February 15th, 2007


all hat and no cattle

Anna had visited Texas many times before in her life, but until now she had never gone there alone. Her visits had always been with Ed, keeping him company on business trips; and during those trips she had often spoken about the Texans in general and about how difficult it was to like them. One could ignore their coarseness and their vulgarity. It wasn’t that. But there was, it seemed, a quality of ruthlessness still surviving among these people, something quite brutal, harsh, inexorable, that it was impossible to forgive. They had no bowels of compassion, no pity, no tenderness. The only so-called virtue they possessed — and this they paraded ostentatiously and endlessly to strangers — was a kind of professional benevolence. It was plastered all over them. Their voices, their smiles, were rich and syrupy with it. But it left Anna cold. It left her quite, quite cold inside.
    ‘Why do they love acting so tough?’ she used to ask.
    ‘Because they’re children,’ Ed would answer. ‘They’re dangerous children who go about trying to imitate their grandfathers. Their grandfathers were pioneers. These people aren’t.’
    It seemed that they lived, these present-day Texans, by a sort of egotistic will, push and be pushed. And it was all very fine for a stranger in their midst to step aside and announce firmly, ‘I will not push and I will not be pushed.’ That was impossible. It was especially impossible in Dallas. Of all the cities in the state, Dallas was always the one that had disturbed Anna the most. It was such a godless city, she thought, such a rapacious, gripped, iron, godless city. It was a place that had run amok with its money, and no amount of gloss and phony culture and syrupy talk could hide the fact that the great golden fruit was rotten inside.
— Roald Dahl, The Last Act, in Collected Stories, Everyman’s Library, 2006, pp. 698-699

More than once, Dahl offered up anti-Semitic remarks; in 1983, he told a journalist that “there’s a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity … I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
— Margaret Talbot, The Candy man: Why children love Roald Dahl’s stories — and many adults don’t, The New Yorker, issue of 2005-07-11 and 18

Moral: It’s OK to be anti-Texan. It’s not OK to be anti-Semitic.