As a New Yorker subscriber, I have learned to separate articles into three categories, for time is precious. Some are utterly compelling – for example, a recent investigation into how a Trump-branded hotel in Baku came to be refinanced by an Azeri bank that has, allegedly, close relations with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The second group consists of pieces that are so parochial or whimsical that I feel no more need to read them than to read reviews of bars and restaurants I’ll never visit. Lastly, there are essays, like one devoted to hedge fund billionaire Carl Icahn, where after six or seven pages, I find myself peeking ahead to see how much more long-form I have to take.
Last July, I started reading a 19,000-word piece titled ‘America’s Future Is Texas’ by Lawrence Wright, a New Yorker staff writer whose book on 9/11, The Looming Tower (2006), deservedly won a Pulitzer Prize. Maybe the shock value of the essay – deriving from the revelation that Wright himself lives in Austin – was greater for Manhattan liberals, whom one could imagine spluttering into their exotic coffees at the news that Wright had chosen not to live among them, than for me.
What might easily have remained a long essay has become God Save Texas. It is neither a coherent history of Texas, the second largest state in the USA after Alaska, nor is it a serious analysis of its changing demography (in 2005 Texas became the country’s fifth ‘minorities-majority’