I'm looking for...



Happening:
Anytime
to
Near:
Anywhere
That is
Anything

The Dallas Myth, Again


by Jerome Weeks 17 Nov 2008

Dallas journalist Thomas Korosec reviews Harvey J. Graff’s The Dallas Myth for the Texas Observer: Though Graff ultimately fails to explain why Dallas became a major American city while so many other trade-route towns fell short, he does provide an interesting discussion of how Dallas’ foundational myth was harnessed in the mid-1900s to justify the […]

CTA TBD

Dallas journalist Thomas Korosec reviews Harvey J. Graff’s The Dallas Myth for the Texas Observer:

Though Graff ultimately fails to explain why Dallas became a major American city while so many other trade-route towns fell short, he does provide an interesting discussion of how Dallas’ foundational myth was harnessed in the mid-1900s to justify the heavy-handedness with which business leadership ran the city. Ultimately, Graff’s attempt to tie Dallas’ political conservatism, racial segregation, and even present-day attempts at downtown redevelopment into his thesis sours into a broadside that’s likely to resonate only with the city’s most devoted critics. After 388 pages of listening to Graff grump about everything from the city’s skyline to the quality of its art collections, one can only conclude that he thoroughly hates the place.

That Dallas has been dubbed “The Purple Heart of Texas” for its large and politically forceful gay community, and at the same time remains a hub of Baptist rectitude, suggests a modern-day Dallas more complicated than Graff has been able to discover. As journalist Molly Ivins once said, “There is a black Dallas, there is a Chicano Dallas, there is a Vietnamese Dallas, there is a gay Dallas, there is even a funky-Bohemian Dallas. But mostly there is North Dallas, a place so materialistic and Republican it makes your teeth hurt to contemplate it.” Graff’s chompers fairly scream in pain.

You can hear Dr. Graff on Think here.

SHARE
  • Rawlins Gilliland

    Dallas native here: Graff’s book makes a noble stab at explaining the dichotmy that is Dallas. But it’s a bit like explaining to Stevie Wonder the nuance of Marilyn Monroe’s face; the reader thinks they ‘get’ Dallas after closing the book but alas, the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And the dark inner turmoil too complicated to capture.

    I.E. Try explaining how McDonald’s became ‘America’s #1 hamburger’ when it is really just a lot of sauces annoiting a standard patty and bun.

  • Having lived in Dallas for nearly thirty years, I can sympathize with Dr. Graff. A bit. A tiny bit. Every time I watch yet another interesting music venue get overrun with sneering SMU brats who wad it up and discard it the moment it’s no longer fashionable, I wonder. Every Christmas season, when the entire city becomes a live rendition of Dawn of the Dead, I wonder. Every time I look at the sick jokes we laughingly call print media, wondering how we can put up with Paper City and D and Robert “The James Lipton of Fandom” Wilonsky, I wonder “Exactly why the hell am I staying here?”

    And then I remember that what Dr. Graff considers weakness is actually this city’s strength. I actually like how Dallas ignores its resident artists, because then they have to work that much harder to get noticed. Sure, we get the occasional artist or writer or actor who leaves Dallas and gets noticed somewhere else, but we also dissuade the parasitic hipsters who want nothing more than for everyone to notice them because they might actually do something one of these days. Yes, it’s an absolute crime that most of our big musical acts can’t get the time of day from our local media, but that means that they’re strong enough to stand on their own when they go elsewhere. Every time I look at what Bart Weiss is doing with the Dallas Video Festival, or the loons with the Deep Ellum Association, I see folks who stay here because they actively enjoy the challenge, and they’d be bored out of their minds in an allegedly arts-friendly city like Portland. After the thirtieth or fortieth wannabe kissing your butt because they want the recognition without doing the work, it’s actually a lot more fun to live in a place where those sorts of parasites can’t get sustenance.

    That said, I’ve lived all over the country throughout my life, and I keep finding myself back here. I know it’s not perfect, and I’m glad it’s not perfect. That’s what makes it so much fun.

    • I’m not an artist, but I am a consumer of art, having been to tons of musical performances and art openings over the last two years. I think Art Conspiracy is a great example of local musicians, artists and entrepreneurs coming together to support the Arts and raise money for charity. Every year, we (I’m on the board) raise more money and have more artists participate. To me, it’s the side of Dallas that doesn’t get noticed as much, but it’s hear and it’s cool. Every time I go to one of Kettle Art’s openings and see the artists supporting each other, and producing great work, well, I feel a little better about our city.

      I can see Tom’s point about the struggle to obtain recognition here, but I think it bears mentioning that there is a creative spirit here that can be very nurturing to up and coming artists.