Duane’s Depressed – 4/5 Stars
This is the third book in the “Last Picture Show” books. While the first novel would work as a perfectly complete novel, and was for 20 years, the second novel, Texasville came out and was surprisingly good. Following up on Duane Moore as a man, married for 20+ years and in his late 40s with kids and grandkids, and seeing about whether the ambivalence he felt at the ambivalence his Texas town felt allowed some decent exploration into the ravages of middle age, in lightly comic tones.
This book takes that same cue and looks a little later in life, early old age (62 or so) and adds in depression and anxiety into the mix. Duane doesn’t know why, but he’s ready to never drive or ride in a truck ever again. He feels that he’s spent most of his life riding in trucks and feels that’s been a waste. He also feel like he needs some time and space to himself. So he starts walking. This is an odd site to his neighbors, and his wife Karla assumes this is preceding a divorce. But it seems to be the coming on of a bout of depression. Recalling Duane in the opening chapter of Texasville it’s pretty easy to suggest that this is not Duane’s first bout with depression but maybe his town and the people around him finally have the language to figure that out. So when he finds out his friend’s daughter who moved away from town has set up a psychiatry practice a few towns over, he decides to set up an appointment. So now with someone to talk to and some things to finally say about his past, Duane looks at therapy for the first time ever.
It’s a 90s novel tapping into the wider acceptance of therapy and anti-depressants, but with the sense of an almost nostalgia. The writing tends to be very good in this one.
When the Light Goes – 2/5 Stars
The follow up sequel is almost good, but is also very bad in other ways. One really good thing about this 2007 follow up to the 1999 Duane’s Depressed is that it rejects the narrative structure of lives. This book looks at how lives work and shows that sometimes things change for you and this rewrites what your life’s make up has become. Those of us in the real world (as opposed to fiction) know this instinctively, as we look at the lives we’ve found ourselves in and try to make sense of them. It’s clear from our view that we draw a big circle around our life and call it ours, but in so many movies, tv shows, and other forms of fiction, the narrative drives creates the artificial boundaries. And characters don’t have that end of the Graduate look of recognizing “Now what?”. This book pushes those feelings into this narrative and discusses what happens when our lives are no longer on what we thought was a defined path.
The problem is though, that this book takes some ridiculous and not very good paths once we’re there. There’s good here, but there’s a lot of bad too.