Texas Blood: Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on September 10, 2017

Praise for Texas Blood

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on September 10, 2017

“Heartbreaking and mesmerizing… Hodge combines a journalist’s eye with a native son’s love to give readers clear insight into southwestern Texas’s past, present, and future.” —Publishers Weekly

“In Texas Blood, Roger Hodge takes the reader on journeys through intricate maps of the past and present, through politics and luck and greed and death, but always returning to the beautiful, unforgiving land of his heritage.” —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon

“Imagine finding out that the land where Cormac McCarthy set one of his most brutal novels was your family’s ranch . . . I’ve read loads of books about Texas but rarely encountered one so deeply of it, so deep the story escapes and becomes a treatise on the twisted American past, and the force exerted by that on our complex present.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

“A fusion of historical narrative, memoir, exposé, and lament, Texas Blood is a rigorously-researched, compassionate examination of one of our country’s most polarizing states. Hodge casts an unflinching eye on the violence of the borderlands, yet does so with the tender lyricism and spiritual acumen of the best Cormac McCarthy. He deftly traverses the panoply of his home state’s shifting histories and landscapes while never losing sight of the individual: a suppliant walking barefoot, a child’s forgotten grave, the murdered body of a family friend. Texas Blood is a timely, important work: in grappling with Texas, Roger Hodge is holding America’s own deeply-troubled feet to the fire.” —Jamie Quatro, author of I Want to Show You More

“Hypnotically written, deeply researched, profoundly elegiac—the adverbs pile up, and with good reason. Roger D. Hodge has written a wonderful book about our most vexed and peculiarly American state, with an eye for detail and anecdote that’s as loving as it is merciless.” —Tom Bissell, author of Apostle

“A thoughtful portrait of a hard and beautiful place: part ethnography, part literary criticism, part family and regional history, always personal… Sincere, accurate, and open-minded, sometimes intimate, this book qualifies as a true primary source. After the present of Texas Blood has become past, Hodge’s observations and summations will still be well worth reading.” –William T. Vollmann, author of The Dying Grass

Texas Blood blends the personal and the historical to create a vivid portrait of a place unable to transcend its violent past. Roger D. Hodge is a very gifted writer, and he tells his story with the energy of a perfectly paced novel.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena

“Roger Hodge has crafted a masterful alloy of memoir and reportage, of social criticism and regional history. Texas Blood is an unforgettable foray into our most mysterious, violent, myth-soaked state, a portrait of enormous talent and skill that reveals precisely what America is.” —William Giraldi, author of Hold the Dark

Less Than Zero

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on May 26, 2011

The photographs of J. Henry Fair

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on April 28, 2011

Here’s a little catalogue essay I wrote a few years ago for Henry’s Industrial Scars show.

J Henry Fair flies high above our fallen world, over aeration ponds of paper mills, which sprout like mushrooms near Baton Rouge, and luminous bauxite waste streams near Houston. Bulldozers spread their offerings of petroleum coke before him in Texas City, and roseate spoonbills glide low over radioactive phosphate slurry in Florida. These are the primal scenes of our consumer society; here is where we give birth to the American way of life. It will never again be so beautiful.

Coal, petroleum, fertilizer, paper pulp, and sugar are among the foundational inputs of our high-input civilization; without them most of what passes for life among us can scarcely be conceived. The direct financial costs of extracting these substances are considerable. No less so are the indirect ecological, social, and individual physical costs.

Acid rain, smog, bronchitis, asthma, cancer, and global warming are among the slightly more familiar tolls we must pay for turning on light bulbs and opening laptops and listening to Wilco on our iPods. Others are perhaps less familiar. But J. Henry Fair can tell you that coal production is a significant source of radioactive pollution and that arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium all show up in coal waste, which inevitably finds its way into drinking water. He can cite statistics on emissions. But most of all he simply bears witness to the tragic beauty of waste.

Coal gives us more than electricity. Tupperware, detergent bottles, milk cartons, fuel tanks, sandwich bags, and polymers found in ropes, banknotes, and polypropylene long underwear all originate in a relatively soft seam of combustible sedimentary carbon rock formed by the remains of ancient swamps.

Like coal, the phosphate fertilizers that we use to grow tomatoes and corn and sugar cane also come to us via large open pit mines. Phosphate rock yields itself to enormous dragline excavators. Add water and make a slurry; process thoroughly and remove the uranium and other impurities. Send the wetrock on to the plant and dump the waste into a phosphogypsum stack and let it settle. Try not to breath the florine gas.

The waste pits and effluents that enable our daily wants are usually hidden from view. They lie just off the access road behind the railyard or sixteen miles down county road 67. J Henry Fair seeks out these visions of excess and captures them in all their Satanic beauty. He brings them home and offers them up for our contemplation. They belong to us. We made them.

A little post-election serenata

Posted in Commentary, Links by Roger D. Hodge on November 5, 2010

A change of heart

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on October 23, 2010

Here’s what Jonathan Alter had to say about the public option in Newsweek on May 14, 2009:

So reform without a public option isn’t terribly meaningful. And the costs of modest reform are high, not just in dollars but in lost opportunity. It will be quite a while before the country has the appetite to confront this issue again. This time, the perfect or near perfect (there is no perfect, not even single payer) should, at least temporarily, be the enemy of the good, because the merely good isn’t good enough.

I wonder why he changed his mind.

New York Daily News

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on October 1, 2010

Daily Beast: Obama’s Tyranny

Posted in Commentary by Roger D. Hodge on October 1, 2010

My Daily Beast essay on the Awlaki case is here. The comments are fascinating; it seems to be difficult for many of the commenters to distinguish the question of whether Awlaki is a bad guy from whether the government can legally send a drone to Yemen to assassinate him.

See Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler for detailed critiques of the DOJ’s argument.

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