What to hear, read, attend, and look at this month to achieve maximum Texas literacy.
“Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin & Bones, 20 Years of Drawing” (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, April 26–August 3)
Houston resident Hancock has spent years creating art, inspired by comic books and abstract expressionism, that tells the story of mythical creatures called the Mounds. This exhibit, the first to focus on his drawings, includes samples of a cartoon strip he drew for his college newspaper at Texas A&M–Commerce.
“McDonald Observatory: 75 Years of Stargazing” (Bullock Texas State History Museum, May 1–June 29)
To celebrate the May 5 Dodranscentennial of the unveiling of the Otto Struve telescope—once the second-largest telescope in the world—Austin’s Bullock will host a thousand-pound model of the Struve (one ninetieth the weight of the original) and offer programs for stargazers young and old.
The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, Anand Hiridharadas (W. W. Norton, May 5)
The crimes that set this stirring nonfiction book in motion—a methed-out racist shoots three South Asian convenience store clerks in suburban Dallas in misguided revenge for 9/11—don’t prepare you for what follows: the decision of the lone survivor of the attacks to lobby Governor Rick Perry to spare the life of his assailant.
The Last Kind Words Saloon, Larry McMurtry (Liveright/W. W. Norton, May 5)
Our greatest writer’s first novel in five years is a series of blackout sketches about the difficulties Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Charles Goodnight may have had with horses, guns, and women. There are faint echoes of Lonesome Dove here and stronger echoes of 2006’s Telegraph Days, whose heroine, Nellie Court-right,gets the last word.
Wine Dark Sea, Jolie Holland (Anti- Records, May 20)
This Houston native recently relocated to New Orleans, where her blend of jazz, Americana, and classic R&B must fit in just fine. The noisy sounds that pop up on her sixth album, courtesy of some free-improv types from New York, complicate that fit, but there’s enough soul and melody here to keep her old fans happy and enough ambition to pull in a few new ones.
Man, Woman, Beast, The Ghost Wolves (Plowboy, May 27)
The debut album from married couple Carley and Jonathan Wolf, the latest representatives of Austin’s raging garage-rock scene, leans toward the swampy, Southern end of things. It also draws on the male-female-duo format that the White Stripes made famous—though in this case the female is the front person. And did Jack White ever play a guitar with only one string?