The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

revisionism" and to "the hatchet attacks of the 'New History' and the politically
correct, the postmodernists and the deconstructionists, all those who drag to the
bar persons of historical import for failing to perceive their world through the
enlightened sensitivity (if such it really is) of our newly opened twenty-first cen-
tury eyes" (pp. xv-xvi). Such attacks are difficult to document, however. Of all
nineteenth-century southern leaders, Houston is perhaps least open to attack for
his attitudes and actions toward Indians and slaves (the staples of the politically
correct), and his biographers have generally presented him in a favorable light
where such matters are concerned. Most of the criticism leveled at Houston by
modern writers, rather than partaking of political correctness, involves repeating
charges made by contemporary critics, especially those who attacked his leader-
ship during the San Jacinto campaign. Haley ably defends Houston against
claims that he was a temporizing coward who owed his success solely to the deci-
siveness and courage of his soldiers, but such charges are not of recent origin
and have nothing to do with political correctness. Sam Houston needs little de-
fense from that quarter.
Haley's biography is an important contribution to penetrating the personal
enigma of Sam Houston and reaching a balanced evaluation of his life. And it is
certainly a good read. Nevertheless, the complete story remains to be told. As
Haley himself writes, with admirable modesty, "A definitive Houston biography
would require a minimum of three volumes" (p. xv). Amen to that.
University of North Texas Randolph B. Campbell
The Magic Curtain: The Mexican-American Border in Fctzon, Film, and Song. By
Thomas Torrans. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2oo2. Pp.
236. Notes on sources, index. ISBN 0-87565-257-3. $29.95, cloth.)
This book offers an examination of various literatures of the border: fiction,
folklore, and film, reading such narratives for their insightful spins on a world
now gone. Building on writers, poets, and filmmakers that span several hundred
years, The Magic Curtain explores, with little historical discussion or nuance, what
the author refers to as the "magicality" of the border. As the term may suggest,
the book is concerned with an earlier, if ever really present, moment in the his-
tory of the U.S.-Mexico border before "myth" was "supplanted by facts and fig-
ures" (p. 217). And in keeping with the wistfulness of the sentiment, the author
further suggests, "we are the poorer" for its demise" (p. 217).
This book, for better and worse, waxes nostalgic: it longs for a border life
spoiled by a burgeoning technological world, lamenting that, "An era has van-
ished, and the stage set for a new one" (p. 4). But like many such narratives, we
are left wonting: what is it that has really vanished? Why? And how are we to
understand such a disappearance? For readers, especially historians and cul-
tural critics concerned with such questions, they are bound to be disappointed;
for those interested in a less analytical yet still informative story, they will be
rewarded.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed July 13, 2014.