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Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  720 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
In a lucid, brilliant work of nonfiction -- as close to an autobiography as his readers are likely to get -- Larry McMurtry has written a family portrait that also serves as a larger portrait of Texas itself, as it was and as it has become.
Using as a springboard an essay by the German literary critic Walter Benjamin that he first read in Archer City's Dairy Queen, McMurt
Paperback, 204 pages
Published August 7th 2001 by Simon & Schuster (first published November 5th 1999)
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Jul 11, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing
Saw this on a remainder table in Waldoboro, Maine and couldn't resist. Not only did it prove to be a wonderful read -- I'm a McMurtry fan -- but it sent me scurrying to find out more about Walter Benjamin, inspired me to read Proust, taught me a critical lesson about bypass surgery that I later needed for a friend, painted a remarkable picture of the weird form in which depression can be manifest...and turned out to be a book that I truly enjoy re-reading.
Aug 05, 2009 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2009, texas
This might be my favorite Larry McMurtry book so far. His voice is just as confident and assured when writing nonfiction as it is in his novels, if not even a bit more. This book leaps between literary and cultural criticism, memoir, and historical illumination, often in the span of a three-page chapter, and with only the briefest of segues, but the ideas are always conveyed seamlessly.

Maybe this book worked so well for me because it is the first chronicle of the life of a fellow from west Texa
Aug 12, 2011 Donavan rated it really liked it
Shelves: red-neck
My bookmark was between pages 102 and 103, in the section titled Reading. This is what I had marked: "The minute I began to write I felt a tension between reading and writing..." As time passes and we readers try to guess how many years might be left, we study our shelves and wonder if we'll get through all the books we planned to read.

McMurtry writes about great readers. We know a lot (or think we do) about great writers, but great readers are usually anonymous, quiet souls whose deserved fame
Aug 27, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
Larry McMurtry is one of my favorite writers & reading this book for the second time reconfirmed it. Not your typical biography more of a look back & insight into how his life took the journey it took.
Apr 14, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I've read much more of Larry McMurtry's fiction than his nonfiction, and sometimes I find myself enjoying his nonfiction a great deal more. His wry, humorous point of view, gift for quiet irony, and depth of thought come across so much more strongly in his own voice, compared to those of the characters in his novels. And while I am very fond of "Leaving Cheyenne," "Horseman, Pass By" and "The Last Picture Show," my favorite McMurtry novels, it is an equal pleasure to be in the presence of the ma ...more
Apr 11, 2012 Cody rated it really liked it
This is actually the first McMurtry I’ve read (I know, I know!), though I’m familiar enough with his recurring themes (and the vast influence he’s had on how we think and write about the American West over the past 40 or so years) to appreciate that this memoir is an attempt to work in similar territory as his fiction, but from a much more personal standpoint. McMurtry is out to demythologize the American West in hopes of telling a truer story, and, thus, in his own way, fulfilling the crucial b ...more
Hank Hoeft
Reading Larry McMurtry’s 200-page essay/ meditation, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond is how I would imagine it would be to sit with Mr. McMurtry in the Dairy Queen in Archer City, Texas and letting him talk away a long Texas afternoon. Western writers—Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Zane Grey, Owen Wister, all the way back to James Fenimore Cooper—are Romanticists, dealing with the mythology of the American West more than the reality of it. So when I first read Larr ...more
Jun 05, 2016 Zade rated it it was amazing
Not having been an avid reader of westerns, this is the first of McMurtry's books I've read. I'm not even sure why I picked it up at the used bookstore, other than a vague memory that besides having written a great many good novels (or at least people said they were good), he was the owner of an enormous number of books and therefore at least partially a kindred soul.

This short collection of essays covers so much ground and manages to be both so simple and so multilayered and complex, that it's
First of all, I read this book because of my partiality to Larry McMurtry fiction. This book, however, is not fiction. It is autobiographical from the standpoint of family and his personal feelings about his life and the world. He covers a very wide spectrum of subjects including thoughts on the old and new west, authors to which he is partial, cultural changes and a large number of other selected topics. I shared some surprising issues in that my reading developed from the introduction of the d ...more
Dana Wilkes
Aug 24, 2014 Dana Wilkes rated it it was amazing
I had purchased this book years ago and then set it aside for whatever reason -- life, children, and my inept housekeeping buried it under a stack of books that I planned to read. I picked it up again this summer after attending a writer's workshop where we studied an excerpt of McMurtry's writing, and it reminded me how much I loved his command of language and through his writing, completely immerse the reader in the setting of his stories. This book of essays was no exception, but much denser ...more
Feb 26, 2010 Vicky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked his later memoir, Books, better, but I enjoyed this one too. I had never heard of Walter Benjamin, a 20th-century German philosopher, but this is the starting point because at the time Benjamin was writing, McMurtry's pioneer grandparents were settling in west Texas. Also it is one of Benjamin's essays, "The Storyteller", which prompts much of McMurtry's ruminations on the demise of oral storytelling, his own family's story and the future of books and storytelling. I seem to be in the mo ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
Five stars for the tremendous reflections on growing up in the American West, the mythologies of loneliness and madness on the frontier, and the power of books, from reading Benjamin far from the Old World he reflected upon to book collection and obsessive reading and what it can do to an individual's understanding of themself and their place in the world.
Tess Philipps
May 16, 2017 Tess Philipps rated it it was ok
This book seems like a stream of consciousness. On topics I mostly didn't care about. This book is broken down in 4 sections. I had a lot of trouble with the first (and biggest section) of the book title 'Place - and the Memory of Place' talking a lot about Texas, the wide open west during his grandparents days, and all things cowboys. I just didn't care. 'Reading' starts on page 95 and the book got a bit better, and I can really relate to the current section 'Book Scouting' as I've spent much o ...more
Deborah Schuff
May 16, 2017 Deborah Schuff rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've never read Larry McMurtry before, but these essays are highly enjoyable. I like essays that are as much about the writer's personality as they are about the subject matter. I'm now reading another book of his essays, Roads: Driving America's Great Highways, and I've found three novels of his that I'd like to read.
Calvin Kenley
Just finished Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Larry McMurtry's quasi-autobiography. It's fairly short, like 200 pages, but I really liked it. There isn't much of a unifying theme in the short stories that he writes, but they all stem from him reading "Illuminations" by Walter Benjamin while sitting at the Dairy Queen drinking Lime Dr. Peppers. Illumination is a contemplation on the storyteller, why he is an important figure in the community, and what purpose stories have. As he read the book ...more
Aug 25, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it
The title of McMurtry's book is somewhat misleading, as Walter Benjamin's "Storyteller" essay, which the author happens to read at a Dairy Queen, merely serves as a loose framing structure for the rest of the book. Benjamin's essay concerns itself with oral storytelling, and as McMurtry reads it, he supposes that the Dairy Queen is the only place in West Texas where people might convene to swap stories in the way described by Benjamin. But "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen" isn't a eulogy to o ...more
Jan 14, 2017 Brad rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
Great little autobiographical book about growing up in a small Texas town and the pioneer spirit from one of my favorite Texas authors. Also love the discussion of Walter Benjamin that McMurtry brings into this discussion.
Feb 10, 2012 CD rated it it was ok
Meandering McMurtry Memoir. Alliteration by yours-truly.

This is not a autobiography by the authors own protest. McMurtry sets out to reflect on being sixty as a companion theme to the philosopher Walter Benjamin writing about the telling of stories.

Along the way McMurtry speaks of his history with the written word from his earliest days to the present. As a reader, discoverer, writer, student, collector, and seller of books, L.M. vamps on several topics though none as thoroughly as I would like.
Victoria Roberts
Feb 24, 2017 Victoria Roberts rated it it was amazing
Basically an autobiographical essay by Larry McMurtry. A must read for book enthusiast and /or McMurtry fans!
Bill Field
Jul 17, 2013 Bill Field rated it really liked it
Larry McMurtry is on the close-mouthed side. He doesn't do a lot of interviews and seems to share the most when he's talking about reading and books ( and vice versa). Which he does in this, which is my favorite of his non-fiction books which I've read ( he claims it's a long essay). It's been several years since I've read it, but he comes close to "memoiring" here, with detailed stories of being a bookish boy, then a bookish man, in west Texas where he had few to relate to in this area. He's ve ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Olivia rated it really liked it
Shelves: texas
I liked this book because it is about Texas, and particularly West Texas. It had several narratives or talking points that I found interesting, including that the entire cowboying phase of the American West lasted only 90 years - about one long lifetime. That is really resonant. I also found interesting the points about how the old-timer cowboys wish they could go back to the unspoilt land, which they helped to spoil, as it were.

The book is also about reading, and loving to read, and about the g
Mar 02, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
Reading Larry McMurtry, the bard of Texas, is never wasted time. And getting to hear his own thoughts unfiltered by fictional characters was, for the most part, a treat.

In essence, this is a book about resisting death. For McMurtry's father, it was about how he maintained a life on the cattle range even as the business was dying. For McMurtry himself, it was about the figurative — his attempts to maintain his bookselling business while the industry collapses — and the literal — his recovery from
Aug 27, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
This is going to appeal more to a McMurtry fan perhaps. It is a bit of a ramble, but the ramble is entertaining and engaging. This is a nice quick read, despite the loose threads associated with the reading of Walter Benjamin he ties them off in a reasonable manner by essay's end.

His concern isn't so much to do with Benjamin's writing so much as a vehicle to discuss story telling and the need for meaningful narrative relative to personal origin. It is concerned with the communal qualities of st
Dec 16, 2007 Roel rated it it was amazing
Being a native of rurual Texas, much like McMurtry, I related much to this book, from the town with no books to a father who leased ranch properties for cattle.

The is semi-autobiographical and McMurtry looks at his life through the books he's read and the life he led in Archer County, Texas.

It's a candid read, such as I enjoy. I like McMurtry when he's writing non-fiction. He's so good at it.

The connectiosn I made during this second reading of the book impacted me much more than when I read the
Daniel Parker
A gem of a book from the great western writer, Larry McMurtry. The closest to being an autobiography, he talks books and writing and growing up in the dead of the West and not wanting to be a cowboy but ending up writing about cowboys and the truth of living hard in the dry West. I enjoyed this for all its personality and sharing how reading and the love of books shaped the man he becomes. Of note, McMurtry had open heart surgery which he writes on how it influenced his habits and thinking. An i ...more
David Low
Sep 03, 2013 David Low rated it liked it
A little self indulgent, but an enjoyable book for anyone looking for a more sober perspective on the experience of the American west. The title is a little misleading, as there is very little about Walter Benjamin in this book, but McMurtry does make a few nice observations about Benjamin's thought. I found the chapters about book collecting kinda tedious, but that's likely to be the case whenever you agree to join someone on a journey into the esoteric details of a hobby you don't share with t ...more
Charles Mcclain
Jul 18, 2014 Charles Mcclain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McMurtry Redux

I chose this rating because I believe that ultimately, a life examined is a life well lived. McMurtry's comfortable conversational style achieves this end in a mature, even noble style.

His occasional snarky and mean comments about other authors don't enhance his image and probably say more about some residual pettiness of his than their shortcomings - Better left unsaid.

I strongly recommend this book to any reader who loves McMurtry's Texas and Molly Ivins more than the Tea Party a
Kenghis Khan
Feb 21, 2010 Kenghis Khan rated it really liked it
All in all the book was well written. McMurty is a little self-absorbed, not in the memoir way but in an annoying way, in places which makes the memoir a lot less accessible. For example, he tries (and in my opinion basically fails) to convey the excitement of the book collector hobby. I never really understood it myself, and McMurty himself acknolwedges as much that it is a difficult subject to tackle. The book also is woefully repetitive, although engaging throughout.
Valerie Oakley
Aug 23, 2012 Valerie Oakley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in books & literature
This is a book to savor, if you are 'engaged' with books. The subtitle, "Reflections at sixty and beyond" gives a clue as to the content. McMurtry muses about growing up in Texas, becoming a writer and, more important to him, I think, a used book collector and seller. There is a long section on book scouting and book selling; he currently has a book store in Archer City, TX (where he grew up)and considers himself an antiquarian book dealer, among other things.
Oct 12, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2013-14-season
You forget just how excellent some authors are - I'll be reading more McMurtry soon. With a precise vocabulary to rival anything by George Will or William F Buckley, McMurtry explores his personal experiences with the nature of storytelling and his experiences as a lover of books from both the creative and consumptive side of the industry. Chock full of references to authors and philosophers I am unfamiliar with, this work will seed my reading lists for years to come.
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Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays.

Among many other accolades he was the co-winner of an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

Larry McMurty was born in Wichita Falls Texas in 1936. His first published book Horseman, Pass By was
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“Great readers (are) those who know early that there is never going to be time to read all there is to read, but do their darnedest anyway.” 1 likes
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