This book about Texas might not have made it to my reading queue except the author is the daughter of a friend’s co-worker and my friend offered the inscribed book to me. (For reading, not to keep.) Big, hot, cheap, and right are apt descriptors of Texas, but as usual the subtitle tells what the book is really about – i.e., “What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas.”
The Rivard Report did a brief pre-view of the book about a month ago, and also included an interesting interview of the author, who was in town for a book festival. From the Rivard interview, I learned that, although Grieder spent some time in San Antonio as a child, she was really a military brat who had lived everywhere. But her parents retired to San Antonio, and that probably explains why the book avoided the tendency in Texas to focus on Dallas and Houston and instead it talks more about San Antonio and Austin (where Grieder currently works for Texas Monthly magazine). The book was also favorably reviewed in the NY Times.
It is impossible to provide anything comprehensive in 234 pages, but Grieder does an amazing job of giving non-Texans a primer on Texas history and modern-day politics. Just about every insightful Texas anecdote that I have ever heard is included, plus references to Lonesome Dove and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.
I just completed a political campaign where the candidates are supposed to be nonpartisan, and in the process I have become a bit sensitive about partisanship. Grieder is clearly a partisan lover of Texas, but she seems to be both fair and objective in discussing the conservatives and progressives in Texas.
Of course, since I am a conservative, that probably means that she is one, too. And that explains why I enjoyed the book so much.
p.s., Grieder has a blog.
p.s., while writing in 2011 for New Republic, Grieder made a prediction about Presidential candidate Rick Perry that I’m sure she wants to bury:
- A not insignificant portion of the national political establishment—consisting of panicky Democrats and Republicans alike—is hoping that Rick Perry’s commanding lead in recent Republican primary polls will wither under the lights of this month’s multiple presidential debates, beginning with tonight’s event at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. The governor of Texas may be a formidable retail politician, they reason, but as soon as he’s facing sustained, aggressive questioning, and is forced to speak off the cuff about policy, he’ll be exposed for what he truly is: A good ol’ boy who doesn’t have the brains or the manners to earn the public’s trust.
- This is, to put it mildly, wishful thinking. Anyone who’s counting on Perry showing up this evening and tripping over himself, in the style of George W. Bush, is in for an unpleasant surprise. Perry has occasionally been a lazy debater and he is sometimes lackadaisical about keeping informed, but he has cultivated a number of rhetorical strengths.
Karl Rove, she ain’t.