught them how to mix cocktails, and drink in moderation, in order to learn socially responsible drinking before they went out into the world of alcoholic temptations. He often wrote for Readers Digest and once penned an article on this very subject. Unbeknownst to him, it was titled "I Taught My Children to Drink." He received hundreds of angry letters from outraged readers. Although he was famous for his writing and knowledge as a naturalist, he secretly wanted praise for his skills as a mixologist, a term he loved. He became good friends with Don the Beachcomber, the famous restaurateur and barman. When Don came to visit his home in Santa Barbara, he pronounced that my grandfather “had all the right rums.” It was one of his proudest moments. When my father went to Cambodia, newly a Foreign Service diplomat, my grandfather sent him the best gift he could think of to survive this hardship post: his own annotated collection of cocktail recipes, Witches Brew: Lady Macbeths Bad Book of Good Cocktails.

So for those of you who might think the best way to celebrate the memory of my grandfather is to dip back into one of his literary treasures (A Book of Hours is my personal favorite), I offer to you another treasure: a recipe from his cocktail book, for Buttered Rum Punch.

Cheers! And I hope you have all the right rums.

Holiday Gift Guide

by Eliza Perez on

The holidays are right around the corner, and one of my favorite things to do, other than make tamales with my mom and watch classic Christmas movies with my sister, is shop for gifts. I feel great whenever I find the perfect gift for someone I care about. The smile on their face is thanks enough. 

If you’re having trouble shopping for gifts, consider these books for the readers on your list.

For the future architect: Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment, the perfect primer on writing about architecture.

For your favorite feminist: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, essays by Rebecca Solnit exploring politics and place the world over.

For the storyteller: A Muse and a Maze, the engaging follow-up to the bestselling Maps of the Imagination, connecting mystery, puzzles, and magic to the craft of writing.

For the poet: Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places, affectionate, thoughtful interviews and letters between poet Gary Snyder and South African writer Julia Martin.

For the fiction aficionado: Outside, stories by Barry Lopez, with illustrations by Barry Moser, exploring the relationship between humans and animals, and creativity and beauty.

For the nature lover: Reissues of books by Donald Culross Peattie, one of America’s most beloved naturalists, which have been out of print for decades. 

Happy holidays from all of us at TU Press! 

Happy University Press Week!

by Eliza Perez on

President Jimmy Carter declared University Press Week in 1978 "in recognition of the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship." At TU Press, we know what an impact these programs make and how important it is to recognize the amazing work of nonprofit publishers everywhere. Send us a note this week to let us know how a university press has contributed to your community through the great books they've published!


These Conversations

by Julia Martin on

The book arrived today, a collection of interviews and letters between Gary Snyder and myself. Last week Steffanie at TU Press emailed me a FedEx number, and at once Google popped up a link for tracking the book’s journey across the planet. Over the next while I could occasionally check its progress. It traveled from San Antonio to Memphis to Paris to Cape Town, all the way to our house at the foot of the mountain in Muizenberg, where there was in fact nobody home when the FedEx man rang the doorbell. 

Today he came back, and I was here. I signed the form, received the parcel, found a knife to rip through the tape, and held the small book in my hands. Nobody Home. 

A small book. That was my first impression. Many pages, a generous font, good paper, and small. I had seen the cover with its spacious picture of Gary sitting in the Black Rock Desert, I knew the letters and interviews pretty well, and I’d worked back and forth on the proofs. But I hadn’t expected the size to be so . . . holdable. Intimate, almost. It was surprising, delightful. It felt appropriate. 

Appropriate to what? My friendship with Gary Snyder, I guess. That’s what the publisher asked me to write about here, and what I’ve been putting off doing because I didn’t know where to start. But now that I have the book on the desk beside me, I can open to any page and find a dialogue that evokes it. 

So that’s at the heart of the friendship: dialogue. It began thirty years ago and has continued through all the changes of our lives. Serious and a little formal in the beginning. Increasingly playful and probably more serious as we grew older. In 1983 when I wrote the first letter, I was an earnest graduate student and Gary was an eminent writer, kind enough and curious enough (to be receiving a letter from Cape Town, South Africa) to respond.  

Part of what energized the dialogue, I think, is that it had nothing to do with the popular idea of Snyder as cultural icon. I wrote that first letter because I liked his writing and trusted that someone who could write that way would be open to my questions. From the beginning we talked about poems and prose and then picked up on whatever else that writing evoked—the practice of writing, writing as practice, and the priorities in (spiritual, ecological, political) practice that writing can bring to the fore. 

In coming up with the book’s subtitle, we signaled those priorities with the words “Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places.” A pretty large canvas, you might say. But I think that’s just it. Gary’s openness of mind and heart has meant that no topic, really, is off-limits. As he explained when we were deciding which letters to include, “I’m not a very private person.” That said, we have found ourselves returning over and over to questions about ecology and places and spiritual practice and home. The interviews discuss these questions in a slightly more public voice, more abstract. The letters (often packed with poems and articles) tend to explore the same urgencies in the particulars of lived experience, telling stories about our personal lives, and about suffering and impermanence. 

To say that I’m grateful doesn’t come close. And as Gary puts it in his foreword, it’s not over yet. 

But yes, about the book, I am grateful and happy. It feels good to hold this small well-made book in my hands, and to wonder at how these conversations of ours have made their way across the world. Nobody Home. It brings together so much.

Author and Activist Rebecca Solnit to Visit San Antonio

by Eliza Perez on


When I was a child, my father made me aware that the world was not always a good place, that there were people who wouldn’t like me solely because of the color of my skin and the country my parents were from. These whispered warnings made me appreciate honesty that could help me navigate the world.

Though it wasn’t always explicitly stated, my parents taught me to be proud of my roots, to remember where—and who—I came from.

Leaving for Trinity University made it clear why it was important not only to remember my family but to look for anything that might help me survive in a new environment. For me this came in the form of writing and books. From my first writing workshop with Dr. Coleen Grissom years ago to my current independent poetry study with Professor Jenny Browne, writing and reading have always been dear to me.

When I started working as an intern at Trinity University Press, I had no idea who Rebecca Solnit was. I felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t heard of this internationally acclaimed author and activist. But I got a chance to read the final manuscript for her new book, “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness,” and I’m so happy I did. Solnit’s writing is a great example of how honesty can help people find their way.

For the full article, head over to the Rivard Report.

Rebecca Solnit will speak about her new book, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, on Wednesday, November 12, at the Holt Center at Trinity University. Reception at 5:30 p.m., lecture at 6:30 p.m., followed by Q&A and continued reception and book signing. Free and open to the public.