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Young, R.M. (1986). The novels of Larry McMurtry. Free Associations, 1(5):143-144.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(5):143-144

The novels of Larry McMurtry

Review by:
Robert M. Young

Not a name to which most people easily attach titles, yet Larry McMurtry's characterizations of human tenderness, idiosyncrasy and compassion are among the most widely disseminated and moving ones in popular culture. Of his ten novels, I know of at least four which have been made into films, three of which portray networks of deeply touching relationships. One of them — about the relationships between a crazy (not mad) mother, her dying daughter and her posse of cowed boyfriends — brought Academy Awards to Shirley Maclaine and Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment. In another, The Last Picture Show, Sonny's relations with his friend Duane, his hero, Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson's finest role), and his affair with the coach's wife (Cloris Leachman) are almost unbearably poignant evocations of adolescence. In Hud, the burdens of integrity and guilt and inheritance are played out among Melvin Douglas, the patriarchial cattleman, his no-good son Paul Newman, the young Brandon de Wilde, torn between his admired elders, and Patricia Neal as the mediating and seductive housekeeper (transformed from a black woman in the book to a white woman in the film). Once again, Academy Awards and nominations all round.

McMurtry's other novels are full of tenderness and, above all, compassion for human frailty and eccentricity.

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