Though Graff ultimately fails to explain why Dallas became a major American city while so many other trade-route towns fell short, he does provide an interesting discussion of how Dallas’ foundational myth was harnessed in the mid-1900s to justify the heavy-handedness with which business leadership ran the city. Ultimately, Graff’s attempt to tie Dallas’ political conservatism, racial segregation, and even present-day attempts at downtown redevelopment into his thesis sours into a broadside that’s likely to resonate only with the city’s most devoted critics. After 388 pages of listening to Graff grump about everything from the city’s skyline to the quality of its art collections, one can only conclude that he thoroughly hates the place.
That Dallas has been dubbed “The Purple Heart of Texas” for its large and politically forceful gay community, and at the same time remains a hub of Baptist rectitude, suggests a modern-day Dallas more complicated than Graff has been able to discover. As journalist Molly Ivins once said, “There is a black Dallas, there is a Chicano Dallas, there is a Vietnamese Dallas, there is a gay Dallas, there is even a funky-Bohemian Dallas. But mostly there is North Dallas, a place so materialistic and Republican it makes your teeth hurt to contemplate it.” Graff’s chompers fairly scream in pain.
You can hear Dr. Graff on Think here.