The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic by Kinky Friedman (audio)

This is an odd book, that somewhat defies definition. If you don’t know Kinky Friedman, I should definitely start there. He’s a country music singer/songwriter, mystery author, politician (he ran for Governor of Texas a few years ago, didn’t win), Jewish cowboy, and general personality. Last I heard, my mother was a fan of his. He has a reputation for being politically incorrect. This was my introduction to his work. The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic is a whimsical musing on Austin, Texas, Friedman’s adopted hometown. It is part travel guide, part history lesson, and large part tongue-in-cheek, self-aggrandizing, stereotyped Texas-style humor.

My reaction was mixed. I should share that we down here in Texas have something of a Houston-Austin… not rivalry, necessarily… maybe it is a rivalry. The cities are quite different and trade blows, each claiming superiority. I live in Houston; it’s my hometown; and while I think Austin has many charms, I have a somewhat typical Houstonian response to Austin’s shameless self-promotion: I get a little defensive. Austin’s pretty cool, but Houston has its advantages, too – in fact I prefer my hometown to the so-hip Central Texas college town – and I get quickly tired of the typical Austinian eye-rolling and patronization, so. I have a dog in this fight, is what I’m saying. Full disclosure.

So, when Kinky brags on Austin, I have to suppress an knee-jerk impulse to say “but!” – which is a good thing to suppress, because there is some funny stuff in this book, and some history lessons that I truly appreciated, not being as familiar with my iconic state’s history as I should be. Snippets of history and Texas trivia I can appreciate. There is a fair amount of Kinky’s own personal musings on the state of our culture today, which are a mixed bag, in my opinion, varying in value. I think maybe he thinks of this book as more strictly travel guidebook than I found it. I double-checked and yes, my edition is unabridged, so. There are travel-guide-like sections on restaurants, famous residents (and their grave sites), and places of interest. Perhaps it was just the audio format; who listens to travel guides on audio?? (No one, I’m fairly sure.) But this is not strictly a travel guide. It’s a glimpse into Kinky’s personality and oddities – and let me tell you, eccentricity is part of the Kinky brand, and a part he’s playing up. So, will you like this book? Answer: as much as you like Kinky Friedman himself. Me, I’m on the fence. I think Austin does all right without his “everything is bigger here,” chauvinistic (he thinks it’s funny), bombastic help.


Rating: 3 bars on 6th St.

4 Responses

  1. It would have never occurred to me that a book titled The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic would be about Texas. Thanks for the great review!

  2. […] do with the website, the book, the whole HIWI franchise, at their about page. As alluded to in my review of The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic, I am rather a Houstonlover myself; and this is just my brand of cheerleading: a little […]

  3. […] To me, life is: The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic […]

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