Dixie Diamond's Reviews > Texasville

Texasville by Larry McMurtry
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's review
Dec 24, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, texas, 1980s
Recommended to Dixie Diamond by: Carl
Recommended for: Texans

** spoiler alert ** This book was a lot like Duane himself: Slow-moving, lacking direction, and subject to everyone else's whims.

I like Texasville better than I think it's actually a great book.

However, while I think this is a good book, I don't think it's a great book. It's too chatty and there are too many extraneous characters. Old characters resurrected from The Last Picture Show are not always well-integrated; Abilene's reappearance, in particular, feels like a gratuitous movie cameo. It definitely feels like a sequel.

The intent, I assume, was to show both the havoc that the collapse of the oil industry wreaked, at a personal level, and the melodrama spawned by boredom in small, isolated towns. McMurtry's characters are never short on foibles and character flaws, which is fine, except that in this case the book is overpopulated with both.

Everyone, it seems, is shallow. Duane is shallow and ineffectual but likable. Karla is shallow, perverse, and self-centered. Their children are shallow, outrageously spoiled, and far too numerous; I rarely wish for characters to be killed off but I found myself praying that his sociopathic twins would finally be eaten by coyotes. The new Jacy may or may not be shallow but she is so vaguely written that it's hard to tell. Her grief over her dead child seems occasional and does not ring true; she spends most of her time ganging up with Karla to pick at Duane. Why Duane still loves Karla is pretty hard to say. She must have character traits beyond long legs and a perfect complexion that make up for her nagging, reckless spending, callous sense of humor, and un-parenting, but it's hard to tell what they might be. Suzie Nolan, who is apparently supposed to be a gentler, sweeter alternative to Karla, instead falls flat as a dumber, less sexually discerning, and, if possible, even shallower alternative to Karla.

On the other hand, such a crowded novel does effectively share with the reader Duane's feelings of beleaguerment; we wish we could get away from his insecure girlfriends and obnoxious family, too. By chapter 75 or so, I was sort of hoping Duane would opt for life in a monastery.

Overall, it felt as though McMurtry got too big an idea and wrote one book where he might have better written two; say, one about Thalia's locals 30 years later, and one about Jacy's return. It feels overwritten and uneven; in 97 chapters, it introduces too many new characters as temporary plot-movers and pays scant attention to old ones (Sonny? Sonny? Helloooooo . . . ?).

However, I still like the writing and, on the whole, the book is effective enough in its own right. I will probably also read Duane's Depressed when I'm done here.
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Quotes Dixie Diamond Liked

Larry McMurtry
“I just got gang-egged, or egg-banged or something."

--Sheriff Toots Burns.”
Larry McMurtry, Texasville

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