Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

McMurtry reflects in "Literary Life: A Second Memoir"

By Joachim Koch. Jan 22, 2010. 2:10 PM.

Topics: Book Collecting, American Literature, Biographies

Larry McMurtry has enjoyed a literary career most writers can only dream about. He found success quickly.

Hollywood loves him — and McMurtry has flourished as a screenwriter with 30 screenplays including “Brokeback Mountain,” which won an Oscar.

Born in 1936, McMurtry was raised on a ranch just outside of Archer City, Texas. He’s now mulling over his accomplishments. In 2008 he published the first book in a three-part memoir. “Books” offered a detailed glimpse of McMurtry’s lifelong passion for acquiring and selling rare books. It was one my favorites that year.

He recently published the second installment of his memoirs. “Literary Life: A Second Memoir” looks back at his career as a novelist. This new book is shorter. In the first volume he transmitted a palpable delight in his descriptions of the pursuit of rare books.

This second book feels more like an act of obligation — famous novelist maps out the golden career. He recounts how he became a reader: “ I seem to have learned to read spontaneously, while playing hooky from the first grade.”

He’s almost nonchalant about his good fortune: “money has played a fairly minor part in my career decisions, a fact I attribute to one particular piece of luck: my novels attract good filmmakers, and they have from the first. Nearly a dozen of my books have been filmed, four of them very successfully: “Hud,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Terms of Endearment” and “Lonesome Dove.”

McMurtry almost yawns as he traces his “Literary Life”: “I had expected to be thrilled when I received my first copy of my first book, but when I opened the package and held the first copy in my hand, I found that I just felt sort of flat.” Suppress the yawns, Larry.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some pungent insights here, too. He reveals that “although I think the last 60 pages of ‘Terms of Endearment’ are among the very best pages I’ve written, it was while I was writing them that I began to sour on my own work. The minute I finished that book I fell into a literary gloom that lasted from 1975 until 1983.”

There is a spate of whining about book reviews over the years. “My lack of rising sales might have been easier for Simon and Schuster to tolerate if I had, along the way been producing exceptional reviews, but, in the main, I attracted no reviews.” That was in the 1980s. Even now McMurtry laments that “the lack of interest in my books continues to this day.”

And he is his own harshest critic. He admits: “little of my work in fiction is pedestrian, but, on the other hand, none of it is really great.” And after all this time he isn’t even sure how he became the great book collector, either. “How I came to acquire literary taste at all remains a mystery to me. My parents were indifferent to books, and, indeed, to taste itself, although my father might admire a fine saddle.”

Source: http://www.daytondailynews.com/lifestyle/mcmurtry-reflects-in-literary-life-a-second-memoir-506960.html

collectible books by Larry McMurtry visit Books Tell You Why

Joachim Koch
Book buyer. Bookseller. Factotum Generalis. Believes in not attempting to be the smartest person in room and enjoys growing success.


comments powered by Disqus


  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

About this blog

How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

Get blog notifications per email:

Download the James Bond Dossier

Recent Posts

Book Glossary
Get your free Guide to Book Care

Blog Archive

> see older posts
A Guide to Historic Libraries Part I