`Reluctant Empire’ Honest, Mature BULLSTICKING AS A SPECTATOR SPORT four fifths of them enlivened by oil, are a whisper compared with what they will be in a decade.” I have read nowhere else an analysis of any Texas newspaper so penetrating a s Fuermann makes of the Houston “Post,” for which he writes a daily column, and the Dallas “Morning News,” which, we must always remember, wasaccording to its own eulogy”founded on truth and righteousness.” These newspapers represent the two biggest cities of Texas. The cities themselves represent galloping urbanization, including industrialization, versus a diminishing rural population, that is the key to modern Texas and to the modern Texas mind. In 1956 the urban population was reckoned at 7,707,000, while rural population reckoning had dropped to 950,000. However, laws and fixings still allow the rural minority to govern in many area s. Fuermann sees Houston as the first big Texas city becoming “liberal” in politics, along with the other big cities of America. He has plenty to say about the religiosity of the state. When a poor woman denies herself an apple or a new pair of stockings in order to give her mite to an orphan’s home, that is religion. When a rich politician teaches a Sunday school class for the advertising value in votes, that is religiosity. Religiosity has probably done more in Texas to starve out truth than illiteracy. It has the blessing of all slick money and all slick print. A chapter on segregation is enriched by a moving report from John Howard Griffin, the writer who lives at Mansfield, Texas, where Governor Shivers sent rangers to uphold mob violence. THERE ARE RELICS of journalese in George Fuermann’s English, but there are no signs of a petrified mind. Some of his bull’s eye hits in both style and matter follow. “Business m e n , industrialists, and other men of wealth have alone commanded Texas. Men whose luster is the intellect have had virtually no share in Texas government.” “Ernest 0. Thompson’s elections to six-year terms as a railroad commissioner have .been a monotony of success and an evidence that Texas voters, on occasion, are willing to indulge competence.” “Texas is governed by a minority whose bonds are fear of the city and suspicion of university learning. The undemocratic process resulting from suppression of the cities by rural Texas is the state’s chief internal problem next to its need for water.” AUSTIN George Fuermann’s ‘Reluctant Empire’ is not the first mature-minded book to be published with a Texas setting. There is Stanley Walker’s ‘Home to Texas,’ for instance, and there is Roy Bedichek’s ‘Adventures with a Texas Naturalist.’ Certain other titles might be named, but readable, mature-minded books dealing with the Texas scene are notably scarce. J. Frank Dobie Reluctant Empire is the first book by any writer to try to explain modern Texas and to lay bare the Texas mind. that can be c a l l e d mature-minded. Most books and articles on Texas are puerile-minded, or timid in facing realities, or lacking otherwise in intellectual integrity. Intellectual integrity implies both intellect and integrity. Going and coming, only a limited number of people, including more writers than politicians, are long on these two qualities; a great many cannot re-cognize them in others. George Fuermann has intellect. For years now he has hewn away at facts and ideas as stubborn as any stone to make clear and reasonable various phases of Texas life generally regarded as untouchablebecause they are too close to living. He is not out for causes; he seeks “criticism of life” in the Matthew Arnold sense. He is after truthsthe meaning of facts. A few quotations will illustrate a kind of daring that we are not used to in Texas writers excepting in Walter Prescott Webb, who gets more agile-minded as well as mature-minded all the time. Now for the quotations. “TEXAS IS RELIGION, mainly the restrictive religions of Southern Baptists and Methodists. The state was influenced by cotton and religion until the Civil War, by cattle and religion to the end of the century, by oil and religion since then.” “The state is influenced by an oligarchy of oilmen whose force is such that Price Daniel could imply in 1%2, without contradiction by any Texas newspaper, that every Texan is an oilman.” “The oil interests may now and then buy votes, and they certainly contribute to campaigns, but what gives them their power is not what they do for a politician of whom they approve but what they are capable of doing against him.” “The want of a matured, inquisitive pressa deficiency common to many stateshas made possible Texas politics’ preoccupations with oil and money rather than with government and people. All that good government requires is an enlightened press.” After these sample s, some readers might be surprised to find in the book as strong a case as could be made for the oil business ‘s famous 27 1/2 per cent depletion allowance o n income taxes, along with other favors. George Fuermann does not fail to name names of Texas oil men who have made vulgar exhibitions of their wealth and who have spent big money in influencing elections in other states. Buta very big buthe shows how oil wealth has been supporting civilization in the forms of education and art as well as supporting religion and hospitals. “Assets of the state’s foundations,” he predicts, “more than MEXICO CITY Almost any Anglo-Saxon approach to the ‘fiesta brava’ is psychotic, let’s face it. We approach our first bullfight as we edge up to our first experience of sex \(conditioned by the wrong readtion similarly depends on how the initial experience works out. You see a bloody, butcherish `corrida’ the first time and you will always be an ASPCA partisan, but if you see some true artistry right off, you may be an ‘aficionado’ for life. Probably the best way to approach the brave festival, the running of the bulls \(the ritual that dates back to Minos; the aristocratic sport that was once banned by a Pope, thus opening with a blank mind: the attitude of an Englishman going to his first baseball game \(he’s sure it can’t compare to cricket but he’s tunately scarcely a tourist goes in that frame of mind. He’s read the books and he knows the terminology and he tells you \(his Usually he is either revolted or fascinated in a sick or romantic way. In this he follows the writers. D. H. Lawrence’s revulsion in the first chapter of The Plumed Serpent or the romanticism of Hemingway in his Death in the Afternoon \(and the sentimentality of his imitators like I wouldn’t know how to describe bullfighting myself, or assess its meaning. About the only thing I could say is that nothing I’ve read about it comes close. It’s very seldom an art like ballet; what ritual elements it has are apt to be blown skyhigh by the wrong sort of bull or the wrong sort of killer; by a gust of wind or a sudden flurry of rain. A great deal of the time it is as corrupt as prize-fighting. And often it is as simon-pure amateur as a game of lawn tennis. For weeks on end it can be as dull as an international chess match. And then, all of a sudden it can explode into something as intense and private as falling in love for the first time \(but by platoons and companies and regiments; the staunchest introvert yanked onto his feet, screaming nothing in chorus with the mob cus elements sure the color and the weird spine-tingling music, the peanuts and popcorn and paper cups of beer. But who would go to a circus week after week even if they knew that sooner or later one of the highwire magicians would plummet to pieces in front of his face, or could be guaranteed that once ,a month the sleek tigers would turn and rend the supercilious trainer, or even be assured that once a year the outrageous clowns wouldn’t be shooting blanks? There’s t h e hero-worship of the ball games, without any loyalty. There’s often the exhausted perOstency of a poker game when you’re so tired you don’t care whether you win the Empire State Building or lose your children, but druggedly, automatically keep drawing cards. But this doesn’t explain anything. Don Demarest fanatic \(and the “mystique” is “aficionado” has become something of a debased term since the days when Papa used it to designate himself and a few fierce old Spaniards. Each week a new authoritative book on bullfighting is published in the Anglo-Saxon world \(every other reviewed by a horde of critics, who describe themselves as “freelance writers and aficionados of the bull ring.” Which they may well be. But it doesn’t give them license in other fields, such as hispano-American literature. And when a recent reviewer in the New York Times Book Review described Luis Spota, a genial journalist and movie director, as “probably Mexico’s leading novelist” and a prize he won for a novel \(written la Cuidad de Mexico, as “equivalent to a Pulitzer Prize,” it was like saying that Barnaby Conrad is probably the leading novelist of the U. S. \(does that phrase include the dead as well prize Mr. Conrad may have ‘won as the best novel written by a Texan for Matador equals a Pulitzer. Whetted Minds lous sort of person, who isn’t properly concerned about cruelty to animals or human beings. Maybe it’s my Latin blood. Perhaps it’s because my wife and I wandered into our first bullfight without any preconceived ideas, saw a good one, and made it a weekly practice. I think we drive up to the Plaza on a Sunday with some of the same sort of throat-catching anticipation, expectation of probable boredom, and whetted critical minds our Mexican friends do. Week after week the bullfight isn’t usually that brilliant ritual, that intense dance of death Hemingway and Co. describe \(overcompensating for their sentimental affection for dumb animals o r preoccupation with least in these dull, lack-hero days it’s a cautious capester teasing an unenthusiastic bovine. The bull sits on his tail, sniffing at the carnations thrown at the last matador like any Ferdinand; or he paws and roars like any bully in preference to charging; or he leaps the fence in abject cowardice, causing a certain excitement in the lower seats. The handsome guy in spangled tights walks up to him gingerly, flicking a red rag, shouting insults and endearments, just as ready to leap the barrera if the bull makes an unexpected charge. But if you are truly interested in the finer points \(as a baseball dor handles his cape or muleta, how close to the bull he works, his temperament as expressed in flourishes or a quiet workmanly skill; the sudden fear of a brag gart or the explosion into hero ism of a quiet or timid fighter; the way a bull attacks, hooking and jumping, lumbering a n d stumbling, or limber and sure footed as a cat, looking for the man, wasting no energy that won’t lead to murder; or the rare way he should be, charging and recharging, as straight and fast as a fighter plane making a strafing Or even the minor actions, the placing of a pair of banderillas by one of the peons; the sure picking by a fat man, armored on horseback \(which is very right spot and pivoting around the bull on itpunishing but not crippling. And always the moment of truth: the second when the man, no matter how show-off or evasive he’s been, must stand still, get the bull lined up, sight for the silver-dollar-sized vulnerable spot at the tip of the hump, and follow the sword over the horns for the kill \(knowing that any random reflex toss of the bull’s head will penetrate his braving the jeers and catcalls of the around the horns, poking and jabbing for an artery. Any afternoon, no matter how “grey,” provides you with these isolated insights into human and animal behavior. If you are really concerned with the thing, you always feel that you have learned something. No corrida is a complete loss for anyone with eyes to see. ” ‘God’s Business is Big Business,’ an editorial in the Dallas `News’ was headlined.” “Willis M. Tate, president of Southern Methodist University, told a Kiwanis Club: ‘We at S.M.U. are here to teach young adults how to think and how to cope with the real world around them …. grapple with all ideas. This is not a dangerous conception of teaching. It has been used in colleges and universities since the beginning of their existence and has produced the most stalwart leadership in our American life …. Maintaining this atmoscult since many people \(at presAmerican tradition of open discussion.’ ” \(A second review of Reluctant Empire A Zoo of Beasts Frankly I have no explanation. \(Look to all the best-selling gringo pundits, swamis, barkers edging the elements of sadism and masochism and sexa whole zoo of Freudian beasts roaring in the backgroundI keep them there. Having boxed and having covered prizefights as a reporter I’m sure these elements are more
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.