Feb 6, 2023 - News

Lawrence Wright turns gaze on Austin in New Yorker piece

Lawrence Wright

Writer Lawrenece Wright has written a new piece about how Austin is changing. Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Lawrence Wright, the famed Austin-based chronicler of Scientology and al-Qaeda, among many other subjects, has a new piece in The New Yorker examining change in his hometown.

Driving the news: In "No City Limits," Wright has put together a kaleidoscopic portrait of Austin, a city he first moved to in 1980.

  • Then, he writes, it was "offbeat, affordable, spontaneous, blithe, and slyly amused, as if we were in on some hilarious secret the rest of the world was unaware of."

Of note: Wright plays keyboard for the blues band WhoDo.

What they're saying: The piece gets at the oft-noted tensions about a fast-growing Austin.

  • "Austin will open up its Rolodex to you as a visitor or a newcomer quicker than any other place I’ve been," actor Matthew McConaughey told Wright. "But we also have to be wise. You don’t want to let a tyrant in your kitchen."
  • "I tend to be more of a pro-change guy," Michael Dell, Austin's first homegrown billionaire, says. "If you're not comfortable with that, you're gonna have a really hard time."
  • "There's nothing sinister about the desire to buy, develop, and earn income," Tam Hawkins, the head of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, told Wright, about how the influx of tech workers has transformed the racial demographics of the city. "What's sinister is that certain ethnicities aren't part of that process."

The bottom line: Every day, Austin "becomes more unknowable and unlimited," Wright writes.

  • "But it remains a part of my psyche. It's home."

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