>Larry McMurtry is Texas Gold
Larry McMurtry is Texas Gold
When most of us hear the term “western”, we picture Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, or maybe all those Louis Lamar books that take up so much space in the book section at the local supermarket. They’re all fine, but they just can’t compare to the real deal: native-Texan Larry McMurtry’s vivid storytelling.
McMurtry had written other westerns previously, but it wasn’t until his 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winning LONESOME DOVE that he received worldwide recognition. I don’t think any other author has so thoroughly refuted the stereotypes of the American West. McMurtry slices through all the cowboy myths and legends with such skilled grace that we never feel the first cut.
My two favorite male characters of all time come from LONESOME DOVE—Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call (my heroes have always been cowboys). I love that these total opposites are inseparable. Call is the cool Texan—tough as nails, short worded, and rarely showing any emotions other than anger or impatience. He’s a real workaholic, and dismisses anything that isn’t work as silly and unnecessary. Gus is his opposite… a real fun-loving guy (a jokester, philosopher, womanizer, and drinker) who somehow manages to get the job done, too. Though very different, the two are united by the common goal of doing their job well and are fiercely loyal to the task at hand and to their friendship. Reading the two cowboy’s exchanges—which mostly consist of Call trying to get McCrae to work harder, and McCrae trying to get Call to lighten up and enjoy life more—makes me feel like I’m working right along side them, part of the team. (Do these guys bring out my inner cowgirl? Let’s just say I’m seriously rocking my cowgirl boots today. Don’t believe me? See above picture…;))
Creating great Western sagas with wonderful male characters isn’t all McMurtry does well, though; he has also given us a completely different—but equally memorable—female Texan, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT’s Aurora Greenway. There is so much to Aurora…her many colorful suitors, her sassy housekeeper, and her stubborn daughter, Emma. I am still moved to laughter and to tears by McMurtry’s touchingly honest portrayal of a complicated mother/daughter relationship and by the trials and tribulations of Emma’s marriage, family and health. Aurora’s strength and controlling ways are just a mask for her sensitive soul, as she tries to come to terms with her only daughter’s growing up and growing apart from her. Their relationship is a stunning depiction of mothers and daughters and the story stirs emotions that capture that special bond a parent and child can have.
I guess I’d have to say McMurtry’s real talent is in his ability to fashion believable, lovable, and relatable characters and put them into any setting. Even being a spoiled city-girl, I’ve always been able to identify with his characters. The setting of a McMurtry novel may be synonymous with the Western landscape, but his writing works just as well under the big city lights as it does under a starry Texas sky.
And that ‘Pardner” is why I consider Larry McMurtry as good as Texas Gold!