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LEFT FIELD WInVelpg *VMASS:kr George W.’s staff gets prickly when the question of books comes up. The Governor was first tripped up last spring, when a student asked him to name a book he had read when he was a child. Bush stumbled around a few subjects Willie Mays, for one before admitting he couldn’t name any title. The issue was raised again in Bill Minutaglio’s First Son, in which the author describes Bush press secretary Karen Hughes angrily lecturing a reporter who had been asking around about what books Bush might have read. “He reads even more books than Karl Rove,” Hughes said, adding that Rove, Bush’s chief political advisor, “reads a lot of books.” Hughes recently had her own opportunity to define her boss as a guy who, if not a bibliophile, well, is at least someone who has read a few books. Hughes is the ghostwriter of George W. Bush’s A Charge to Keep a political memoir so bad that reviewers have been calling around looking for ghost readers to review it. Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times’ in-house book critic and a woman who seems to read every book published, didn’t exactly review A Charge to Keep. But in her feature on books written by candidates Bush, Bradley, Forbes, McCain, and Gore, she concludes that Bush hasn’t read too much, or at least he and ghostwriter Hughes don’t suggest that he has. Bradley kicks off Time Present, Time Past with epigraphs from Fitzgerald, Eliot, and Conrad and refers to Tolstoy, With the help of a GOP focus group, the Governor Brecht, John Updike, Richard Wright, and Louise Erdrich. McCain talks about Kipling, Hemingway, and Maugham. Forbes at least mentions in passing The Federalist Papers, Common Sense, and rather predictably, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Gore’s Earth in the Balance manages to embrace Descartes, John Bradshaw, Sir Francis Bacon, and Bucky Fuller. Yet, Kakutani writes, Bush, “who report Jana Birch= Laura Bush selects reading for edly says he loves books, discusses only one title in his memoir the Bible, which he says he reads through every other year.” Bush’s slim literary pickings recall a line from Inherit the Wind, about the Scopes’ Monkey Trial, in which the legendary Clarence Darrow memorably declares, “The Bible is a book. It is a good book. But it is not the only book.” Couldn’t prove that by our implacable young George. + West Texas Crude /f you haven’t checked lately, the benchmark price for West Texas sweet crude is bumping twenty-seven dollars a barrel. And even if Midland isn’t quite what it was in the booming seventies, when “shoe salesmen were working as landmen,” at least landmen aren’t working as shoe salesmen, as they were after the bottom fell out in the mid-eighties. Who killed the oil boom? That’s a question asked and answered in the Petroleum Museum, situated on 1-20, a few miles south of downtown Midland. The museum’s a monument to oil production and one of the main draws in a town where Friday night at the Wall Street Grill looks like a casting call for “The Incredible Whiteness of Being.” Outside the Petroleum Museum is the world’s largest collection of oilfield equipment: workover rigs, heatertreaters, pumpjacks all looking like they are awaiting a crew of roughnecks or roustabouts to show up for work. Inside is a huge Texas-tacky geological chart of the substrata of the Permian Basin, which uses multi-colored shag carpet to depict the various formations. There’s a gift shop, a cheesy recreation of a twenties oilfield boomtown, an ode-to-petroleum slide show, and a Petroleum Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is set up as a large board room, with dark paneled walls covered by portraits of oil pioneers such as Sid Richardson, William and Tex Moncreif, Will and Hugh Liedtke, Erle Halliburton, and George Bush the one who made a million dollars in the oil field and was elected president in 1988. The ode-to-oil slide show opens with Babylonians using oil to waterproof boats and huts, then moves quickly to this century to identify exactly who caused the energy crisis of the early seventies. \(One might say the story that another energy crisis. Actually, the history of oil, as presented here, is pretty upbeat: it progresses from Colonel Drake’s 69-foot-deep oil well in Pennsylvania, to the legendary Spindletop Oil Field near Beaumont, to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. It’s a story of steady growth that accelerates with the Post World War II shift from oil for war to oil for commerce. It’s even observed that after the war, “Petroleum became the fashion rage, as women dressed in nylon, rayon, and other synthetics made from petroleum.” Then the music shifts to a dark minor key, as “a cloud appears on the horizon in the late forties. That’s when we began importing oil, much of it from the Middle East, when control shifted to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 10, 1999