[Wright's] omnivorous sensibility suits his latest subject, helping him to capture the full range of Texas in all its shame and glory. His new book is both an apologia and an indictment: an illuminating primer for outsiders who may not live there but have a surfeit of opinions about those who do ... The book rambles far and wide, and it’s a testament to Wright’s formidable storytelling skills that a reader will encounter plenty of information without ever feeling lost ... Certain readers might crave more righteous anger from someone writing about Texas, especially now, when there’s little room for agreement and plenty at stake. But Wright’s project is perspective, not conquest. In a chapter on Texas culture, he praises the work of contemporary artists who have returned to their Texas roots 'with knowledge, self-confidence, and occasionally, forgiveness.' God Save Texas is his vivid bid to do the same.
God Save Texas, as the title suggests, is the work of a man who loves Texas’ uniqueness but finds himself increasingly dismayed by its politics and social policies ... The push-pull between homegrown admiration and deep disappointment fuels God Save Texas with literary tension ... God Save Texas was hatched when Wright’s editor at The New Yorker, David Remnick, asked Wright to explain his home state. But the book succeeds by proving this task impossible ... Wright’s words could speak for both Texas and America. American exceptionalism is a sturdy component of our national mythology, a reminder that we consider ourselves different from other nations. You can call it a reactionary myth, as many have, but you can’t deny its hold on the imagination.
Wright does an excellent job illustrating what makes Texas the place it is ... It doesn't fit neatly into any one category; it's essentially an apologia with elements of criticism and memoir. Wright is aware of Texas' spotty reputation among outsiders, and he deftly acknowledges that while its critics make good points, there's more to Texas than meets the eye ... Wright is one of the most talented journalists Texas has ever produced, and God Save Texas is him at his best. It's a thoughtful, beautifully written book...Wright's book is essential reading not just for Texans, but for anyone who wants to understand how one state changed the trajectory of the country, for better and for worse.
God Save Texas is a searing indictment of the cruel partisanship that is, along with oil, Texas’ main export. But it’s also a tender defense of the beauty of 'a culture that is still raw, not fully formed … dangerous and magnificent in its potential.' It is both an apologia for the past and a roadmap for the future of the state—a roadmap that ranges as far and wide as the West Texas plains ... As with his previous books...he has a great talent for at once characterizing broad systemic forces and making them intensely personal. In God Save Texas, his most compelling chapters feel less like a testament to his reportage than to his skills as a cultural analyst and as an autobiographer ... There is no doubt that Wright knows Texas, but ... Over and over again, I found myself getting frustrated at Wright’s inability—or unwillingness—to analyze race and the ways in which it so clearly defines Texas’ future. And it’s unfortunate that this is where he stumbles. The culture that Wright describes—the maligned root of so much of American culture overall—is one that black people know all too well.
For a person who has spent the past 40 years trying to explain to other Yankees what’s so great about Texas, the publication of God Save Texas is a godsend. He does the job as thoroughly and concisely as anyone ever could, without neglecting to explain what is not so great about Texas, too ... Wright’s treatment flows impressionistically from one topic to the next, incorporating material from his New Yorker and Texas Monthly articles, and introducing myriad characters in a cascade of crystalline sketches.
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, also a book of essays, is another attempt to get at the meaning of a place that has been contentious from the very beginning of its time in the Union ... There is no sense of loss in Wright’s prose, no yearning for a supposedly disappearing Texas past, no presentation of a singular mentality that defines the state. Instead, there is a clear-eyed journalist’s view of the people encountered and the places visited. The predominant impression the reader takes away from the book is one of alarm. Wright fears that the rest of the country may come to resemble Texas in ways that will not do the nation much good ... A past may lead to a future, and Wright understands the importance of the entirety of Texas’s history, as well as the importance of all its regions, in shaping what it has become ... Moving beyond myth, Wright’s explanation of the culture of Texans explicitly invokes the state’s history and the diversity of its people ... Recalling in this way the racial and cultural palimpsest that forms the real substance of Texas, one realizes how much effort it has always taken to suppress the truth that Texas is not, in essence, a white man.
There is a sleeping giant in Texas, and Wright captures the frustration and the hope that reverberate across the state each time it stirs ... The essays in God Save Texas, written with Wright’s trademark wit and wry humor, celebrate what makes Texas unique and wonderful: free-flowing rivers, the canyons of Big Bend National Park, Lubbock musicians. At the same time, Wright doesn’t shy away from the fact that, for many Texans, it is hard to square up the state we grew up in with the intolerance that has defined our national reputation ... For those of us who care about our home state, and those who want to understand it, we are fortunate he stayed.
God Save Texas is his most personal work yet, an elegant mixture of autobiography and long-form journalism, remarkably free of elitist bias on the one hand, and pithy guidebook pronouncements on the other. For those seeking the joys of line-dancing or the 10 best rib joints in Waco, this is not your book.
Wright’s eclectic approach to the state combines his personal experiences with Texas history, politics, culture and current events, and the result is a portrait that is always complicated and often surprising ... The future, like that border, is always a moving target, but God Save Texas is a fascinating look ahead through the lens of a singular state.
So here comes a book...providing some much-needed insights into the febrile condition of America from the vantage position of one of its biggest and most misunderstood states ... Wright is wonderful in his description of those Texan presidents that shaped or misshaped America ... What Wright has given us is a beautifully written portrait of a place that is not 'a pulsating hive of righteous indignation' (New York) or 'Lotus Land for political journalists' (Washington DC) but, for better and worse, home.
Mr. Wright is alert to the manifold strengths, eccentricities and idiocies that define his home base. He comes at his topics with both a journalist’s and an anthropologist’s clear-eyed acumen and an insider’s willingness to chuckle and forgive deficiencies ... Mr. Wright is at his best when putting things in perspective. He proudly defends his state to sophisticated liberal friends on either coast whose condescension to most things Texan reflects their total ignorance ... Mr. Wright’s book interlaces political analysis and historical and cultural explorations with touching personal details. It is at once a piece of journalism, a love letter to a place and a memoir.
God Save Texas seems almost like a lark, or at least a pleasure. In fact, the book’s voice is less Lawrence Wright the expert on international terrorism and more Larry Wright the guy who moonlights on keyboards in an Austin-based blues band called WhoDo ... Wright’s potted histories are meatier than most, and his primary strategy for invigorating the cursed summaries is to personalize them, as much as possible, with his own experience and presence ... In other words, and despite superficial appearances, this isn’t actually a why-Texas-matters book. It’s a why-Lawrence-Wright-chooses-to-live-in-Texas book. The difference is crucial, because it removes the project’s jingoistic mandate to brag and justify, and replaces it with a much more complex and nuanced endeavor: conveying love of place ... He doesn’t put too fine a point on it, but it’s clear between the lines that God Save Texas is in many ways a biography of his own homecoming.
Wright serves up a campfire stew of memoir, reportage and historical digression. He is a typically Texas storyteller, an anecdotalist who wanders around and stops occasionally to point out the view, but somehow you end up getting where you’re going anyway ... Wright is a liberal, but his sympathies range across the aisle ... Even on issues such as gun control, Wright tries to offer a balanced view ... On the whole, Wright is semi-optimistic. Part of the point of the book is to talk about the way the kinds of stories he tells shape people’s sense of where they live. The myths matter, too.
This thoughtful, engrossing, and often-amusing survey is a kind of 'waltz across Texas.' Wright uses history, politics, and a series of vignettes to reveal a great deal about a state that may soon surpass California in population and economic dynamism ... This is an important book about a state and people who will continue to have a large impact on the U.S.