TERRY GROSS, host:
This is fresh air. I’m terry gross. Texas, it’s been big, it’s growing. It has three of America’s top ten cities, as big as Canada. But its traditional culture remains strong. One in every four cars bought in the state is a pickup truck. These are some of the things you can find in a new book by our guest Pulitzer prize winner Lawrence Wright. His new book is a reflection of his hometown, natural scenery, racial and ethnic diversity, music and political culture, characterized by a strong leaning to the right as well as a series of figures is so colorful, Wright said they are the reporter’s dream. Wright said that the largest red state in the union, Texas, will eventually enter the blue column and change the country’s politics in the process.Wright’s new book is called “god save Texas: a journey into the soul of a lone star nation”. His “most recent tower”, about al qaeda and the September 11 Pulitzer prize-winning book, has recently been adapted into a Hulu series. His book on science has been adapted into the HBO literature. Lawrence Wright talked to Dave Davis of Fresh Air.
DAVE DAVIES, wired: well, Laurence Wright, welcome back to the fresh air. You wrote in this book that you spent a very long time in adelie, in west Texas, then in east Dallas, and your father had a bank. You decide to leave this state when you graduate from high school. Why is that?
LAWRENCE WRIGHT: well, I think I’m living a very provincial life and I want to see the world. Well, there’s another thing, Dave. You know, when I was in high school, John Kennedy was assassinated in town. During that time, a great shame came from Dallas. I think in some ways I want to get rid of this. The integration and fanaticism of the city also disappointed me. I want to go somewhere, that’s — you know, it feels liberated. Dallas wasn’t that place at that time.
Davis: so you left and worked as a journalist. You live in Egypt and do a lot of things. Then in 1979, you lived in Atlanta and were lured back. How’s that？ What happened?
WRIGHT: I was writing about twelve people walking on the moon for Look magazine. And then I — one of them, Charlie duke, then walked in new brunels, Texas, the beautiful little german-czech town in central Texas. So I went to new brownfields, where there was a bed and breakfast, and they checked me. It has a rathskeller in the basement. I think I’ll go for a beer and a young man, and take a walk in the square, which will be on Saturday night at new brown fields. (laughter.) but I ran into the Texas monthly restaurant critic, frank bailey, and he totally beat me.
We set out in a desert around the mountains and stopped at a steakhouse, where he ordered a rare three-inch steak, one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen. (laughter) it’s like a bleeding brick. Then we toured the ballroom and performed in Gruene, the oldest ballroom in Texas, Texas. A young man named George strait was playing, and a band called the sleeping man was playing. It is – you know, it feels very familiar and happy. It’s just — all the accents and music, I just feel like home. Coincidentally, a month later, I got a call from Bill Broyles, the editor of the Texas monthly. At the end of the call, I was going home.
Davis: yes. I’ve been to Gruene. This is the spelling of Gruene, right?
WRIGHT: that’s right.
Davis: my cousin mark is married there. You know, many journalists who have written about you want to go to New York. What do you think you’re giving up?
WRIGHT: yes. I mean, I have no reason to live in Austin. You know, this is just where I live. But my career was in New York and Los Angeles, in a way, in Washington. Between my colleagues, I why in Texas, there will be some confusion, because, when I moved to Texas in 1980 for the Texas monthly when writing an article, I only lasted six months. I continued to write for the magazine. But I really wanted to write about other things, and I published articles about Texas, because I didn’t want to be seen as a regional writer. But, you know, the result (laughter) I have a lot to say. This is a very meaningful place to live.
Davies: you have a chapter called culture. Instructions. You said you had the first and second grades of Texas culture. What is the difference you are drawing?
WRIGHT: well, I said there are three levels of culture. The first level is the basic, primitive things we think of in Texas, such as barbecues, cowboy hats and boots, buckles and rodeo. That’s what you know. It’s a national trait. That’s what people think of when they think of Texas. And, you know, Texas was the way it was in its formative years, and it continued in a nostalgic way.
The second level is when money enters the picture. People began to explore outside their native culture and accepted education. They travel. They know different foods. They started collecting art, building museums, theater companies and dance companies, and all over the world. This is — you know, this is an important stage, but there’s one — it’s a little neurotic, and it’s full of jealousy. It looks at other cultures and what they offer. And this level has a profound sense of insecurity. That really…
Davies: you can see it in the big museums and in the show – what is it? -dallas and Houston, right?
WRIGHT: sure. And, you know, in the education we get, you know, send your kids abroad and so on. You go out in the world and you know it. This is very important. But it can create a sense of alienation and, in a way, make people feel embarrassed about the first layer, and the original things come together to make your culture unique. And then, you know, I’m assuming the third level, when you go through the second level and you already know the world, and you know what it provides. Then you go back and rediscover what makes your culture so special.
And you — you know, I look around — you know, artists from Texas. For example, beyonce is a much closer example. You know, she – her music, especially her latest music, rediscovered her youth in Houston. And the trend of the country music and all of her things – church music, all of which are reflected in her work. For example, I think alvin ai, you know, he comes from a little fly town called Ranger. But he grew up in the Ranger chapel, and you know, it’s all reflected in him — especially in his great book, the “revelation” (ph).
TERRY GROSS, host: