Roger D. Hodge, a writer and editor with deep Texas roots, now offers an earnest, honest and learned excursion. Freed from his 'spiritual exile' in the faraway land of Brooklyn, Hodge retraces some family footsteps en route to exploring his 'lost Texas landscape' — as well as exploring himself, however cautiously ... As the book's title suggests, this is not a quest for quaint county fairs and colorful local attractions... Hodge is on the prowl for darker, more meaningful, more telling places and people ... This is part elegy, part picaresque, part memoir and part history, all bound together in prose that is by turns lyrical and slashing ... The book calls to mind Ian Frazier's Great Plains, the 1989 melancholy paean to America's wind-blown prairie ... Splendid writers like Hodge, with a sharp sense of history and a loving but unsparing pen, help us understand what we're seeing as we go.
...a fervent pastiche of memory and reportage and history... Hodge begins his book with an atmospheric prelude that to my ear echoes the opening of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian ... If Hodge is susceptible every now and then to the hypnotic Bible rhythms of McCarthy’s language, for the most part he writes with an earnest, stripped-down clarity. He’s smart, observant and skeptical. He has no interest in adding another volume to the library shelves of rousing Texas hoohah ... Hard ground and lived experience are what Texas Blood is all about ... All of this is often riveting, but it can be frustrating too, because Texas Blood is more a box of parts than a smoothly cresting narrative ... His reporting is vigorous ... Best of all, Hodge is haunted. He never gets mystical, but neither is he ever out of touch with the shimmering, mysterious history of the land he’s writing about, or the unfathomable allure it had for ancient peoples and his own pioneer family.
The identity of Texas, and Texans, rests at the center of Hodge’s appealing and unusual new book, Texas Blood ... By writing and reporting Texas Blood, Hodge aims to fix that. His book aspires to the tradition of Joan Didion on California and Ian Frazier on the Great Plains, and it mostly succeeds. Texas comes with a thick overgrowth of symbol and myth: rodeos, oil rigs, the Alamo. Hodge sets it all aside. He’s not interested in chipper 'rise of Texas' histories, nor in odes to the Texan character — two genres favored by writers who, in Hodge’s nice and knifing phrase, play the role of 'professional Texan' ... Hodge’s desire to counter this tradition does wonders for the scope of his book, which toggles between his family and the state’s forgotten history... Hodge writes carefully and elegantly, but sometimes his book bogs down under a mix of meandering prose and maximalist detail; in a few stretches there are so many asides they stop feeling like asides.