David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, asked staff writer Lawrence Wright to “explain Texas.” He made this request because he was mistakenly under the impression that Wright lives in Texas, which he does not: He lives in Austin — you can see Texas from there, but Austin isn’t quite it.
Wright produced a book on the subject, and it is a mess. From my review in the Claremont Review of Books:
It is not, as it proposes to be, a meditation on the culture and politics of Texas and their influence on the wider American scene. It is an overflowing slop-bucket of ignorance, laziness, and snobbery in the shape of a book.
One of my least favorite things in this world is that aw-shucks, phony, cornpone Texan-ism adopted by so many people associated with my state. I admire George W. Bush a great deal, but I do not know where that weird accent comes from; it isn’t Midland. Molly Ivins was a great offender on the ersatz Texan-ism score: She knew a lot more about yachts than she did about cotton fields, but she created a ridiculous down-home persona. (She once tried to launch a television talk show, and her set was done up like a back porch, with a swing.) Rick Perry seems to have outgrown this, blessedly: He’s a cowboy the way Elizabeth Warren is an Indian. (I remain convinced that if Rick Perry had gone on the campaign trail speaking the ordinary literate English I know him to be capable of, he would be president.) Natalie Maines, as close as you will get to a champagne radical in Lubbock, has a bit of it, too.
Wright has a whole lot of it.