Western Author Series: Larry McMurtry #4 of 6
CowboySpirit.TV - Part 4 of our Western Author Series picks up amidst Larry McMurtry's literary and cinematic fame. Please feel free to review Part 1, Part 2, and/or Part 3..
Although none of his fictional works are considered autobiographical, it’s impossible to ignore certain parallels between many of his novels’ settings and characters and his own early life experiences.
The Last Picture Show, McMurtry’s third novel was published in 1966 and made into a movie in 1971. If you pay close attention as you read McMurtry’s novels, you will begin to piece together parts of McMurtry’s life with tidbits from his fiction. In Horseman, Pass By, the main character is raised on a ranch but has no interest in a future ranching life. This directly correlates with McMurtry’s upbringing. While he doesn’t express any disdain towards ranch life, he has often noted the harsh lifestyle it demands, and expressed an early desire to move elsewhere.
In The Last Picture Show and Texasville, the town of Thalia was based on Archer City. Larry McMurtry’s intimate knowledge of Texas landscapes allows him to paint detailed pictures with words, eventually helping to bring his screenplays to life. The setting of these novels becomes a character unto itself, which is often the case in western books. Somebody’s Darling, published in 1978, has elements of the Hollywood film industry woven into the plot in a way that is almost poking fun at it.
McMurtry doesn’t take Hollywood seriously, especially in her most current incarnation. A TexasMonthly review of McMurtry’s Hollywood: A Third Memoir, states, “Each book [in the 3-part series) is suffused with a sense of loss—of the old book-trading days, of friends and cultural values, of old Hollywood itself.” McMurtry mourns the loss of times gone by, which is exactly the quality his readers relate to in his western books. We get to see McMurtry’s views of his own life experiences as they are reflected back through his characters, plot lines, and remembrances.
We can’t discuss McMurtry’s impact on literature and film without mentioning the success of Terms of Endearment. This novel was well received, and the movie even more so. It exemplifies McMurtry’s ability to write complex and moving female characters, which he‘s often noted for. Multi-faceted female characters, such as Lonesome Dove’s Lorena Wood, are often lacking in other western books. This could be one reason for McMurtry's wide appeal to both male and female readers and audiences.
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