The classic Greek myth gets the East Texas treatment in Stacey Swann’s dazzling debut novel, Olympus, Texas. Set in a fictional small town along the slow-moving Brazos, the book follows an epic week in the life of the troubled Briscoe clan as its prodigal son, March, returns home after a two-year absence. All the timeless themes are here: love, betrayal, infidelity (so much infidelity!), and violence. When I was just a few pages in, I knew I held the read of the summer in my hands.
Swann, who grew up in Sealy and holds an MFA from Texas State University, playfully executes the mythological framework, from the name of the town (which so vividly comes to life that I had to triple-check that Olympus, Texas, doesn’t actually exist) to the names of March’s protective dogs, Romulus and Remus. Quotes from Ovid’s Metamorpheses (including the opening epigraph, “But then, is everyone not his own god?”) appear throughout as well. We even get a set of twins, Arlo and Artie, March’s half-siblings (his father was quite the Romeo, we learn early on). Although the book’s storyline takes place during just one week—sections are divided by day, Friday through Thursday—Swann offers origin-story interludes, including “The Origin of March’s Exile” and “The Origin of Vera’s Broken Heart,” that provide extra layers of depth and motivation.
Olympus, Texas stands as a true page-turner, and the complex family dynamics resonate with authenticity. Swann, a contributing editor at Austin-based American Short Fiction, spent fifteen years working on this epic, so I was thrilled to see the positive national reception, from glowing reviews to its selection for the Good Morning America book club. The praise is well-deserved for this larger-than-life tome set in a larger-than-life state. –Kathy Blackwell, executive editor
Watch clips of a local lawyer’s late, great reality show
When news broke that former One Direction star Liam Payne had broken off his engagement with model Maya Henry, fans of the couple mourned the end of their relationship. I, however, was reminded of the absolute insanity that was Maya and her family’s now-defunct reality show, Hangin’ With Los Henrys. Funded by her father, San Antonio injury attorney Thomas J. Henry (of the ubiquitous commercials and billboards), the reality show revolved around the glamorous escapades of the family, who described themselves as “just your regular multi-millionaire family living in South Texas.” It’s been three years since the show’s second and final season, and, unfortunately most of the full episodes were taken off YouTube at some point. But fans of the show have kept up some clips that can only be described as terrible, in the best way. In a clip from the show’s first episode, the family is trying to figure out how to outdo Maya’s $6 million quinceañera as they plan Thomas Jr.’s 18th birthday bash. Their mother, Azteca, quizzes Thomas Jr. about potential themes and entertainers, asking if he wants a fire-and-ice party or if he’d rather hire a star like Nick Jonas or Pitbull to perform. It’s all so delightfully out of touch that you’ll wonder why it ever had to end. –Cat Cardenas, associate editor
Learn about ballroom culture with Megan Thee Stallion on Legendary
I started watching Legendary last July after I’d finished Netflix’s The Circle. Before the show, I’d learned about LGBTQ ballroom culture from the documentary Paris is Burning,” the tv show Pose, and the one ball I’d been lucky enough to attend in person. In the reality competition show, each team (or house) competes for a $100,000 grand prize—showing off some of the best fashion, costumes, voguing and performances that I’ve ever seen. I binged the first season in a matter of days and eagerly tuned in weekly for every episode of season two when it returned in May. Although I’ve had a few moments of disappointment with the show—namely, the jarring disappearance of the audience in season one when the pandemic took hold and the blatantly unfair dismissal of one of the best houses in season two—I keep coming back for more.
In addition to some iconic and new houses including Hose of Escada, House of Balmain, House of Tisci, and House of Miyake-Mugler, the show has the prettiest host with the best smile: Deshawn Wesley, who is himself an amazing dancer. On the judges’ side, the iconic Leiomy Maldonado brings the invaluable ballroom knowledge while Law Roach brings all the best shade and catchphrases. And holding it down for the Lonestar State on the show is one of my favorite Texans, Megan Thee Stallion. Not only does she bless Legendary with bawdy and live performances, but she also expands her appreciation of ballroom culture beyond the show by hiring dancers from the houses for her performances and music videos. Other Texans like Normani and Demi Lovato have appeared on the show as guest judges, and I’m sure there’ll be more in the future. –Doyin Oyeniyi, assistant editor