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Dallas in a Loose -leaf Binder Harris Green 41 New York City Warren Leslie’s Dallas Public and Private kind of book that, despite the unnaturally modest folklore now fashionable along the Trinity, could not have been written about any other city. However, it would’ve been a vastly better book if Leslie had planned to leave Dallas immediately upon its publication for, say, Fort Worthor Samarkand. A native New Yorker who has lived in Dallas for the last 17 years, Leslie is uniquely qualified to comment on the worst and best of his adopted city; he’s worked under such disparate exemplars of civic responsibility as “Ted” Dealey and Stanley Marcus. \(Leslie writes most of those little columns signed “Wales” in the Nieman’s “Athens of the Southwest” has put him on such good terms with so many of its chief offenders that a lot of his critical sense seems to have been purged away by pity. I won’t complete the phrase by adding “terror” since Leslie, in full knowledge of how Dallas passes the hemlock down to its critics, has had the guts to raise all the right questions. The tragic flaw of Dallas Public and Private is its habit of begging them. The book keeps going soft and vague because Leslie won’t make public what he is well aware of in private. He won’t offend offenders by naming them. Only gamy outsiders like H. L. Hunt, Major General 16 The Texas Observer “Teddy” Walker and the late Maude Lynch, Queen of the Lady Pickpockets who went around town in a Cadillac accosting victims, get linked to their acts. Leslie admits the Dallas press egregiously overrates all local culture, but he doesn’t name John Rosenfield, who has raised chamber-ofcommerce aesthetics to such a pitch I’m almost compelled to admire it, until he can quote his sensibleand courageousremarks on the Picasso rug fiasco. We get an entire chapter on the indefatigable matrons of the right wing, who are anything but publicity shy; yet the only one named is Mrs. Suzanne Silvercruys Stevenson, who was delivered of the idea for the Minute Women in 1949in Connecticut. Not even the free-swinging gentlelast year gets creditedbut then Leslie reports her husband’s insurance business fell off dreadfully after that. The prize for non-information goes to the chapter on the “Absolutists” where no offending Dallasite of any sex gets named. I happen to agree with just about everything Leslie has to say here but I’d hate like hell to have to defend it on the evidence he offers. BY THE TIME Leslie gets around to facing facts about one of the chief offenders, his old employer The Dallas Morning News, he seems to be almost squinting. Hesitantly, after some interesting if now irrelevant facts about the newspaper’s tolerant past, he decides that its editorials now “seemed to encourage right-wing radicalism, acts of defiance, McCarthyism, super-patriotism and the rest.” That “seemed” is good. His comments on the rest of the paper betray pity for old friends still in its velvet coils: it “has maintained a superior product [if he’s referring to the type and newsprint, not the type of news printed, I agree] and has never to my knowledge imposed the views of its editorial page on its reporters or its columnists.” Uh huh. But how often did it have to when it attracted progressives like Dick West and the late Lynn Landrum? And what needy liberal, forced to stick it out in their midst, would be foolish enough to write anything that would force those genial, enlightened Dealeys into reprisal? This chapter on the News -\(the poor old hopeful whimper: “These days it is . . . publishing Walter Lippmann . . . though it has not always consistently printed the liberal views. . . .” That “liberal” is my favorite bit of unintentional irony though it is pressed hard by Leslie’s defense of that scurrilous ad run the day Kennedy was shot: “It was certainly no worse than others [run] by the News.” I accept that. Leslie is remarkably clear-eyed when he starts scrutinizing the Dallas Citizens Council, which he damns as “government by junta” that has outlived its usefulness. He stares unblinkingly at what I call its unenlightened self-interest: “Moral and artistic values do not enter into these matters, even when the matters . . . are issues of morality and art.” “It [integration] was simply a matter of dollars and cents.” “As a dollar group, the Council acts on the simple basis of what is and what is not good for business.” HIS ONLY BLINDSPOTand in an area so close to the heart of Dallas that it disqualifies him flatly as an observeris in the matter of “selfishness.” He cannot abide the term as applied to the Council where “individual selfish interest is simply not tolerated.” But what about “selfish group interest”? Surely some of that exists among, a cabal of businessmen who act only “on the simple basis of what is and what is not good for mystifying admiration for the Council’s “selfless” labors \(at tasks members will this portion of Dallas Public and Private the hangdog air of an Establishment apologia. Matters aren’t helped much by turning over three and a half pages to the Council’s PR man, “big, graying” Sam Bloom, who attained immortality at the side of Judge Joe,.B. Brown in the Ruby trial. He fills them with cut-glass gems: “One reason [the Council has] so many blind spots is that the city was so completely man-made.” When left to his own thoughts, Leslie expresses them wellunusually so, considering the pace he had to set; but he simply hasn’t thought enough to admit all about the forces warping his adopted city. He’s not kept pace with them, either. But then who could? Dallas harbors so much extremist idioc -y that any book about it is out of date by the time it’s in galleys. Right-wing ladies were spitting on Lyndon and Ladybird just as The New Yorker was about to run John Bainbridge’s The SuperAmericans. Leslie’s book was being advertised in papers report’s _ M. Shea, Jr., was lovingly ;.02″: t his job at Petrofina for saying, in a article in Look, that Dallas fostered a climate of hatethe son-of-a-bitch! I suggest that the next publisher planning a book on Dallas should issue it in a loose-leaf binder, complete with periodic replacement pages, as if it were a legal service. And it would help if the author has no more scruples about causing pain than any good dentist. CI