The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
The Last Picture Show was one of Larry McMurtry’s earliest publications. He was born and raised on a ranch outside Archer City, Texas and used his actual home town as the model for Thalia, Texas, the fictitious location for this novel.
The Last Picture Show takes place in the mid 1950’s. It was a time in history when every small town had their own single screen movie theater on Main Street; a place for teens to congregate and young couples to gather in the back row to hold hands and experiment with their first romantic moments. It was a time when guys wore their hair slicked back in duck tails and frequently whipped out a comb to smooth down the sides. It was common for kids to pop open a can of beer while driving around in an old American made vehicle… their girlfriends snuggled up next to them on the car’s bench seat. As the novel begins, two high school seniors, Sonny and Duane- wild, tough, and flooded with testosterone, are best friends and stars of the school football team. Respectable folks in town called them roughnecks. They both came from poor dysfunctional families with no parental guidance and when they were not sleeping through classes, working part time jobs, playing football, or hanging out at the movie theater, they were trying to have sex, thinking about sex, talking about sex, and dreaming about sex. It sounds like an adventurous “boys will be boys” comedy, but there is nothing funny about The Last Picture Show.
Some scenes are painfully crude and intensely graphic. Graphic parts are downright trashy. Be prepared to face the harsh reality that sex is often nothing more than a ploy. Some people use sex for entertainment or to gain control or boast of their power. Some use sex as a desperate attempt for attention or to make others jealous. And then there are a few fortunate people who actually use sex to express love and devotion. All this is happening as Sonny and Duane struggle to find meaningful relationships and escape the inertia of living in Thalia.
Typical of all Larry McMurtry’s writing, the characters in The Last Picture Show come to life… and whether you like them or detest them, they present powerful images that stay with you long after you close the book. Classified as a trilogy, The Last Picture Show is followed by Texasville which takes place in 1984, and Duane’s Depressed which takes place in the 1990s. Thus, because of the lengthy time lapse between segments, it is not so much a continuing story, but does follow the character Duane through different periods of his life.
The film version of The Last Picture Show won 2 Academy awards and was nominated for 6 including Best Picture. Many years later McMurtry won the Pulitzer Prize for his most famous book Lonesome Dove.
Rated 4.5 Stars January 2011
All contents © 2011 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.