Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Michener’s Warning

September 7, 2009

This column was re-written and then submitted to Smirking Chimp and re-submitted to Op Ed News.  The updaed version is being posted Labor Day at 5:54 p.m. Pacific Tims

[Book Review]
James Michener’s 1985 novel, Texas, is, in this columnist opinion, the best book for helping liberals understand George W. Bush, that’s available, even though it reads more like a history of the state than a psychological guidebook to the 43rd President. 

However, if someone who picks up a used copy of the Random House hardback edition for a buck at the Venice branch of the Los Angeles Public Library starts to read this entertaining and informative book just for pleasure, it will quickly become apparent that it will be necessary to start marking off the appropriate passages for use in a review of the book seeking to prove the contention made in the preceding paragraph.  What seemed to be a pleasant read is going to require that it be done while wearing the “book reviewer’s hat” because there’s going to be a massive amount of good quotes and salient points to mark off and then sort through when the time comes to write it up.

The fact that when Texas became a state, it reserved the right to secede and become an independent nation might be of interest in the first stages of the post (George W.) Bush era, and the footnote that it also has the right to break itself up into five separate states might be of interest to Obama era political pundits who keep close score on the political balance in the U. S. Senate.  Those two items of interest have nothing to do with the psychology of the former president, so where is the juicy stuff that will remind the good Bushies of what made their man special?

Michener weaves the saga of several different families from separate periods of Texas history into one marvelous narrative thread and when he get into the story of Todd Morrison and his family who moved to Texas from Detroit, he includes a vignette about the daughter, Beth, learning about Texas’ history, such as the fact that Mentone, a city of 41, is the seat for the county of Loving (pop. 163).  The father becomes concerned about the lack of equal emphasis on world geography and history.  That may remind some readers of a time based upon a gaff in a Presidential debate, when Yankee journalists couldn’t grasp the basics of management and understand that a president would have PhD level advisors to tell him all he might need to know about foreign countries, such as one he might be invading soon.

Yeah, it might be an interesting coincidence immediately after Sara Palin resigned as the governor of Alaska to note that one of Texas’ greatest heroes, Sam Houston, at different times in his life, resigned as governor of two different states, but that has nothing to do with figuring out what made “Dubya” tick.

Folks in the L. A. area, who are closer to the movie industry than the oil drilling business, might enjoy the book a great deal because it contains (in a subliminal mode) pitches for some stories that have a high movie potential such as the life of Panther Lomax, Otto Macnab, his grandson Oscar Macnab, and/or Loan Wolf Gonaullas.  Film buffs will be quick to jump to the conclusion that the story of Emma Larkin’s capture by the Comanche and subsequent liberation, was filmed and is rated as one of John Wayne’s best.

When you get to page 259 and read that Rev. Joel Job Harrison said:  “The Texan who guns down his neighbor does not visualize himself as committing a crime,” it starts to become apparent that a President from that state might not be bothered by the legalities of a scrap of paper from a conference which he didn’t attend and then find himself as commander-in-chief, being constricted by a bunch of foreigners who established rules that might restrict the interrogation of a prisoner who might be withholding valuable information which would put the lives of American military personnel at risk, if it were not divulged. 

The Texan’s regard for religion becomes even more obvious when, on the same page, the author outlines the case of the Baptist minister John Franklyn Norris who won an argument with three bullets.  Michner says:  “The jury found him innocent on the grounds, I suppose, that he was a member of the cloth and therefore incapable of doing wrong.”  It seems that Texans accord Presidents that same assumption.

When Judge O. D. Cannon shoots a black lawyer (on page 741) the readers learn:  “The coroner’s verdict:  Harriel Geiger had been guilty of repeated contempt and had been properly rebukes.”

Some “scientists” say that a man can’t hold two contradictory thoughts in his head simultaneously.  Obviously those experts (who believe in “global warming” also?) have never been to Texas.  Michener notes on page 615:  “ . . . many slave holders were convinced tat their slaves, at least, were supremely happy in their position of servitude; but at the same time, the owner were desperately afraid of slave uprisings, . . . .”

Michener sums it all up in the last line:  “Never forget, son, when you represent Texas, always go first class.”  The American citizens who live outside of Texas may need to read this book to see that, by Texas standards, George W. Bush did just that.  This book is highly recommended for any of the fans who would like to understand George W. Bush better.  (We know the book uses the novel format to relate incidents based on the events of actual Texas citizens and hence it could have been a better book (at least for reviewers) if it had an index.)

The best Texas quote may have come from a non-Texan woman, Leona Helmsley who said:  “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes ….”  That quote alone should get her a place of honor in the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Now, the disk jockey will attempt to string together the ten best Texas songs of all Time

Deep in the Heart of Texas (is that song still banned on the BBC?)
Yellow Rose of Texas
Waltz Across Texas (by Ernest Tubb)
Bob Wills is still the King (by Waylon  Jennings)
Houston (by Dean Martin)
Abilene (by George Hamilton)
Amarillo by Morning
Theme from “Giant”
Big D little a Double L –a-s
El Paso (by Marty Robbins)
For a much longer list click:

This is the World’s Laziest Journalist reporting live, via wi-fi, from the Cow’s End Coffee House in Venice CA, saying:  Have a “Todd, you must go to bed each night reassuring yourself:  ‘This is Never Going to End’ (especially wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)” type week.