Attention Literary Tourists! I met with Kristi Beer from Inprint Houston, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring readers and writers in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1983, Inprint fulfills its mission through the nationally renowned Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, the Cool Brains! Reading Series for Young People, and literary and educational activities in the community that demonstrate the value and impact of creative writing, and support of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. All of this constitutes an important contribution to Houston’s rich and diverse cultural life.
Who better then to question about how the Literary Tourist might best spend his or her time in Houston than someone at the center of this vibrant organization. Listen here to our conversation
Know Before You Go
Visit Houston has a great website filled with useful information about accommodation and cultural activities taking place in the city. You’ll also find special ticket rates and admission offers to Houston’s most sought after museums, theaters and art galleries.
[Please note that this interview was conducted several years ago, so check the Inprint website for information on current and upcoming events etc.]
Houston’s Museum of Printing History was founded in 1979 by Raoul Beasley, Vernon P. Hearn, Don Piercy, and J. V. Burnham, four printers with a passion for preserving their various printing-related collections and sharing them with the community. Chartered in 1981 the Museum had its official opening in 1982 with Dr. Hans Halaby, Director of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, cutting the ribbon. The mission of the Museum is to promote, preserve, and share the knowledge of printed communication and art as the greatest contributors to the development of the civilized world and the continuing advancement of freedom and literacy. It does this through an active, on-going exhibitions program, and a series of book arts workshops (The museum suffered a fire a year or two ago, but it appears that things are now back to normal).
I met with Museum Curator Amanda Stevenson to talk about the collection. During our conversation she delivers a very informative thumb-nail sketch of how relief and intaglio printing techniques work. Listen here
More recently I visited the tiny Musee de la Typographie in Tours, France. While it may be small, it’s full of all sorts of different kinds of old printing equipment and tools, typefaces, woodcuts and handmade paper. The owner/manager is incredibly enthusiastic about the enterprise. Muriel Méchin lovingly toured me through his museum, showing me, among other things, a compositor tool called a Moule à Arçon a hand-held individual character casting device that was a forerunner of the Monotype machine. He actually let me handle some of the exhibited items, something most museums forbid. Here’s my conversation with Jean Louis Maitre.
While there is no ‘great Houston Novel,’ a lot of good stories have come out of the city, many of which are told in David Theis’s Literary Houston, an anthology of writing on and about ‘the Bayou city’. Stories, because Houston is a place where people come to DO things, ‘To fly to the moon, create empires, build fortresses against cancer, and temples to surrealism’ as Theis puts it.
I met him at a cafe just off Houston’s busy Westheimer street. Seems like everywhere we moved something or someone very noisy decided to followed us. Still, we had an interesting conversation. Hope you enjoy it.
Christopher Hitchens died last December at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
I re-read his Letters to a Young Contrarian on the flight down here. The next day I took the light rail train from our hotel in to town. It passed by the Center. Just seeing the place for those fleeting seconds was a very moving, emotional experience.
The relationships we establish with writers can be pretty intense. Visiting places described in their works where births, childhoods, marriages and deaths – real or imagined – take place, helps us to ‘connect’ with our literary heroes. It’s hardly rational, but I know from experience that it can be very powerful.
Christopher Hitchens’s writing and debating touched and influenced many. It stimulated a lot of important public discussion. Though his ties with Houston may be limited – all he did here was die – he will always be associated with the place.