cover image Duane's Depressed

Duane's Depressed

Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster, $26 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-684-85497-7

Pulitzer Prize-winning author McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) offers the final volume in the trilogy that includes the memorable The Last Picture Show (1966) and Texasville (1987). Drawing inspiration from the small Texas town where he grew up, McMurtry limns a wryly comic and finely nuanced portrayal of oil-rich Duane Moore, 62, a leading citizen of small-town Thalia. Depressed for no obvious reason, Duane vexes and bewilders family and community alike when he suddenly parks his identity-defining pickup truck in his carport and starts hoofing it everywhere. His wife, Karla, their adult kids and the small mob of humorously foul-mouthed grandchildren living under his roof grow more confused as his unsettling behavior escalates, especially when he moves to a crude shack six miles out of town. After he turns the family oil business over to eldest son Dickie (newly out of an Arizona drug-rehab center), the delicate symbiosis of the eccentric little town threatens to break down. Duane's symptoms intensify as he consults a comely psychiatrist in Wichita Falls and buys a fancy bicycle. Sudden tragedy disrupts the hero's therapy just as he is starting to come out of his yearlong deep freeze and, with regret and befuddlement, take a long look at his life. Using barren landscapes and drab interiors to emphasize the subtle, potent drama of Duane's search for himself, McMurtry shines as he examines the issues of alienation, grief and the confrontation with personal mortality. Despite a curious distance imposed by limiting the third-person narration almost exclusively to Duane--which at times renders the voice essentially journalistic--this novel represents McMurtry at the top of his form. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club featured alternates. (Jan.) FYI: Scribner is reissuing The Last Picture Show and Texasville in trade paper editions to honor completion of the Thalia trilogy.