Some Can Whistle

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1972, Danny Deck, exhausted and intoxicated by liquor and hallucinatory mushrooms, waded into the Rio Grande and ceremoniously drowned the manuscript of his second novel. Thus ended Larry McMurty’s novel ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO BE STRANGERS, the portrait of a young writer. In SOME CAN WHISTLE, McMurty brings Danny Deck back, much transformed.

In some ways, the years have been kind to Deck. He emerged from the river to compose the first episode of what became the most popular television show in the nation for six consecutive years. In consequence, he became extremely wealthy--so much so, that when his series was cancelled he was able to retire comfortably to a life of considerable ease and luxury. In reality, however, Deck is simply marking time until death should finally put an end to things--indeed, for all practical purposes he is dead to all normal human emotions and involvements.

Suddenly, however, his long-lost daughter Tyler Rose (T.R.) explodes into his life--complete with two children and the father of one. Overnight Deck must cope with enough chaos and confusion to furnish the writers of a dozen soap operas with material for several episodes. Despite numerous false starts and more than a few mistakes, Danny and T.R. find that trust need not always lead to betrayal and that the object of affection may be flawed but still appreciated.

McMurtry’s urban trilogy (ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO BE STRANGERS, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and MOVING ON) focused on various marriages and their seemingly inevitable dissolution. Indeed, much of his fiction is pervaded by the persistence of failed marriage as a central motif. SOME CAN WHISTLE, on the other hand, examines the frequent consequence of marital collapse--parent-child estrangement. While not overly optimistic, McMurtry’s treatment of this theme suggests that reconciliation can be achieved.