Larry McMurtry Essay - McMurtry, Larry (Vol. 11)

McMurtry, Larry (Vol. 11)


McMurtry, Larry 1936–

McMurtry is an American novelist and essayist. His fiction is imbued with images of death and emotional emptiness: the bleakness of modern life in the West is compared to the barren, dry plains of McMurtry's native Texas. His novel The Last Picture Show was made into a highly successful film. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 3, 7, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)

Dorothy Rabinowitz

[As Terms of Endearment proves, Larry McMurtry] is possessed of gifts that seem to be growing ever more rare among American novelists, chief among these being a true and literate wit. There are others: a feeling for place, an abundance of energy, and an absolute commitment to the depths and lines of character. This is not to say that his saga of a Houston family is without flaws, for there are a number here, among the more serious of which is Mr. McMurtry's tendency to nudge the reader overmuch and to tell him what to feel. That aside, one is quickly absorbed in the world of his novel, a small but intense universe made vivid by the character of Aurora…. [Aurora] is a testament not alone to Mr. McMurtry's talent for characterization but also to the delights of those two classical virtues of the novel, surprise and civilized discourse. (p. 57)

Dorothy Rabinowitz, in Saturday Review (© 1976 by Saturday Review/World, Inc.; reprinted with permission), January 10, 1976.

David Bartholomew

McMurtry's point of view [in Somebody's Darling], in detailing dozens of brightly drawn, often scary characters, ranges from acerbic satire to bitter horror; the weakest section, the middle one, by the producer, is as coarse, shallow, and foul-mouthed as its narrator. McMurtry really tells us nothing new about Hollywood—that the purveyors of fantasies are mostly low-spirited, corrupt, and earthbound—but the novel is engrossing, if never as moving as it is knowingly shocking. (p. 2134)

David Bartholomew, in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1978 by Xerox Corporation), October 15, 1978.

[In Somebody's Darling, McMurtry] has perhaps attempted the impossible: he's portraying today's Hollywood, from the inside, in all its glossy ugliness, while at the same time trying to coax from that milieu some tenderness, some equivalent for the dead nostalgia of old-time Holly-wood. And in the first third of this novel, it seems that he's truly succeeding…. [The] scenes in N.Y. may become cartoony …, but the texture of Jill and Joe's prickly fondness against the vacant crassness of the film biz is a tragicomic triumph. Then, however, the narration is picked up by Owen Oarson…. [The] fight-and-make-up affair between faithful Jill and promiscuous Owen—most of the rest of the book—never quite clicks, not even when Jill herself becomes the narrator. Happily, the focus does finally return to Jill and Joe…. If, however, McMurtry can't quite illuminate Jill's romantic waywardness, he zeroes in acutely on each character's romance with the film industry: Jill's doomed passion for it, Joe's surly affection for it, Owen's rape of it and by it. On location in Rome, at Hollywood parties …, at business lunches—the details and dropped names ring true, the dialogue crackles, and the characters glow. And, perhaps most remarkably of all, McMurtry has adopted the relentless four-letter-worded vocabulary and groinal preoccupations of Hollywood without surrendering some intangible thread of clean-hearted decency—just one of the elusive charms that make this imperfect but lovable book the closest thing to the New Hollywood novel to come along so far. (pp. 966-67)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1978 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), September 1, 1978.

Jill Robinson

[In Somebody's Darling, an] arresting, kindly and wry novel about love, hope and fame, Larry McMurtry manages to be funny as he slouches through Hollywood without ever becoming cruel, cynical or mean-spirited. There is something about everyone here—and something for everyone who has ever felt longing….

McMurtry is a writer's writer, and most of the real readers in America have read one or more of his books, Horseman, Pass By; All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers; The Last Picture Show, among others. I had some wrong-headed idea he was sort of the Clint Eastwood of serious writers—his books would be, I was sure, lean tough books about cowboys being sad in bars. I have some catching up to do. To be sure, there are cowboys here in Somebody's Darling—the craggy, footloose romantics, the workers of Hollywood who regard productions as cattle drives and then raise hell in the canyons, take off in their big old convertibles—or sit around talking about the big, bad, good old days.

The main character, the "Darling" of the title is Jill Peel, a director on the verge of fame….

She is a completely refreshing, new person, and like Joe Percy, the old screenwriter through whose eyes we first see Jill, we love her and fear for her all the while having complete confidence in this competent, industrious, maybe dangerously considerate survivor that she is. (p. E5)


(The entire section is 433 words.)