Texas

Exhibit 1.7.16

How to Edit a Biography of Lyle Lovett

 

Cut out the parts about Texas and boots and trucks—this goes without saying. Similarly, descriptions of his singed coif and gaunt cheeks must go. He did not always and will not always look like that. Speculation into his perverse Americana, his mysterious origins, state fairs, his mental state on the day he married her, his mental state on the day she divorced him could be considered libelous and must go. Birth dates, places, names, influences, works, jobs, horse names, horse birthdates, and David Lynch sub-biography all seem superfluous—cut.

 

Comment / Posted in Editing, Lyles, Texas

Exhibit 1.2.10

Wieland

(Yep, another post on books. If you don’t care, you’ll probably enjoy this hyper-literal video of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Luckenbach, Texas.” I know I did.


)

Charles Brockden Brown’s novel makes two things clear: 1) the gothic is integral to American literature and 2) we should have seen M. Night Shyamalan coming. O, fine, a third thing: voice throwing is the world’s deadliest talent.

Why America couldn’t have produced compelling social novels is unclear to me, but her earliest books all seem to be obsessed with darkness and horror and the unsettling nature of life on the new continent. Without definitive social classes, nobody seems to know who to trust and so everyone is a rake or a murderer or some deviant ventriloquist. Wieland came out less than 15 years before Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, but they don’t feel like they exist in the same world. And, I suppose, they don’t.

Austen has her balls and parlors while Brockden Brown’s America feels like a free for all. There is still a moral order, just not one that anybody feels comfortable asserting except when it’s too late. At first the book even seems progressive. The titular Wieland is obsessed with reason and rationality rather than his father’s odd, Puritanical religion. His sister lives alone without comment and serves as the book’s narrator. Everyone, basically, feels like a free citizen in a land ruled by liberty rather than class or superstition.

O, then weird things start happening and then it all goes to hell. The brother no longer trusts his wife. The sister, too, is spurned by her suitor for being a hussy. One character believes God is telling him to kill everyone. It’s only after these things start happening does the claustrophobia of the early pages seem suffocating. America, in a word, was a little boring.

The Shyamalan twist is that some and possibly all of this turmoil was caused by a passing “biloquist” who helpfully explains how through a series of very reasonable coincidences, he was forced to throw his voice, a power he laments and had sworn not to use (it being too powerful. Something _________ must have realized a long time ago [___________ being where I would put the name of a famous ventriloquist if there were any {O,shit, Jeff Dunham. Well, I’m still not giving him the satisfaction}]). In any case, this wizard stops short of confessing to causing Wieland to murder his family, but it doesn’t really matter. The sister flees back to Europe where there’s still evil but it’s easier to recognize.

So what was wrong with America that this is where our imaginations immediately went? It’s tough to say, though there seems to be some reaction not only to the wilderness surrounding the colonies but to the breakdown of social order caused by democracy. This breakdown, which was hardly as severe as it must have seemed, is a little ridiculous to a modern reader–as is the one moment of spontaneous combustion–but the young country seems to have experienced a lot of terror in the space between reason and freewill. O, we might be able to reason our way into explanation (it’s usually ventriloquism) but that doesn’t mean some of us won’t fall back on superstition and violence and how will we know who those people are until they’re approaching us with axes?

1 Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Texas

Exhibit 25.20

Lost Man

During my 12-hour drive up to Kansas City, I noticed a lot more billboards than I normally do, especially in Dallas which must be the most billboarded city in the country. Say what you will about Houston, but for the most part they keep the outdoor advertising reasonable along the freeway. Dallas is another matter. Their signs ranged from standard–100.3FM It’s Free!–to obscure–Frank’s Valves [phone number]. I also learned from signeage that Dallas and the area around it has a chain interstate-side adult video store. I saw at least four in north Texas, and I’m pretty sure I made it all the way to Oklahoma City by wondering what kind of corporate training seminars and team building exercises the employees would have to tolerate. Would there be a yearly picnic? With potato sack races? Yes, I decided. Yes.

But the best thing I saw was that Dallas was using its traffic warning signs to mention that an elderly gentleman was lost. For 50 miles, all the signs were flashing the man’s name (Buck) and that he was a white guy from Atlanta, Texas. This was sad. I mean, it didn’t say how old the guy was, but he must have been really lost for someone to have gotten the okay to use the road signs. But after passing a sign at almost every exit, it became a little surreal. I wanted to pull off the road, find a white guy, and have this conversation:

Me: Hey, is your name Buck?
White Guy: Yes.
Me: [getting hopeful] Are you from Atlanta?
White Guy: Why, yes.
Me: [super excited] Are you lost?
White Guy: Boy howdy, I am. Thank you, stranger. I don’t know how I’ll get back to Georgia.
Me: [punches white guy]

I mean, I really hope they found Buck. Maybe he went back to Atlanta (which, I now know, isn’t even close to Dallas) or maybe he stumbled into one of those adult video stores. Maybe he became the manager. Maybe every two weeks his regional supervisor comes by and gives him a hard time about upselling. Yes. That.

Comment / Posted in Lost, Signs, Texas

Exhibit 21.16

Things I Learned While Walking the Dog

1. There is apparently a high school right on my street and no more than 30 yards from my door. I guess it’s a charter school of about 250 students and not the area’s big public school (Reagan High). Note: Reagan High School is–shockingly–not named after Ronald Reagan. Cheers for Texas. Sadly, it’s named after a prominent Confederate and was not desegregated until 1970. Double boo for Texas.

2. The park at the end of my street is called Love Park. I find this to be an admirably progressive name for a park. That said, most of the people at night seem to congregate in Flash Your Headlights Twice Park on the other end of the street. Note: Flash Your Headlights Twice Park is not named after a prominent Confederate. Cheers for Texas.

3. It is apparently illegal to build more than 24 consecutive feet of sidewalk on one side of the street. After one side’s 24 feet are up, the other side of the street gets its turn. Boo for Texas.

4. Love Park is exempt from that law and, I’m guessing, most others. Wash for Texas.

5. Everything here needs to be smelled for 65 seconds to be fully appreciated. Cheers for Texas.

Comment / Posted in Houston, Love, Texas

Exhibit 21.13


Um, hey, Texas, I think it’s time we have a talk. I think you’re great. Really. No complaints here. I can deal with the weather and the trucks and the talk of secession. Hell, I even enjoy those things more often than not. And I really like Lone Star Beer. But, um, I was just wondering if you could, you know, maybe explain why there’s an inch-long translucent lizard on my wall.

I’m not messing with you.

I would never mess with you.

1 Comment / Posted in Animals, Lizards, Texas