Texas, Just Who Do We Think We Are? Two New Books Look at Our Myths and Realities

Everything’s bigger in Texas, the saying goes, and that includes the state’s capacity for self-regard. Consider the popular bumper-sticker sentiment: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could.” Even non-natives are prone to Texan exceptionalism. As Dallas native Lawrence Wright writes in his terrific new book God Save Texas, “Texas enjoys the singular blessing that every distinct culture must have: a sense of its own apartness.”A state that is not known for self-reflection has two new books that get at an ever-evolving question: Who do we think we are? Wright's God Save Texas, an all-encompassing look at the state of the state right now, is one. The other is Don Graham’s Giant, a lively study of a book and movie that helped defined the image of Texas in the last century.Graham looks at both the Edna Ferber novel (which Texas hated) and the George Stevens movie (which Texas loved). The difference between the two? The novel, as Wright explains, “popularized the image of Texas millionaires as greedy but colorful provincials, whose fortunes were built largely on luck rather than hard work.” The movie softened those edges and yielded something in which the state could take pride.  Continue reading...

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