By Preston Gossett | Reporter
Stephen Harrigan, acclaimed author of “Big Wonderful Thing, A History of Texas,” spoke at Fabled Bookshop and Cafe Thursday night, as well as offered a book signing and Q&A session with attendees.
Fabled recently opened in August, and with the spot still being a new bookshop, Fabled co-owner Kimberly Batson said they are trying to build their event draw for publishers and authors. For bigger names like Stephen Harrigan, the majority of contact and planning is through the publicists.
“We’re hoping that Thursday’s event [was] really helpful in showing that we can host events that people will show up to,” Batson said. “Also, that we can be a dynamic spot for authors [to stop in Waco] on their way from Dallas to Austin, and we’re really hoping to cultivate that here in the Waco community.”
Harrigan is the author of 10 non-fiction and fiction books, including New York Times bestseller “The Gates of the Alamo.” He is also a longtime writer and contributor for Texas Monthly, which Batson said is why she is so excited that he was able to make an appearance at Fabled.
“Our main vision for [these events] is to create opportunity for conversation, learning and discovery,” Batson said. “That’s No. 1 — instigating conversation and having that outlet, and getting to brush elbows with some of these amazing authors and hearing their thoughts and their stories… that’s our heart.”
Batson said that Harrigan’s book is fascinating because Texas is such a unique story. Harrigan organized his book chronologically, focusing on what made Texans who they are today, and where they are going in the future.
“One thing we were really excited to ask him is where he sees Texas in the future and where [he sees] us going,” Batson said. “We all know that looking at history is going to point to the future, and that’s why I think this book is so timely, because this is such a big conversation right now.”
Fabled bookstore manager Sarah Holliday said the fact that Harrigan’s angle for his novel isn’t necessarily from an academic standpoint is what makes it so beautiful. In the span of about six years, Harrigan highlights Texas’ famous leaders and monuments, but also showcases some of the lesser-known sites and cultures.
“My prediction is that there will always be a Texas. When people think of Texas, and when Texans think of themselves, they think of a cohesive sense of a place and it’s something we all share,” Harrigan said. “It doesn’t matter what culture, race or political party we belong to; we identify as Texan.”
Harrigan said he doesn’t remember writing his novel, but that what he does remember vividly are the trips he made and the things he saw.
“One thing his book does is bring people together,” Holliday said. “If after [he] had explain[ed] [his] book and no one had questions, it’s not good enough.”
Harrigan said that it’s important to write before you think you’re ready and narrow the focus on what you want to do. Research is a target, and Harrigan’s research led him in a specific direction.
“Why wouldn’t you have your own opinion of Texas history?” Harrigan said. “This is my version, and if I were to write it again starting tomorrow I might do it different — it’s not fixed.”