Friday, March 26, 2021

Larry McMurtry - Dead at 84

 

Larry McMurtry in one of his several Booked Up store locations in Archer City (I think this was taken on the Saturday that the author was liquidating most of the stock in his several locations throughout the city, an event I attended along with hundreds of others from all over the world).

I have been around long enough now that I've been reading some of my favorite authors for twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years. That means that I'm starting to lose them one by one now, and yesterday I lost one of the guys I've been reading for over fifty years, Larry McMurtry.

I discovered Larry sometime in the late sixties, back in the days when his connections to Houston were more obvious than they would be in his later years. He was a graduate of the city's Rice University and set some of his earliest novels in Houston. But it was after Larry decided to open up one of his bookstores near the old SPCA dog pound inside Loop 610 that I really felt connected to the man. I don't know how often he manned the cash register himself, but I ran into him there on several Sunday afternoons over the years, and I found him to be quite the bookseller. Depending on the number of shoppers in his little bookshop, Larry was always willing to talk books and book-searches with me until I found just the right thing to make my 25-mile drive to Booked Up worth the frustrating traffic that had to be negotiated to get there. 

According to the beautifully written obituary in the New York Times, Larry McMurtry died (very appropriately) in his Archer City, Texas, home from congestive heart failure on March 25.

He will always be remembered, of course, for the Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove, but he also wrote books (many of which became classic movies) like: The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Horseman Pass By (the movie version was called Hud), and others. Six of his novels were set in Houston: Moving On (1970), All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers (1972), Terms of Endearment (1975), Somebody's Darling (1978), Some Can Whistle (1989), and The Evening Star (1992). 

Fans of the wonderful characters in Lonesome Dove will be pleased to know, too, that McMurtry added to their legend in three 1990s novels: Streets of Laredo, Dead Man's Walk, and Comanche Moon. 

It broke my heart a little when Larry McMurtry decided that he had published his last book, but that feeling is dwarfed by the realization that he is really gone now. Gone but never forgotten.


The middle shelf is home to most of my Larry McMurtry books, but the book I'm proudest to own is a first printing of Lonesome Dove. That one sits on a different shelf along with a couple of other first printings of some of his earlier books. 

16 comments:

  1. That is sad to lose this accomplished author and book lover and book store owner. His voice was unique and it sounds like you had a significant connection to him.

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    1. The connection was significant to me, Terra, but I'm sure he never really much knew I existed. The great thing about McMurtry, though, is that he loved books so much that he was willing to help out anyone who shared his passion. He left behind a personal library of 30,000 volumes.

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear this Sam, I'm sure you feel this loss very keenly. But what brilliant memories you have of his books and a wonderful collection to boot.

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    1. Coincidentally, I'm still re-reading Lonesome Dove right now, Cath. That makes this particular re-read seem kind of poignant.

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  3. You have a remarkable collection of his books, Sam. McMurtry truly is a legend in the book field, and you had the opportunity to have his conversation in person. It is always hard to lose a beloved author.

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    1. I bought several of the ones I have from McMurtry's Houston bookstore...never when he was behind the counter, though. I thought about carrying some of them around with me on my Sunday excursions to the store in case he was there, but that never felt quite right to me, so never did. Good memories, though, you're right about that.

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  4. How personal of a loss for you Sam, sorry to read this - he certainly made an impact on many. And, the yesterday Beverly Cleary as well, my daughter loved her books as a child.

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    1. Beverly Cleary got a lot of my money over the years, for sure, Diane. We have two daughters who read most everything she wrote while growing up...and since each wanted their own copy of the books, I got to buy everything twice. :-)

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  5. Great post, Sam. My heart broke yesterday with the added news of Beverly Cleary's passing... my first favorite author.

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    1. Like I mentioned to Diane, JoAnn, we spent a lot of money on Beverly Cleary books in this family. My oldest daughter still uses the books in her classroom to this day.

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  6. Sadly gone...but definitely never forgotten!

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    1. He definitely left his mark, Lark, and should be remembered for a long, long time. I always wonder which of today's writers will be read in 100 or 200 years from now. Not many, I suspect, but I think McMurtry's chances are pretty good.

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  7. I was sorry to hear about the passing of Larry McMurty. Such a great writer and one of my goals is to read his novel Moving On. I started that book years ago and always meant to get back to it. Thanks for sharing your memories of him Sam.

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    1. It's been years and years since I read Moving On, but now I'm thinking a re-read is in order soon, Kathy. At this point, all I have left of that experience is a general impression of the novel. Re-reads are always a little dangerous, though...they can be disappointing. :-)

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  8. I thought of you when I heard the news about McMurty's death. It's sad when beloved authors passed on. I didn't know about your personal connection with McMurty, though - sounds like he was a great man. Also, I didn't realize he wrote TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. I might have to read that one after I revisit LONESOME DOVE.

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    1. (I replied earlier, but inadvertently deleted my comment while trying to get rid of some Chinese spam at the same time.)

      In essence, what I said earlier was that my "connection" with McMurtry was special to me but that I'm sure it was nothing unusual for McMurtry. I suspect he enjoyed talking books with people who shared his love for them, and that he did it with hundreds of people.

      Your mention of Terms of Endearment reminded me of how tired McMurtry was said to be of talking about Lonesome Dove...he felt that's all he would ever be remembered for writing. Funny, isn't it, how someone's biggest success in life can turn into more of a burden than a blessing.

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