All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers Summary
by Larry McMurtry

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All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

McMurtry has said that Danny Deck, his protagonist in his fourth novel, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, is close to him in his sensibilities. In McMurtry’s words: “It is true that the better you write the worse you live. The more of yourself you take out of real relationships and project into fantasy relationship the more the real relationships suffer.”

In his fourth novel, McMurtry turns from the ranch country around Thalia and begins what has been called the Houston or urban trilogy. Danny Deck, a young student at Rice University, is from the ranching country around Archer City, Texas, but he has cast his lot with an urban way of life beyond the imagination of Homer Bannon or Sonny Crawford. As the novel opens, Danny meets tall, beautiful, remote Sally Bynum at a party in Austin and, immediately smitten, talks her into going back to Houston with him, where they marry. Sally, like Jacy Farrow in The Last Picture Show, is self-centered; she is immune to both Danny’s love and his anger. Within a month, Sally has walked out on him several times. In the midst of his perplexity, he receives a telegram from Random House telling him that it will publish his first novel, “The Restless Grass” (which in plot is similar to Horseman, Pass By). One dream is coming true, even as another may be taken away.

Danny’s life is disjointed, because of both his sudden marriage and his publishing success. He turns to his best friends, Flap and Emma Horton. Emma’s warm, bright kitchen provides him with a sense of order and normalcy, but she cannot keep Danny from feeling that he has been dislodged from his life in Houston and from his friends. Danny and Sally go to San Francisco, where his feelings of displacement grow. Sally, now pregnant, cuts him out of her life. He leaves, moving to a sleazy hotel, where he works on his second book.

Here his crisis deepens. More authors fill San Francisco than Danny knew even existed. He realizes that they cannot all be great and wonders whether he can be. If so, he wonders, at what cost? He meets Jill Peel, an intelligent and honest twenty-four-year-old artist who has won an Academy Award for her animated cartoons. She seems to love him but is sexually unresponsive, for reasons she will not explain. She is, she tells him, no longer a woman, only an artist. She has made for herself the decision that Danny is avoiding: to live for art rather than for friends or lovers.

Danny returns to Texas, where Sally has gone to have their baby. The trip begins a long, exhausting period of sleeplessness, alcohol, and drugs. Danny’s life is out of control: “My life was no life. It was sort of a long confused drive.”

If new ways of life in California have nothing for him, can he return to the ranch country of his ancestors? He visits his ninety-two-year-old Uncle Laredo, who, with his cook, Lorenzo, lives forty-seven miles off the paved road, deep in the harshest and most desolate country that Texas offers. Laredo owns a four-story, twenty-eight-room Victorian mansion, but he camps behind it and cooks out over an open fire. A hundred years earlier, Laredo would have been a legendary rancher; now he is a bitter parody of those men. He hates cattle and will not let them on his place; he raises goats, camels, and antelope. The half-crazed old man forces his ranch hands to occupy themselves by digging holes in the earth. In a parody of Homer Bannon and his...

(The entire section is 911 words.)