August 1st, 2009

there!, Hello

Coming of Age in Thalia,Texas

53) The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (Dial Press, 1966, 216 pages)
Growing up in 1950s small town Texas is confusing, funny, horny and terribly lonely business for Sonny and Duane, the protagonists of McMurtry's third novel. The story evokes their small town setting (and occasional forays to Mexico and other places) quite nicely, deftly moving from bust-a-gut funny material (among other things, boyhood insights into livestock had me howling) to touching insights on the human condition to outright miserable, bring tears to your eyes moments. The cast of characters is pretty rich, all drawn with simple elegance. A beautiful, spare novel which tackles coming of age as a metaphor for comprehending true loneliness. This book's themes find their way into McMurtry's later works, including the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. Though best known (perhaps) for his Lonesome Dove series of 19th century historical novels, I've only ever read McMurtry's contemporary fiction (ex. All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers); they are well worth visiting.