I’ve been slowly making my way through Larry McMurty’s writing for a few years now. So this is the most recent book of his I’ve read, and the book that is closest to his death from this past week. He was in his 80s and lived a fruitful life in a lot of ways. He spent a lot of his life writing books, working in Hollywood, and working in the rare and used book market. His personal views and memoirs are well-documented as well. This early collection of his writing acts mostly as a kind of artifact of his life, than as a great testament of his writing. While there are a few essays in here that are pretty good, he just kept getting better at nonfiction as he got older. He’s only around 30 or so for this book, and given that by 30 he’d published three novels and had two movies under his belt, he’d had plenty of time to get his thoughts down.
The best of this book is how he looks at Texas as a kind of foregone conclusion. This is what his early novels do too, looking at the place after a series of fundamental changes have already occurred, while the people still going through the changes aren’t fully aware of it yet. Even though he’s most famous for Lonesome Dove, the vast bulk his work is contemporary like the novels The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment, and this ability to really read a milieu through fiction is far superior to his nonfiction assessments of it. So this book catalogs his early thoughts, while his fiction is a much better testament to his writing prowess.