“The Son,” by Philipp Meyer is widely hailed as one of the most ironically Texan books of the past few years. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has won numerous other awards. The first episode of a TV series based on “The Son” premiered on AMC this weekend.
Before writing the book, Meyer spent years researching the history of his adopted state. Meyer says he came to realize that behind Texas’ bigger-than-life mythology, the state’s true story is a universal one.
“I think it’s a very charismatic state and when I got here I fell in love with the place,” Meyer says. “The more I learned about the history, the more I realized that the history of Texas in some ways is the history of the entire American west and in some ways is kind of where the American dream was born.”
However, on the way to achieving this American dream, Meyer says both the people who settled Texas and the Native Americans they encountered faced situations that jeopardized their own innocence.
In “The Son,” Meyer chronicles this ethical struggle by writing from perspective of multiple characters. In this except, one of the primary characters, Eli McCullough, recalls his own questionable actions:
“It was prophesied I would live to see 100. And, having achieved that age, I see no reason to doubt it. I am not dying a Christian, though my scalp is intact, and, if there’s an eternal hunting ground, that is where I’m headed. There or the river Styx. My opinion of this moment is my life has been far too short. The good I could do if I were given another year on my feet. Instead, I’m strapped to this bed, feeling myself like an infant.”
Through the story’s portrait of a family’s lineage, Meyer says he hopes his book and TV series will help people realize that everyone’s history includes morally grey areas.
“None of us like to admit that great-grandfather that we’ve worshipped this whole time may have killed, butchered, murdered a bunch of innocent people, but for sure if you lived on the frontier, there’s a very good chance that he did just that,” Meyer says. “Until we confront this violence in our history, we’re never gonna fix the violence that we’re suffering through now.”
Ultimately, Meyer says, his book and its TV adaptation are about remembering that history features less of a contrast between good and evil than we might believe.
“We really are all the same, whether you’re on the right and you have a view that you know everything that the European settlers did in the West was completely justified or whether you’re on the left and you think that everything the European settlers did to make this country was completely evil,” Meyer says. “I hope that people from both of those sides would read this book and realize that in the end people really are just people.”
Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.