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The book is subtitled: “A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State.”
“I love Texas, and I care enough about it to be critical,” Wright said. He's lived in Texas almost 50 of his 70 years, as a boy in Dallas and now in Austin.
“God Save Texas” (Knopf, 349 pages, $27.95) is this generation's definitive Texas book, with plenty of sunsets and sagebrush but also chapters on energy genius George Mitchell's Wise County natural-gas magic and on musical heroes like Al Stricklin, the Johnson County piano star of Bob Wills' Western swing band.
Mostly, though, Wright dwells on Texas' full-throttle politics, with Patrick and Tea Party Republicans pushing the gas pedal..
“Texas is doing a dismal job of educating our young people,” Wright said between Dallas appearances last week.
“The fact that we're near the bottom in spending on education is shameful. And in healthcare … Texas is behind in almost every category.”
To Wright, the villain is Patrick: “If there's anyone who's really driving the train in Texas now, it's him.”
The hero is outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus, also a Republican, for staving off a spiteful and retaliatory “bathroom bill” meant to stoke evangelical anger against LGBT Texans after courts legalized same-sex marriage.
(Unlike in former Star-Telegram columnist Molly Ivins' searing books, Democrats appear in “God Save Texas” only in small supporting roles. Same as in Austin.)
Wright devoted a couple of pages to state Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, a Tea Party darling with a “Falstaffian beard,” and his near-fight with another House member in the Capitol after Stickland tried to cut state spending for killing feral hogs.
State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Gainesville, stood in response and offered an amendment to cut out all state highway money in Stickland's district, which includes Hurst, Euless, Bedford and north Arlington. Stickland rushed to confront him,
Meanwhile, Straus sidled up to Wright and joked, “I guess all the hogs are going to move to north Arlington.”
“And just think,” the speaker added — “these are the people responsible for spending $218 billion.”
On his Dallas visit, Wright said he took a political interest because “I started wondering who was behind all this. … We are failing in our schools, we are failing in our infrastructure and we are totally failing in our immigration policy.”
Music, politics and the Western sky form the backdrop for “God Save Texas,” with a richly illustrated map of landmarks from Marfa artworks to Tyler roses.
“My editor asked me to explain Texas,” he said.
“So I went out talking to people. … The book is kind of a travelogue.”
It's much more.