THE LAST PICTURE SHOW was Larry McMurtry’s youthful novel of growing up in a small Texas town in the 1950’s. In that book, Thalia was a community on its last legs, its condition symbolized by the closing of the last motion-picture theater in town. TEXASVILLE, the sequel, covers several weeks as the town of Thalia prepares to celebrate its centennial, although it actually has very little to celebrate. After a decade of oil wealth, the town finds its economy failing as a result of OPEC’s price cutting. Duane Moore faces bankruptcy, although he continues to live in high style. To complicate matters, his old love Jacy Farrow has returned to town after a career as a modestly successful actress, mostly in foreign films. Although she and Duane are still attracted to each other, Jacy becomes friends with Duane’s raucous and willful wife Karla and with Duane and Karla’s uncontrollable children. Duane begins to wonder about the future of both his business and his family.
The book, however, is as much about the past as the present. Duane finds himself wistfully remembering his days as a high school football hero and ironically comparing his present situation to that image. His friend Sonny Crawford has more seriously slipped into the past, to the extent that he has begun to disconnect with the present altogether. It is Jacy, who has suffered the death of her child, and Karla who insist on the importance of facing the present and of celebrating the actuality of being alive.
TEXASVILLE is a big, comic novel. It rambles and sprawls, and it runs out of energy before the end of the story. McMurtry, however, can be a wonderful storyteller with a sharp eye for the absurd and the foolish. He feels such affection for his characters, even the most hypocritical and sanctimonious of them, that the reader is perfectly willing to let him spin his tale in any way he chooses.