Erykah doesn’t take Dallas for granted, but she’s pretty much alone in that respect. I mean, look, I get it, OK? I understand that the widely held view is that all Dallas has ever contributed to the culture is two versions of an eponymous nighttime soap, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and a Roman legion of reality-TV hopefuls, and I understand why. TV has kicked us in the jeans for decades, but we can’t seem to say no to it. I cringed when they announced the Real Housewives of Dallas, because 1) I knew I’d probably become guiltily addicted to it and 2) it would reinforce every dumb thing people say about Dallas.
To be clear, some of that exists. Of course. But it’s only part of what goes on here, and not a huge part. It just tends to get the most attention. When I think of people who best represent what Dallas is right now, I think of people like Ben Fountain, author of the brilliant Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the basis for an Ang Lee film coming later this year.
I saw Fountain at an event in 2015 at a house in the Oak Cliff neighborhood that had been turned into a bookstore and cafe, called "The Wild Detectives", by a pair of Spaniards, Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral. On a table were books from Deep Vellum Publishing, a publisher of translated works started by Will Evans, another transplant, a couple of years ago. Evans recently opened his own book shop in Deep Ellum, a few blocks away from where I and several thousand others shared a moment with Badu. I could go on. People used to leave Dallas to make their mark. But now they’re doing it here, and it has little to do with oil or personal brands.