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Larry McMurtry

[03] Duane's Depressed

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Funny, sad, full of wonderful characters and the word-perfect dialogue of which he is the master, McMurtry brings the Thalia saga to an end with Duane confronting depression in the midst of plenty. Surrounded by his children, who all seem to be going through life crises involving sex, drugs, and violence; his wife, Karla, who is wrestling with her own demons; and friends like Sonny, who seem to be dying, Duane can't seem to make sense of his life anymore. He gradually makes his way through a protracted end-of-life crisis of which he is finally cured by reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, a combination of penance and prescription from Dr. Carmichael that somehow works.
Duane's Depressed is the work of a powerful, mature artist, with a deep understanding of the human condition, a profound ability to write about small-town life, and perhaps the surest touch of any American novelist for the tangled feelings that bind and separate men and women.
Amazon.com ReviewAt 62, ever-dependable oil man Duane Moore ditches his pickup and starts walking everywhere--deeply deviant behavior in one-stoplight Thalia, Texas. “It occurred to him one day--not in a flash, but through a process of seepage, a kind of gas leak into his consciousness--that most of his memories, from his first courtship to the lip of old age, involved the cabs of pickups,” Larry McMurtry writes. Yet oddly enough, Duane's marriage, four children and nine grandchildren, his career highs and lows, all occurred when he was nowhere near his vehicle. Within days he has moved into his cabin on a hill, reacquired his dog, Shorty the Sixth («an air of slight guilt was typical of all the Shortys”), and begun to think on these things. Of course, this brings on an additional problem: «He realized that for the first time in his life he had too much time to think; of course he had wanted more time to think, but that was probably because he hadn't realized how tricky thinking could be.”
Luckily for readers, Duane's attempts to go off the grid are far from successful. Thus do we have the deep pleasures of his comical and complex encounters with his wife, Karla, and family, not to mention some of Thalia's singular citizens. As ever, McMurtry's dialogue and narration snaps and surprises. He makes his hero's solitude, and his increasing depression, infinitely intriguing. Will Duane's attempts to literally and figuratively cultivate his garden succeed? Will he forge his way through the three volumes of Proust that his attractive new psychiatrist has prescribed in lieu of Prozac? Will the catfish that has found its way into his waterbed survive? Answers to these and many other questions await you in Duane's Depressed, the final book of the marvelous trilogy McMurtry began with The Last Picture Show and Texasville. Let us pray that it turns into a quartet: we need far more of Duane and his family. For a start, his granddaughter Barbi--»a dark midge of a child”--merits a volume of her own. --Kerry Fried
From Publishers WeeklyPulitzer Prize-winning author McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) offers the final volume in the trilogy that includes the memorable The Last Picture Show (1966) and Texasville (1987). Drawing inspiration from the small Texas town where he grew up, McMurtry limns a wryly comic and finely nuanced portrayal of oil-rich Duane Moore, 62, a leading citizen of small-town Thalia. Depressed for no obvious reason, Duane vexes and bewilders family and community alike when he suddenly parks his identity-defining pickup truck in his carport and starts hoofing it everywhere. His wife, Karla, their adult kids and the small mob of humorously foul-mouthed grandchildren living under his roof grow more confused as his unsettling behavior escalates, especially when he moves to a crude shack six miles out of town. After he turns the family oil business over to eldest son Dickie (newly out of an Arizona drug-rehab center), the delicate symbiosis of the eccentric little town threatens to break down. Duane's symptoms intensify as he consults a comely psychiatrist in Wichita Falls and buys a fancy bicycle. Sudden tragedy disrupts the hero's therapy just as he is starting to come out of his yearlong deep freeze and, with regret and befuddlement, take a long look at his life. Using barren landscapes and drab interiors to emphasize the subtle, potent drama of Duane's search for himself, McMurtry shines as he examines the issues of alienation, grief and the confrontation with personal mortality. Despite a curious distance imposed by limiting the third-person narration almost exclusively to Duane?which at times renders the voice essentially journalistic?this novel represents McMurtry at the top of his form. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club featured alternates. (Jan.) FYI: Scribner is reissuing The Last Picture Show and Texasville in trade paper editions to honor completion of the Thalia trilogy.Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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