Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pg. 99: Harvey Graff's "The Dallas Myth"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Harvey Graff's The Dallas Myth.

About the book, from the publisher:
An unconventional-and critical-examination of “the city with no past”

The ninth largest city in the United States, Dallas is exceptional among American cities for the claims of its elites and boosters that it is a “city with no limits” and a “city with no history.” Home to the Dallas Cowboys, self-styled as “America’s Team,” setting for the television series that glamorized its values of self-invention and success, and site of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas looms disproportionately large in the American imagination. Yet it lacks an identity of its own.

In The Dallas Myth, Harvey J. Graff presents a novel interpretation of a city that has proudly declared its freedom from the past. He scrutinizes the city’s origin myth and its governance ideology, known as the “Dallas Way,” looking at how these elements have shaped Dallas and served to limit democratic participation and exacerbate inequality. Advancing beyond a traditional historical perspective, Graff proposes an original, integrative understanding of the city’s urban fabric and offers an explicit critique of the reactionary political foundations of modern Dallas: its tolerance for right-wing political violence, the endemic racism and xenophobia, and a planning model that privileges growth and monumental architecture at the expense of the environment and social justice.

Revealing the power of myths that have defined the city for so long, Graff presents a new interpretation of Dallas that both deepens our understanding of America’s urban landscape and enables its residents to envision a more equitable, humane, and democratic future for all.
Among the praise for The Dallas Myth:
"[Graff is] spot-on. The heroic myth of Dallas is that the city is entirely a creation of willpower and salesmanship, the twin pillars of secular fundamentalism. We are the ultimate evolution and expression of wild-eyed, ascetic frontier shamanism—a city where the most real things are the things we dream up in our heads. That's what happens when you leave people out in the woods too long. They wind up with an origin myth that's spooky as hell and doesn't even make sense, but they find great comfort in it. Now, see, my argument is that these are exactly the kind of people you want to shoot off into outer space. I almost hate to talk about this in the same breath with Graff, because his book is serious and very important...."
--Dallas Observer
Learn more about The Dallas Myth at the University of Minnesota Press website.

Harvey J. Graff is Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies and professor of English and history at The Ohio State University.

The Page 99 Test: The Dallas Myth.

--Marshal Zeringue