What to watch, read, listen to, and look at this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.
Island Time (Zilkha Gallery, Houston, through February 14)
As an arts destination, Galveston always has and no doubt always will sit in Houston’s shadow. But this collaboration with, yes, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston shines a light on the island city by displaying (in, yes, Houston) the work of 22 artists, from locales as far-flung as London and Berlin, who enjoyed eleven-month residencies amid Galveston’s sun and surf.
Shame and Wonder, David Searcy (Random House, January 5)
The blurbs from Ben Fountain and John Jeremiah Sullivan don’t lie: one of America’s greatest essayists is a onetime Dallas horror novelist with a bottomless curiosity about everything from West Texas coyotes to Krazy Kat comic strips. If you want, skip to page 176 and start by reading the one about the tree on top of Enchanted Rock. It’s only 9 pages long, and it contains everything.
Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (PBS, January 15)
Willie (who, by the way, has an album of Gershwin tunes in the can) celebrates this award with a concert in Washington, D.C., that includes (warning: your spine is about to tingle) Raul Malo singing “Crazy,” Rosanne Cash singing “Pancho & Lefty,” and Fort Worth phenom Leon Bridges slipping into “Funny How Time Slips Away.”
Bonnie & Clyde (PBS, January 19)
The story of how these “two-bit Texas hoods” turned themselves into “mythic outlaws” hasn’t lost its hold on the popular imagination, and this American Experience documentary reminds us why. Look past the vintage nature of the black and white footage and you’ll recognize something very contemporary in this tale of grinding urban poverty, brutal prison indoctrination, and mass obsession with celebrity.
The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin (UT Press, January 22)
Almost everybody knows about the Harry Ransom Center’s world-class literary holdings. But how many people are aware that UT-Austin boasts nearly ninety other collections, ranging from vacuum tubes to algae to Ethiopian weapons? Not many, a state of affairs that this beautiful—and, at $125, hardly cheap—coffee-table book seeks to remedy.
Relationshapes, Buhu (FMF, January 22)
Galloping drums, taut guitar riffs, and synthesizers of many tonal colors fight it out for the chance to overwhelm front man Jeremy Rogers’s acrobatic singing: welcome to your twenty-first-century power trio, courtesy of three guys from Austin who have channeled a few decades’ worth of techno, post-punk, and Krautrock influences into pop songs bursting with drama and tiny little hooks that just won’t let go.