We received a
box of books from Republic of Texas Press to review. We'd be several more reviews
along by now, if we hadn't looked inside the pages of Tom Dodge's book. We got
stuck. We read it and re-read it. We continue to read it, even though the others
are impatiently glaring at us from across the room.
title may suggest that the theme is Texas, but really it's about Texas people.
The introduction immediately mentions that Mr. Dodge didn't like the suggested
title at first. "I've lived in Texas all my life, but in only four small towns
- each with a population less than 15,000." What are the odds that he would
choose four towns, each having more interesting people than the one before?
Of course, he
brings his family members with him, and while we're on that subject, let us say
that he has perfected the sensitive art of mentioning family members. They're
not mentioned often, and when they are, they aren't so personable that you'd want
to meet them, but they're personable enough that you'll feel good about passing
through their town. "Oh, we'll be passing through Midlothian. If we break down
there, maybe Tom Dodge's relatives could recommend a garage."
are 97 "Radio Vignettes" included in this volume of 246 pages. He's a commentator
for NPR in Dallas, so we guess once these thoughts are read over-the-air they
cease being essays and become vignettes. He shows restraint when speaking about
grandparenthood, and he explains what a real "quarter horse" is. His observations
include co-workers as extended family, small town ne'er-do-wells, small town make-it-bigs,
and people you're glad to share the planet with as well as our smaller animal
Dodge also has an interesting theory that there's a connection between crime and
under-education. Maybe this needs to be looked into. Let's form a committee and
get some experts to do a study.
titles are guaranteed to get your attention, and better yet, you should be able
to recognize the story from its title when you want to go back to re-read it.
If not, then there is a thoughtfully supplied index.
This is not a book for the young. It's not that they're inexperienced and ignorant
of the world, it's just that they don't know that they're inexperienced and ignorant
of the world. An underlying current of the book (like one of those big subterranean
rivers in Yucatan) is education, its importance and how it occasionaly contributes
For above everything else, the people Tom Dodge writes about have achieved wisdom.
Weathermen, historians, dropouts, professors, dogs and cats all came to it by
the meandering and circuitous road we call life. Don't be surprised if we write
a second review of this one.
© John Troesser