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Cactus Burning: Austin, Texas and the Battle for the Iconic Cactus Cafe

Michael F. Scully

Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., May 30, 2014

Summertime Peruse

Amazon Digital Services, 248 pp., $6.99 (eBook)

Locals react to change with outrage, particularly when it involves terminating something cultural. Bars, clubs, and restaurants going belly-up or adjusting formats signals "the end of Austin." When the Cactus Cafe, a 30-plus-year home to songwriters from Arlo Guthrie to Townes Van Zandt, threatened to close in 2010, armchair preservationists coalesced into a people's movement. E-book Cactus Burning records that crusade. Author Michael F. Scully's overview, from January's shocking press release to May's landing of a new institutional parent in KUT, proves a meticulous catalog of interviews, meeting records, internal emails, and news clips presenting a clear overall picture of the events. The saga yields great characters including the Save the Cactus contingent of Wiley Koepp and Reid Nelson, shifty UT Union Executive Director Andy Smith, flip-flopping VP of Student Affairs Juan González, the easily manipulated student government, and beloved Cactus manager Griff Luneberg. Cactus Burning becomes an exhausting read due to the excessive inclusion of Facebook and news blog comments, but it's doubtlessly the authoritative account on the matter and worth reading for a single surprising reveal that renders the "No Griff, No Cactus" battle cry a non-option.

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