Both in high school and college, Don was exposed to the Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex,” written by Sophocles in the fifth century, b.c. He was fascinated by its combination of self-fulfilling prophecies, misinformation, erroneous conclusions, deceitfulness, treachery, and occurrences that have come to be labeled through the millennia as “Oedipal.” He was not thinking of “Oedipus Rex” as he began writing the story, but as the writing progressed, he recognized the emergence of some Oedipal overtones. Later, he wrote a line of dialog in which the character ungrammatically said: “Oedipus Rex come to Texas.”
After he “finished” the manuscript (which had a rather bland working title), he gave it to a television reporter friend to read — and his friend did the nicest thing. He sent back a list of the manuscript’s “bests” and “worsts” — according to the friend’s thinking. The best line, he said, was: “Oedipus Rex come to Texas.” That was it, of course: Oedipus Tex — the perfect title.
Oedipus Tex is set mainly in the Texas period of July-November, 2000, but the story actually begins in 1973 when circumstances foreshadow the calamitous events to occur 27 years later. Of course, with the title Oedipus Tex, one might assume that the story begins in the fifth century, b.c.— and perhaps it does. The characters are more ensemble than main and supporting; that said, it is the lives of Ginger Fontenot and Taz Sterling that provide the common thread.
Ginger is a tall, black-haired, blue-eyed, high-cheek-boned beauty who grew up in the extreme southeastern Texas hamlet of LeMieux, just across the line from Louisiana’s Acadiana parishes. Her parents and her brother are Cajuns — coonasses — through and through, but Ginger doesn’t quite fit in. She doesn’t look, talk, or act like her family. Ginger’s parents are proud of their Ginger, what chu mean, mm mmmh!
After completing a full-ride college scholarship in foreign languages, Ginger has spent the past four years in Manhattan trying to become a successful fashion model. Things aren’t going so well. Taz was Ginger’s college boyfriend, but Ginger chose New York over Taz’s marriage proposal. Four years of no contact and one law degree later, Taz discovers he may not be over Ginger as their lives become strangely enmeshed.
The new entanglement is thanks to the images on a piece of videotape inadvertently recorded in a Dallas restaurant by Taz’s twelve-year-old sister, Heather. The images concern the Texas U.S. Senate candidacy of controversial Congressman Winford Thomas, a ten-term Democrat from east Texas. In a sense, Heather’s fate hangs in the balance of what happens to these images as Taz’s post-Ginger love interest becomes television reporter Shannon Gillette.
Taz’s father, Rance Sterling, is second-generation, old-line Dallas law firm — Gentry & Sterling. Though he has tried, Rance cannot entice Taz to join the firm. Rance, a Republican, has designs on a federal judgeship, and though he doesn’t know it, his fate, too, may ride on Heather’s camcorder video.
Beyond a doubt, Winford Thomas’ political career hangs in the balance of Heather’s video. Throw in a second piece of video that the subject had no idea was being shot — nothing inadvertent about this one — and therein resides sex, lies, videotape, politics, lawsuits, tragedy, and Oedipal circumstances harsh enough to make even the most hardened Texan blink twice. It has the size of a Texas story — and it tells the Texas truth — but more than anything it’s a story about the world we live in today.