John Steinbeck once famously wrote that "Texas is a state of mind." For those who know it well, however, the Lone Star State is more than one mind-set, more than a collection of clichés, more than a static stereotype. There are minds in Texas, Don Graham asserts, and some of the most important are the writers and filmmakers whose words and images have helped define the state to the nation, the world, and the people of Texas themselves. For many years, Graham has been critiquing Texas writers and films in the pages of Texas Monthly and other publications. In State of Minds, he brings together and updates essays he published between 1999 and 2009 to paint a unique, critical picture of Texas culture.
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In a strong personal voice—wry, humorous, and ironic—Graham offers his take on Texas literary giants ranging from J. Frank Dobie to Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy and on films such as The Alamo, The Last Picture Show, and Brokeback Mountain. He locates the works he discusses in relation to time and place, showing how they sprang (or not) from the soil of Texas and thereby helped to define Texas culture for generations of readers and viewers—including his own younger self growing up on a farm in Collin County. Never shying from controversy and never dull, Graham's essays in State of Minds demolish the notion that "Texas culture" is an oxymoron.