A native son takes a loping tour of the Lone Star State and the paths to, through, and from it.
Intercept national editor Hodge (The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism, 2010), a former editor of the Oxford American and Harper’s, grew up down on the Rio Grande and learned how to handle a rope and a six-shooter, the whole package. He got out at 18, and, he writes, “I’m still gone.” That kind of talk can get a person branded as a carpetbagger, but the author has long lines of history and blood tying him to the state over a couple of centuries, exploring which is the point of this somewhat shapeless but always interesting ramble across the state and points beyond, from the pioneer trails of Missouri to the gone-west paths across New Mexico and Arizona to California. Some of Hodge’s explorations are bookish: he’s a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy, wandering around the vicinity of Del Rio contemplating No Country for Old Men and other “messages from lost worlds, artifacts of vanished histories.” Elsewhere, Hodge calls on the Border Patrol, ponders the lost ways of the Comanche Trail and the ever speculative argonauts, and visits the grave of Sam Houston’s Cherokee wife and a much-contested shrine constantly beset by what one defender calls “the Satanics from Juárez.” Hodge’s suggestion that the “official” history of Texas, whatever that might be, excludes many of its players, from Native Americans to French buccaneers and German freethinkers, isn’t quite accurate; no modern writer on Texas dares overlook them, and even the old-timers along the lines of J. Frank Dobie and John Graves recognized how diverse Texas was and is. Still, Hodge does a nice job of relating some of those lesser-known stories.
Of a piece with revisionist Westerns à la Larry McMurtry and Richard White and of much interest to readers along the border.