The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Book Reviews

heart of America. Racism, economics, educational values, and social beliefs are
examined in the course of his narrative. Bissinger is at his best when discussing
racial and educational issues. He shows that Odessa's 1982 desegregation was
carried out with football, not education, in mind, and that Odessa was gerry-
mandered in such a way as to send the best black running backs to Permian.
Friday Night Lights is a wonderful read and an important book. Anyone who
has spent much time in Texas knows that Bissinger could have been writing
about any one of a hundred Texas towns and football programs. The reader is
left with only a few questions: What are the cultural roots of Texas football?
Why football? Why not basketball or baseball? These questions aside, Bissinger
has gone to the core of America's sports culture.
Purdue Universzty RANDY ROBERTS
The Blue Man. Photographs by Keith Carter. Text by Anne W. Tucker and
Keith Carter. (Houston: Rice University Press, 1990. Pp. 144. Foreword,
photographs, afterword. $34.95.)
The East Texas depicted in Keith Carter's photographs in The Blue Man is a
quiet world of unpretentious people, simple buildings, scrubby yards, and wet,
lush, fields. It is also mythic, mysterious and somewhat threatening. Animals,
more than the people of the region, dominate the pages of his book-from
common house pets to a monstrous snapping mud turtle. This is a world of
strange juxtapositions and ironies. A cluster of signs advertises sub sandwiches,
guns, firecrackers, and Jesus. A sequence of tender images of young fawns is
followed by a photograph of recently killed deer. Perhaps most strange and
captivating is his use of a painted backdrop of cupids and clouds against which
he has photographed a kind of "peaceable kingdom" of animals from farm-
yard pigs to an exotic emu and even a nude "Eve" holding a snake. All of these
subjects are photographed by Carter in a deceptively straightforward way,
using a stable square format and generally frontal compositions that understate
the often surprising content of the image. In this way the extraordinary seems
merely expected and commonplace scenes become iconic. Instead of a compila-
tion of facts, he has created a kind of bestiary, a natural science study in which
all the inhabitants of this world, both real and mythic, are depicted in a surreal
encyclopedia.
Carter was raised in East Texas and lives in Beaumont where he teaches at
Lamar University, operates a commercial studio, and contributes to Texas
Monthly, the New York Tzmes Magazne, and other publications. The Blue Man
follows by less than two years his insightful photographic survey of small-town
Texas, From Uncertain to Blue. Carter notes that his inspiration to concentrate
on East Texas for this new project was a casual mention by his wife about a man
with blue skin she knew when she was growing up in the East Texas town of
Trinity. Carter was astonished by the idea of this strange man, but was even
more fascinated by his wife's unquestioning ability to absorb the exotic into her
East Texas childhood memories.
The book's only text is an illuminating dialogue between Carter and Anne
Tucker, curator of photographs at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. While

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed April 24, 2014.