A collection of 18 essays, observations, pronouncements and musings on life and folks in Texas.
The earliest piece dates from 1970 and focuses on Lee Otis Johnson, a black community organizer and militant who was convicted of giving one marijuana cigarette to an undercover police officer and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. (One of the contexts of this judicial decision is that the judge’s son had been convicted on a marijuana charge and been given two years’ probation.) New Yorker contributor Trillin (About Alice, 2006, etc.) sensitively probes the racial situation in Houston that led to this outrage. Although he maintains the stance of an objective reporter, it’s clear he’s intent on exposing the inherent inequity of the system. “New Cheerleaders,” a piece dating from 1971, examines the changing racial makeup of Crystal City High School and how that change impacted (among other things) the Anglo understanding that only one of the four cheerleaders would be Mexican-American, a revision that was the result of organizer José Angel Gutiérrez shaking up the local community. Some of Trillin’s pieces are short and funny (on George W. Bush’s mangled syntax, for example, and whether it’s traceable to the wearing of cowboy boots), while others are short and moving, especially the tribute to Molly Ivins that Trillin composed as her eulogy upon her death in 2007. The longest essay scrutinizes the rise and fall of John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs), whose reviews of splatter films and outrageous racial comments divided Dallas in the 1980s.
Whatever the subject—whether “high” or “low”—Trillin writes exquisitely.