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The Once and Future State: A Writer’s Texas III

           I’ve just written a novel about the Alamo, and the myth of the Alamo had a particularly strong hold on me when I was a boy. I literally was wearing a coonskin cap the first time I saw the Alamo. This was in 1955 during the Fess Parker–Davy Crockett phase, which was—for those of you not old enough to remember it, which would be virtually nobody in this room—maybe Elizabeth—it completely took the country by storm. It was the Star Wars of its time.

            And it had such a profound effect on me that I wonder now if I’ve written this book not out of some sort of mature artistic judgment but just out of arrested development.

            Thinking about my visit to the Alamo when I was a kid reminded me of what Dr. Silber said this morning about needing to live in a place where there are ghosts. In Texas, the Alamo is the haunted house. That’s where the ghosts live. And I think it’s almost impossible not to visit that place at an impressionable age and have a profound reaction to it.

            In terms of the myth, in terms of writing a book about it, it’s no fun for me as a writer just to recycle myths. I feel like I have to grapple with them. As you can tell, there was plenty to grapple with in those two film clips about the Alamo that we just saw. There is so much myth built up about it that has to be reexamined if you’re going to write something that’s even partly reasonable.

            And what I discovered when I was researching this novel was that there was an equal amount of counter-myth built up about it, an equal level of revisionist history that I also had to wade through and find a way to tell the story in a way that was authentic, both to me and to what I perceive to be history. So that’s how I’ve been dealing with the myth lately, the last seven or eight years. Other people have their own reactions, I’m sure.