Reading: McMurtry’s Literary Life

I was browsing the “New” books section at my local library and I happened upon Larry McMurtry‘s latest book, a memoir with reflections on his literary career, entitled Literary Life: A Second Memoir. This memoir is preceded by Books and will be followed by Mr. McMurtry’s memories of working on films in Hollywood. Mr. McMurtry does not outright list his favorite books and authors, but with some effort, a reader can discern some of his favorite books of literary criticism, as well as some of his favorite novels and authors.
Remembering that I heard his renowned book store in Archer City, Texas, was not going to be around much longer, I was pleased to learn from the store’s website that Booked Up is now doing better and is going to survive the downturn in the economy. Thank goodness I still have a chance to visit and must take the opportunity to do so very soon. I cannot wait to see the complex of five buildings holding all of McMurtry’s collections.
The book is dedicated to David Streitfeld, who I learned is a book reporter/journalist friend of McMurtry’s. He is also a rare book collector like McMurtry and is best known for discovering the identity of the author of Primary Colors.
So who are some of Mr. McMurtry’s favorite authors and what are some of his favorite books? Some I have never heard of and a few I have read. A sampling of some of these are:

City of Night, John Rechy
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer
Goodbye to a River, John Graves
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

I counted at least five Hemingway references throughout the book. The “prose models” he recommends for young readers are E.M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh. Other books dealing with literary criticism are:

The Romantic Agony, Mario Praz
In Quest of the Perfect Book, William Dana Orcutt
Studies in Classic American Literature, D.H. Lawrence
ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound
The Summing Up, Somerset Maugham
I found his experiences of living in D.C. and then in New York City as president of the PEN American Center intriguing, as well as his friendship with Susan Sontag. I also enjoyed learning how he came up with the title for Lonesome Dove.
I am definitely going to turn this book in and check out Books, and I await the publication of his Hollywood memoir.

  2 comments for “Reading: McMurtry’s Literary Life

  1. April 23, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    I haven’t had any luck with his fiction, but I did like his memoir Books.

  2. April 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM


    Honestly, I haven’t even tried to read any of his fiction yet. But I intend to . . . First, I am going to check out Booked Up since I am not that far away. And then second, I am going to check out Books. MDC

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