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Two Books on the Bizarreness of Texas

“Forget the Alamo” divides neatly in half. The first half recounts the events leading up to and through the fiasco at the Alamo, and often reads like a boy’s story of action and adventure, although there is an absence of heroes in the factual version of the tale. For example, Jim Bowie, the knife-wielding pioneer of legend, is revealed to be a slave trader, a swindler and a murderer; William Barret “Buck” Travis is a racist syphilitic who writes in his diary that he has bedded 56 women; the coonskin-capped Davy Crockett emerges as a former U.S. congressman and self-promoter in thrall to his own large ego. Their defense of the fort is not just foolhardy, it’s weirdly suicidal. “They can no longer be the holy trinity of Texas, nor can the Alamo be the Shrine of Texas Liberty,” the authors proclaim with complete justification, drawing their own Travis-like line in the sand.

The book’s second half is a more discursive examination of the ways various groups have exploited the myth of the Alamo, weaponizing it as propaganda, as Sam Houston did when he cried out to his troops to remember the Alamo, or invoking the myth in defense of white supremacy, as was the case with “Texas History Movies,” which was in fact a popular racist comic strip that ran in The Dallas Morning News in the late 1920s; it was later published in book form and for decades distributed free to all Texas seventh graders. Shockingly little serious academic study of this touchy subject occurred until the 1980s.

Predictably, Hollywood played a villainous role in spreading the false narrative of the old fort, notably through John Wayne, who used the subject to indulge in his own hypermasculine version

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/books/review/forget-the-alamo-bryan-burrough-chris-tomlinson-jason-stanford-a-single-star-and-bloody-knuckles-bill-minutaglio.html

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