It Starts with Trouble
*Selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Non-fiction Book of 2015*
"More than three decades after [Goyen's] death, his stubbornness finds its reward in this smart, admiring and attentive biography by Clark Davis."
—Louis Bayard, The New York Times
"Mr. Davis has done a great service in recounting the major events of Goyen’s life, and reminding us, along the way, of his remarkable literary achievement."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Ultimately, what makes It Starts with Trouble an essential read for anyone interested in literature and art is Davis’s painstaking research combined with the passion and intelligence he brings to his subject, bolstering a compelling case to reclaim Goyen’s place in American letters . . . . Like Goyen, Davis understands what writing is for. He reminds us of the stakes of art, of being an artist."
—Peter Grandbois, Los Angeles Review of Books
"In this stellar biography, Davis (After the Whale) deftly examines the life of a complex and overlooked figure in the history of American literature. . . . This lively and enlightening biography will resurrect Goyen’s brilliant writing for a new generation of readers."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“William Goyen was one of the great, great writers of the twentieth century, and Clark Davis’ terrific book is an incisive study of the relationship between an author’s life and work. It’s stuffed not with psychobabble, the way so many such studies are, but with careful examples of how this underappreciated master transformed his central concerns into complex, compelling, and beautiful novels, stories, and essays. ‘It starts with trouble,’ Goyen said of the origins of his work. Davis is to be applauded for this fine elucidation of how trouble, Texas, landscape, love, and the longing for the divine led to the creation of some of the richest prose ever written in America. This book is a gem.”
—Rebecca Brown, author of American Romances and The Gifts of the Body
“Clark Davis’s biography of William Goyen is a sensitive, insightful, and revealing study of one of the great novelists of the late twentieth century, a writer who very much deserves this passionate, thoughtful rediscovery.”
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising and Devil’s Dream
"It Starts With Trouble is a confident, compelling biography and critical assessment based on prodigious research. William Goyen is highly regarded in Europe, and a book this good should revive interest in an author who has been unfairly neglected in his home country."
—Gregory Curtis, former editor of Texas Monthly and author of The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First Artists
"This biography offers a thorough and illuminating grounding."
"In It Starts With Trouble, Clark Davis makes the compelling case that William Goyen deserves to be discovered again by American readers."
—Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News
A “truly magical biography. . . . Although [it] succeeds because of Davis’s lucid and moving prose, outstanding research and assemblage of archival material, and sensitive analyses of literary works, it also triumphs because of the many avenues that it opens for future critical writing.”
--“American Literature: The Twentieth Century,” “Fiction Since 1945,” in The Year’s Work in English Studies 97.1 (2018).