Hot Best Seller

Literary Life: A Second Memoir

Availability: Ready to download

"I had expected to be thrilled when I received my first copy of my first book, but when I opened the package and held the first copy in my hand, I found that I just felt sort of flat," writes Larry McMurtry in Literary Life. "I learned then and have relearned many times since, that the best part of a writer's life is actually doing it, making up characters, filling the bla "I had expected to be thrilled when I received my first copy of my first book, but when I opened the package and held the first copy in my hand, I found that I just felt sort of flat," writes Larry McMurtry in Literary Life. "I learned then and have relearned many times since, that the best part of a writer's life is actually doing it, making up characters, filling the blank page, creating scenes that readers in distant places might connect to. The thrill lies in the rush of sentences, the gradual arrival of characters who at once seem to have their own life." McMurtry is that rarest of artists, a prolific and genre-transcending writer as popular with reviewers as he is with his readers. The author of more than forty books -- including essay collections, memoirs, and novels ranging from the Duane Moore series that began with The Last Picture Show to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove -- McMurtry has delighted generations with his witty and elegant prose. In Literary Life, the sequel to Books, McMurtry expounds on life on the private side: the trials and triumphs of being a writer.From his earliest inkling of his future career while at Rice University, to his tenure as a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford with Ken Kesey in 1960, to his incredible triumphs as a bestselling author, Literary Life retains all the intimacy and charm of McMurtry's previous autobiographical works. Replete with literary anecdotes and packed with memorable observations about writing, writers, and the author himself, the book provides a rare glimpse into the life and intellect of a brilliantly insightful man. It is a work that will be cherished not only by McMurtry's admirers, but by the innumerable aspiring writers who seek to make their own mark on American literature.


Compare

"I had expected to be thrilled when I received my first copy of my first book, but when I opened the package and held the first copy in my hand, I found that I just felt sort of flat," writes Larry McMurtry in Literary Life. "I learned then and have relearned many times since, that the best part of a writer's life is actually doing it, making up characters, filling the bla "I had expected to be thrilled when I received my first copy of my first book, but when I opened the package and held the first copy in my hand, I found that I just felt sort of flat," writes Larry McMurtry in Literary Life. "I learned then and have relearned many times since, that the best part of a writer's life is actually doing it, making up characters, filling the blank page, creating scenes that readers in distant places might connect to. The thrill lies in the rush of sentences, the gradual arrival of characters who at once seem to have their own life." McMurtry is that rarest of artists, a prolific and genre-transcending writer as popular with reviewers as he is with his readers. The author of more than forty books -- including essay collections, memoirs, and novels ranging from the Duane Moore series that began with The Last Picture Show to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove -- McMurtry has delighted generations with his witty and elegant prose. In Literary Life, the sequel to Books, McMurtry expounds on life on the private side: the trials and triumphs of being a writer.From his earliest inkling of his future career while at Rice University, to his tenure as a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford with Ken Kesey in 1960, to his incredible triumphs as a bestselling author, Literary Life retains all the intimacy and charm of McMurtry's previous autobiographical works. Replete with literary anecdotes and packed with memorable observations about writing, writers, and the author himself, the book provides a rare glimpse into the life and intellect of a brilliantly insightful man. It is a work that will be cherished not only by McMurtry's admirers, but by the innumerable aspiring writers who seek to make their own mark on American literature.

30 review for Literary Life: A Second Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Here McMurtry provides a chatty, low-impact tour of notable influences and turning points in his literary life. I got a certain amount of pleasure from little vignettes and intersections with famous lights in the literary world, but I think most prospective readers would have to be a real fan of his books to get significant rewards from reading this. That is certainly true for me, as he is my favorite author of all. Over the decades I’ve read 29 of his 33 novels. On the other hand, I’ve only rea Here McMurtry provides a chatty, low-impact tour of notable influences and turning points in his literary life. I got a certain amount of pleasure from little vignettes and intersections with famous lights in the literary world, but I think most prospective readers would have to be a real fan of his books to get significant rewards from reading this. That is certainly true for me, as he is my favorite author of all. Over the decades I’ve read 29 of his 33 novels. On the other hand, I’ve only read 3 of his 14 nonfiction works. A big reward from this volume was coming to understand his special pride in achieving his ambition at becoming a “man of letters” and catching on to how his output in a long stretch of his mature years has leaned toward essays, personal and travel memoirs, and reviews. “Literary Life” is second in a memoir trilogy. An earlier volume, “Books”, covers his life as a “bookman”, i.e. a collector and manager of bookstores in Archer City, Texas, and Washington DC. A subsequent one, “Hollywood”, delves into his life in connection with film-making. I was surprised to learn that fully a dozen of his books were filmed, the most notable being “Hud”, “The Last Picture Show”, “Terms of Endearment”, and “Lonesome Dove” (movie and miniseries). He considers himself lucky to get sustaining income from the book trade and script writing. There was one point when he was teaching at Rice University and had achieved tenure, but he broke away from the academic track to open a rare bookstore in DC with his wife Marcia Carter. I haven’t read either of these memoirs as I mainly am interested in background to help me appreciate his fiction. I appreciate the humility McMurtry shows in his judgment of his own work. Though much admiring of the more experimental writing of the Beats, the postmodernists, and the New Journalism by the likes of Tom Wolfe, he is almost apologetic for choosing the path of old-fashioned realism: I believe the one gift I had that led me to a career in fiction was the ability to make up characters that readers connect with. My characters move them, which is also why those same characters move them when they meet them on the screen. There's not a lot here on his approach to writing, but I appreciated this distillation of how he invests in his characters: The thrill lies in the rush of sentences, the gradual arrival of characters who at once seem to have their own life. Faulkner said that he just listens to his own characters and writes down what they say. I watch mine, and try, like Conrad, to make the reader see what’s going on. You soon lose the sense, in writing fiction, that you yourself are making things happen. We get very little personal information about McMurtry’s family and early upbringing beyond citing his getting hooked on books at age six by a collection of adventure and hunting tales left him by a cousin going off to war in 1942. We get some interesting details on some of his early mentors and literary excursions in college at Rice and then in grad school at a small state college, where he took his first writing class. Though he wrote 63 short stories, he reports destroying them all shortly before graduating. Of his participation in the famous writing program at Stanford, we get short shrift in terms of coverage of any key inspiration or help on shaping his drafts of his first two manuscripts (Stegner was away on sabbatical). Instead, we get some details on his competitiveness with fellow student Ken Kesey. More than individual authors, it is the broader community of people on many walks of life behind literature that spurred him on: To a beginning writer such as myself even the slightest literary ferment was good. Professors, book editors, reviewers, journalists, book salesmen, fellow beginners, authors of first books, girl (and boy) friends and mistresses of all of the above, drew me in and made me believe that this was a game I could have a part in; at the very least I could teach. He discusses literary styles and genres in various ways, but this one quote is the only nugget on the craft of writing that sticks with me: The thrill lies in the rush of sentences, the gradual arrival of characters who at once seem to have their own life. Faulkner said that he just listens to his own characters and writes down what they say. I watch mine, and try, like Conrad, to make the reader see what’s going on. You soon lose the sense, in writing fiction, that you yourself are making things happen. Two of my favorite reads of McMurtry are his early novels “Leaving Cheyenne” (1962) and “The Last Picture Show” (1966), both coming of age tales set in rural Texas in the 50s. The first is a tale of two friends who share the love of a same woman over a long haul, with their contrasting and converging perspectives on the same events in their lives. The second is so bleak, yet touched with grace, humor, and hopeful resilience. Another favorite is “Terms of Endearment” (1975), which is wonderful in its portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship as young Emma deals with a philandering husband, motherhood, and cancer in the academic community in Houston. His ability with this to make you laugh and cry at nearly the same time is a high art. I go with the crowd (and Pulitzer Prize committee) in tagging “Lonesome Dove” (1985) an overall favorite. His 10th book, it was the first to sell more than five thousand copies. The sprawling saga of a challenging cattle drive from southern Texas to northern Montana is for many the best fictional portrait of the post-Civil War American West. For me its elaboration of the friendship between ex-Texas Rangers Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call—the former jocular, romantic, and literate and the latter terse, moralistic, and stubborn-- was a profound pleasure (perhaps only matched by that between Aubrey and Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s nautical series on the Napoleonic Wars). I had to wait another 19 years to read another McMurtry in the same 5-star league as these others, which was “Folly and Glory” (2004), the final volume of his tetralogy “The Berrybender Narrative.” Some of my Goodreads friends sampled a book or two in the sequences of “The Last Picture Show” (recently concluded at five novels) or the “Lonesome Dove” tetralogy, but only one sustained the hunt for another winner through this tragicomic saga of an aristocratic family’s hunting tour of the West in the 1830s (and he gave it two stars). For me, the character of the British Lord’s daughter Tasmin stands tall for larger-than-life characters in fiction, so lusty, resourceful, and open to loving both a primitive frontiersman and the educated son of Sacagawea. I also felt that the parody and satire in the series did an effective job in heralding the greed, exploitation, and genocide already dominant in the West three decades after Lewis and Clarke’s epic exploration. I feel in left field on my affinity with the series. In a review of the one-volume collection of the tetralogy, a snide critic in a 2011 issue of the Texas Monthly made the following conclusion, painful for me to read: The epic already having been written, all that is left for McMurtry to do is create a mock epic (on the order of Don Quixote) or revamp Father Knows Best. McMurtry chooses the latter. In a book about the wild, wild West, it is depressing how many chapters take place in a nursery: there’s an excess of mothers, milk, munchkins, munchies, and milquetoast males. Meanwhile, out on the prairie, the frontiersman Jim Snow performs heroic deeds and kills bad Injuns when he’s not spouting biblically inspired exfoliations of the Word. It’s as though McMurtry took the worst of James Fenimore Cooper and married it to the worst of Jane Austen. In McMurtry’s opinion, his best novel is “Duane’s Depressed”, number 3 in his “Last Picture Show” series. He admits to loving this blue-collar character and the evolution of his self-understanding, and, in concluding his life in the recent “Rhino Ranch”, to missing him like lost friend or family member. He says the same about the character Emma Horton; however, I think her mother Aurora Greenway was more endearing to me (played so well by Shirley MacLaine in the movies). I was happy to see this judgment of “Terms of Endearment”: Although I think the last sixty pages of Terms of Endearment are among the very best pages I have written, it was while I was writing them that I began to sour on my own work. The minute I finished that book I fell into a literary gloom that lasted from 1975 until 1983, when the miracle of The Desert Rose snapped me out of it. On his “Leaving Cheyenne”, he demurs on it bearing any reliable wisdom about love relationships: It’s a Jules et Jim-like novel about a very long relationship between a rancher, his hired hand, and the woman they both love. I was very young and cannot have known much about long relationships when I wrote it, but still, it seemed to work and is the very favorite of many of my readers. On “Lonesome Dove” he notes it has had the opposite impact from its overall thrust: It’s certainly a book with some power, and part of the power comes from the fact that we’re retracing a myth—the myth of the cowboy, or of the American West as a whole. … I don’t dislike Lonesome Dove … The book has reinforced the myth by being made into an extremely appealing and successful miniseries, which will achieve its twentieth anniversary this year. … What I learned from writing it was that myth is tenacious. Any attempt to deromanticize the cowboy will only boomerang and end up striking whatever it attempts to debunk. Of his nonfiction he is most happy with “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen”, which I need to read. He describes it as part autobiography about his heart attack and its consequences and exploration of Dairy Queens as a venue for the dying art of oral storytelling. McMurtry provides generous acknowledgement of the support and impact of his editor for most of his career, Simon & Schuster’s Michael Korda, who is also a fellow author that I appreciate. For example: Moving On was not the Great American Novel but for a time I thought it was. The only person to share my opinion was my new editor, Michael Korda. This memoir reads a lot like a casual conversation, which has its pluses and minues. So often, like in a discussion, he qualifies his revelations of fact with “I think” or “perhaps”, even though the points in issue could readily be checked with research. It is easy to suspect laziness behind such qualifications of facts presented (e.g. Kesey’s first two manuscripts being burned up in a fire). I ended up concluding that the concern was with McMurtry’s state of mind with respect to writing and how he got there, so perceived truth trumps reality I suppose. As I noted, he shows grace in his humility, and it doesn’t seem false: Should I be bitter about the literary establishment’s long disinterest in me? I shouldn’t, and mostly I’m not, though I do admit to the occasional moment of irritation. …Time will sort us out, determine who was really good from who was mediocre. This does not mean I think I’m very likely to make the high-end cut. Little of my work in fiction is pedestrian, but, on the other hand, none of it is really great. Maybe it will seem better to readers fifty years from now than it does to me today. Meanwhile, I wish more of my Goodreads friends will give more of his works a chance.

  2. 5 out of 5

    D. Pow

    First off, let me say I am huge fan of Larry McMurtry. I’ve read many of his novels, found them all fine and consider Lonesome Dove one of the greatest western novels ever, and one of the finest American Novels of the last fifty years. I dug his and Diane Ossana’s screenplay to Brokeback Mountain, thought it expanded the original story in scope and emotional resonance. But, man, this book sucks. It is the most slip-shod, lamely constructed work I’ve read by a major American author I’ve read sinc First off, let me say I am huge fan of Larry McMurtry. I’ve read many of his novels, found them all fine and consider Lonesome Dove one of the greatest western novels ever, and one of the finest American Novels of the last fifty years. I dug his and Diane Ossana’s screenplay to Brokeback Mountain, thought it expanded the original story in scope and emotional resonance. But, man, this book sucks. It is the most slip-shod, lamely constructed work I’ve read by a major American author I’ve read since I labored through Delillo’s Falling Man. There is no laboring here really. The proceedings are glib and frothy, meandering nowhere at the ambling pace of a horse one day away from the glue factory. McMurtry talks about his development as a writer and the prose is so vague and obtuse that there is no way for the reader to discern what personal epiphanies he has had or lessons of craft or literary discernment he has arrived at. There are profiles of people he has met and times spent with the other writers and it all so shallow and boring, it is like a series of strung together gossip columns, but empty of the whiff of sex, glamour and low-level scandal that makes gossip so addictive. An example of this is the utterly trite and unrevealing chapter about the great writer, Wallace Stegner. He is a writer I love for the clarity of his prose and constant concern for the American land and its people. Here he comes off as a dotty, avuncular fool but it’s hard to take McMurtry’s insights serious since everything else here is so leaden and dull. Embedded in the text somewhere is a line about McMurtry considering himself a better non-fiction writer than a novelist and wondering if that is where lasting import he has in American letters will rest. Larry, you are wrong. This is a bad book that would have never been published if your name wasn’t on it. He has promised another book about his time in Hollywood and hopefully it will be better than this train wreck. If not? Is there a glue factory for old Western writers? Or maybe the publishers can just reprint Lonesome Dove again…

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    this book is a sequel of sorts to the wonderful books which i just finished a few hours ago. while that book dealt almost exclusively with mcmurty's career in the antiquarian book trade, this one deals with his career as a writer, and as such did not hold my interest nearly as much. as i have only read 4 of his books, i am by no means an expert on his work, but even if i was, i don't think i would have liked this book anyway. it is very disjointed, and quite frankly, downright boring. he has a thi this book is a sequel of sorts to the wonderful books which i just finished a few hours ago. while that book dealt almost exclusively with mcmurty's career in the antiquarian book trade, this one deals with his career as a writer, and as such did not hold my interest nearly as much. as i have only read 4 of his books, i am by no means an expert on his work, but even if i was, i don't think i would have liked this book anyway. it is very disjointed, and quite frankly, downright boring. he has a third volume of memoirs out, which deals with his career in hollywood, in so much as many of his books have been made into movies or mini-series, none of which i have seen, and he also had a fair bit of success with writing screenplays. i have no interest in reading that book at all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Literary Life: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry is a positively charming, humorous, and enormously entertaining book. It consists of highly-digestible, short-ish chapters written in a friendly, informal style, as if one is sitting with McMurtry in a bar or coffee shop listening to him recount his novel-writing journey. But it also has snippet references to movie script-writing, which he mentions several times, each time swearing that will come in Hollywood, memoir number three. McMurtry succeeds Literary Life: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry is a positively charming, humorous, and enormously entertaining book. It consists of highly-digestible, short-ish chapters written in a friendly, informal style, as if one is sitting with McMurtry in a bar or coffee shop listening to him recount his novel-writing journey. But it also has snippet references to movie script-writing, which he mentions several times, each time swearing that will come in Hollywood, memoir number three. McMurtry succeeds in seeding every chapter with at least one or two really interesting tidbits. For example, the writing of Terms of Endearment was conducted in America and two other countries, Italy and Switzerland, to which McMurtry accompanied his son who was on location shooting a movie. Having left his own typewriter at home, McMurtry was faced with “vexing” keyboard differences on the foreign typewriters: in Italy, where he expected As or possible Es, there were Zs. In Switzerland there were other differences. McMurtry says: “Because of the two [foreign] typewriters the first draft of Terms of Endearment is a crazy quilt of As and Zs that seem really out of place.” How McMurtry arrived at the title Lonesome Dove is equally fascinating. McMurtry knew that the novel would be long, long enough that he interrupted two drafts of the work to write two other novels, Cadillac Jack and The Desert Rose. However, he still didn’t have the perfect title, until he dined at a steakhouse in Ponder, Texas, called Ranchman’s, which he had patronized “with some regularity for about fifty-five years.” On the side of a bus parked by an old church, McMurtry saw written Lonesome Dove Baptist Church. “If ever I had an epiphany,” says McMurtry, “it was at that moment: I had, at last, found a title for the trail driving book.” Literary Life is also about McMurtry’s inveterate book collecting, although he prefers to be labeled a “book accumulator.” From the earliest days of his success as an author, he scoured wherever he happened to be for bookshops failing for one reason or another, and purchased them. At one point, he amassed his collection in three to five buildings in his hometown or Archer City, Texas, as a retail outlet called Booked Up. The memoir is also about hundreds of other writers McMurtry met, befriended, and admired. He is unstinting with compliments for other writers, and one can tell he learned from them, too. The tone of Literary Life is often a little aw-shucks, as if McMurtry’s unquestionable success and popularity as an author just happened to him, and wasn’t the result of tenacious, hard work. He is also frequently self-deprecating, especially when highlighting the skills of other writers. And yet, though he heaps praise on Hemingway’s “brilliance and economy of…The Sun Also Rises,” as well as the prose models of E. M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh, I would argue that the rhythm and perfect balance of any sentence in Literary Life stands up well against the sentences of these literary giants. (Personally, I have devoured all the fiction of Forster and Waugh, but struggled mightily with Hemingway, particularly with The Sun Also Rises.) Literary Life is one of the best one-sitting reads I’ve enjoyed in a long time. McMurtry subtitles it A Second Memoir, noting that Books and Hollywood are the first and third in the set. I intend laying hands on those as soon as possible!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    I get the impression through my reading [ongoing] blitzkrieg of McMurtry novels, mainly, but this a third of his five or so memoirs that, writing is something he does, not so much as by inspiration but rather as compulsion as part of process. To me it seems that book scouting & possessing a favored acquisition rank far and above all else. He loves his characters, they often times traverse multiple books, he thinks his work as mostly middling which to him is fair and flattering too. He claims 5 o I get the impression through my reading [ongoing] blitzkrieg of McMurtry novels, mainly, but this a third of his five or so memoirs that, writing is something he does, not so much as by inspiration but rather as compulsion as part of process. To me it seems that book scouting & possessing a favored acquisition rank far and above all else. He loves his characters, they often times traverse multiple books, he thinks his work as mostly middling which to him is fair and flattering too. He claims 5 or less of his 40-some books are really good. I haven't read a book of his I didn't like - and coincidently, to me a three star rating fits that very likeable range of which to read a book, that usually offers some aspects that satisfy a particular reader's imagination. And though McMurtry only writes realism it's realism with kick, his is that 360 world within worlds, he took from his modernist masters' study and turned the lens on his roots doing a Proust as best he could. This book written in his seventies somewhere, he states that soon he will whittle his personal reading library to about 100 books, already read books, for rereading as many times as life will provide. I've thought that time will come too when I'd be doing the same. He'll be on that list.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Demetrius Rogers

    I'm slowly reading through Larry McMurtry's classic novel, Lonesome Dove. It's a truly colorful work of fiction. And before starting to read LD, I knew nothing of its author. So, I picked this up to get acquainted. McMurtry seems to be an interesting fella, a thoroughly devoted literary buff. His passion for collecting books may have even exceeded his passion to write them. Nevertheless, this work struck me as a short menagerie of literary reflections and biographical anecdotes of his life in li I'm slowly reading through Larry McMurtry's classic novel, Lonesome Dove. It's a truly colorful work of fiction. And before starting to read LD, I knew nothing of its author. So, I picked this up to get acquainted. McMurtry seems to be an interesting fella, a thoroughly devoted literary buff. His passion for collecting books may have even exceeded his passion to write them. Nevertheless, this work struck me as a short menagerie of literary reflections and biographical anecdotes of his life in literary society. Each chapter is short and ends on an abrupt note. I'm not sure there was any great takeaways to report here, as everything seemed a bit random and his general outlook on life rather dull.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lee Goldberg

    I consider myself a huge Larry McMurtry fan. Although I have found his last few novels disappointing, even his weakest book is better than most of what's out there. I always learn a lot from how creates characters, sets a scene, and crafts a sentence. So I eagerly awaited the second volume of his memoirs. I wanted to learn about his approach to writing and the evolution of his books, many of which are among my all-time favorites. Sadly, this very slim, meandering, and infuriatingly unfocused mem I consider myself a huge Larry McMurtry fan. Although I have found his last few novels disappointing, even his weakest book is better than most of what's out there. I always learn a lot from how creates characters, sets a scene, and crafts a sentence. So I eagerly awaited the second volume of his memoirs. I wanted to learn about his approach to writing and the evolution of his books, many of which are among my all-time favorites. Sadly, this very slim, meandering, and infuriatingly unfocused memoir disappoints on just about every level (and I say that as someone who actually enjoyed BOOKS, his first volume about his life as a bookseller/collector). This reads like stream of consciousness. It's a rambling on the page without any direction. McMurtry's train of thought is frequently derailed, veering off into asides that have little or nothing to do with writing...and that seem to have no point whatsoever. Where was his editor, Michael Korda? Probably off giving one of the dinner parties that McMurtry talks about in one of his many asides. I also wish I had a dollar for every time McMurtry starts an anecdote, only to stop when it begins to get relevant or interesting and say he'll go into more detail about it in his next memoir. It made me wish he'd just skipped ahead to the next memoir and dropped this one. If you're as big a McMurtry fan as I am, you're going to read this no matter what I say...but be forewarned, it's a let-down. I have to disagree with another reviewer here to compared it favorably to Stephen King's far superior ON WRITING, which actually talked in detail about the craft and business of writing. I wish McMurtry had actually given us a book like that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Otto

    Larry McMurtry follows Mark Twain's advice for writing a memoir to a fault, i.e. don't do a chronological review but follow threads as far as they interest you (and hopefully, the reader.) McMurtry never fails to interest me, and this book is first rate in being interesting to me. But, it does feel a little more like a transcript of a conversation than a planned-out book. Nevertheless, I now am eagerly looking forward to finding his first volume of memoirs and reading it and waiting for the thir Larry McMurtry follows Mark Twain's advice for writing a memoir to a fault, i.e. don't do a chronological review but follow threads as far as they interest you (and hopefully, the reader.) McMurtry never fails to interest me, and this book is first rate in being interesting to me. But, it does feel a little more like a transcript of a conversation than a planned-out book. Nevertheless, I now am eagerly looking forward to finding his first volume of memoirs and reading it and waiting for the third volume to be published. I particularly found it gratifying that McMurtry agrees with me as to which of his vast output is his best -- "Duane is Depressed," is a brilliant book in my opinion, certainly in my top ten book. He rates "Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen" almost as highly. I'm going to have to go back and read it again but my impression from long ago is that there was too much literary theory for my limited intellect. If all you know about Larry McMurtry is that he wrote "The Last Picture Show," later made into a movie by Peter Bagdonovich, that he won a Pulitzer prize for "Lonesome Dove," and that he co-wrote the screenplay for "Brokeback Mountain," then you need to get busy on his ouevre.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J

    Larry McMurtry doesn't offer much detail on the craft of writing in this memoir. He does drop quite a few names but maintains a comfortable enough distance as to avoid dropping any bombshells. This book strikes me more as musings without too much depth. It's a safe book and seems to have been cobbled together to make a little cash. Larry McMurtry doesn't offer much detail on the craft of writing in this memoir. He does drop quite a few names but maintains a comfortable enough distance as to avoid dropping any bombshells. This book strikes me more as musings without too much depth. It's a safe book and seems to have been cobbled together to make a little cash.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ava

    I warmed to the subject immediately. The author was born in the same year as my mother and curiously I had been discussing the various generations through the decades with my mother, so the subject appealed to me. McMurtry writes about belonging to the silent generation whose novels embrace realism in contrast to the postmodernist style that was newly in vogue. He writes in measured sentences and refrains from making any startling disclosures. Yet he gives us a fair view of what the literary sce I warmed to the subject immediately. The author was born in the same year as my mother and curiously I had been discussing the various generations through the decades with my mother, so the subject appealed to me. McMurtry writes about belonging to the silent generation whose novels embrace realism in contrast to the postmodernist style that was newly in vogue. He writes in measured sentences and refrains from making any startling disclosures. Yet he gives us a fair view of what the literary scene looked like back in his days. I am eager to read his Hollywood related memoir which was a sequel to this. He mentioned the forthcoming book and the stories we may read in there several times in this book, it sounds tantalising.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is a book that I could have just as easily awarded 5 stars or 1 star, so I compromised by giving it 3. As the title says, Literary Life is the second installment of McMurtry's themed autobiography: the first volume tells of his life as a book seller, this volume his life as a writer, and the third volume his life in Hollywood. To enjoy the book, you must first be a fan of McMurtry's personable, acute, and even-tempered prose, and, second, bring no expectations to the book other than that of This is a book that I could have just as easily awarded 5 stars or 1 star, so I compromised by giving it 3. As the title says, Literary Life is the second installment of McMurtry's themed autobiography: the first volume tells of his life as a book seller, this volume his life as a writer, and the third volume his life in Hollywood. To enjoy the book, you must first be a fan of McMurtry's personable, acute, and even-tempered prose, and, second, bring no expectations to the book other than that of spending an agreeable span of time in his company. Although I doubt that the book was composed this way, the experience is like sitting him down with a drink and a microphone and having him talk about his writerly life. This has its interesting moments — he was president of PEN, a task he took on so he could justify living in New York City for two years, but for which he had no special talents and even fewer convictions about the role of writers in public life — but mostly the golden nuggets are few and far between. He was (as he acknowledges) very lucky: got published without trouble and kept getting published despite lackluster sales because his books kept being made into highly regarded movies and television miniseries (Hud, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove, etc.). He encounters any number of famous writers during his life, some of them friends, others just ships passing in the night, few about which he has anything interesting (and certainly not interesting) to say, except perhaps regarding Susan Sontag. I seem to be writing myself out of liking this book, but that's not really so. McMurtry is simply agreeable company, modest, amusing, and with enough moments of insight and humor to buoy the conversation along. It reminds me of a evening of Jean Shepherd, who had a late night talk radio show where he just let his thoughts flow and pulled you along with him, even though the next morning you wouldn't remember a word he said. How amazing to have that talent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim Deak

    This is the "sequel" to Books: A Memoir. Figuring that at his heart McMurtry is a bookman, I thought I'd give Literary Life: A Second Memoir a try and I wasn't disappointed. He definitely views things through a bookman's lens --for example, when he talks about authors, he'll often mention the authors that they collect, or books they bought from him or talk about their libraries. With information like that, how could I not find this memoir interesting. On the other hand, if you truly are interest This is the "sequel" to Books: A Memoir. Figuring that at his heart McMurtry is a bookman, I thought I'd give Literary Life: A Second Memoir a try and I wasn't disappointed. He definitely views things through a bookman's lens --for example, when he talks about authors, he'll often mention the authors that they collect, or books they bought from him or talk about their libraries. With information like that, how could I not find this memoir interesting. On the other hand, if you truly are interested in the literary scene during the years McMurtry was writing, there are probably better books, because he was never in the heart of the scene, but always on the periphery --partially because "the scene" is basically New York and he never lived there. That said, because he was a book scout or bookseller during most of his life, he has an interesting perspective about his and other's work and how they fit into the history of literature. It's refreshing to read an author who has no illusions about his writing. He mentions that he was an author lucky enough to have good films made from some of his books. He believes that more than anything, it was Hud, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment and the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove that fueled his popularity as an author. This book is about two-thirds the size of Books: A Memoir and has the same episodic/anecdotal feel --comprised of fifty-three chapters --most of which are one to three pages long. You often are left wanting more, but as P.T. Barnum knew, that's usually better than having to wade through too much. Overall, I liked this book enough that I'll definitely be reading the last book in this series, Hollywood: A Third Memoir.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julai

    File under: What White, Successful Middle-Aged Guys Think About Each Other. Maybe it's not that simple, but when I'm reading a memoir about a (male) writer whose oeuvre spanned the 50s and 60s, I try to turn the book into a drinking game. I take a shot every time they mention a lady. I'm on page 96 and I do not have the faintest buzz on. I know there weren't many women who were big on the scene during this era, I get that, I truly do. This book is well-written and interesting. Don't get me wrong File under: What White, Successful Middle-Aged Guys Think About Each Other. Maybe it's not that simple, but when I'm reading a memoir about a (male) writer whose oeuvre spanned the 50s and 60s, I try to turn the book into a drinking game. I take a shot every time they mention a lady. I'm on page 96 and I do not have the faintest buzz on. I know there weren't many women who were big on the scene during this era, I get that, I truly do. This book is well-written and interesting. Don't get me wrong. But I can only take so many pages of dick-measuring contests with Ken Kesey. Update: I may have typed up my initial response too quickly. Although a bit noodly and meander-y, later chapters (including one about his relationship with Susan Sontag)show McMurtry's natural humility, curiosity, and respect for intellect, wherever and in whomever he finds it. Plus, I loved the car chases. (Just kidding on that last part.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Zell

    Looking back, McMurtry is amazed that he became a man of letters. The ranch house he grew up in was devoid of books. Books entered his life when a cousin dropped off 19 books for him in 1942 when he was six years old. He was sick that year and spent much of his time in bed. The books were for boys. McMurtry does not remember learning to read, but he read these books. It started a slow burning passion within him. What would have happened if those books had not appeared in his home and caught his a Looking back, McMurtry is amazed that he became a man of letters. The ranch house he grew up in was devoid of books. Books entered his life when a cousin dropped off 19 books for him in 1942 when he was six years old. He was sick that year and spent much of his time in bed. The books were for boys. McMurtry does not remember learning to read, but he read these books. It started a slow burning passion within him. What would have happened if those books had not appeared in his home and caught his attention? McMurtry thinks he would have enventually found his way to books and writing at some point, but it would have taken a different route. His public school education in Archer City, Tx was not stimulating. His parents did not encourage him to go to college. But, they did make sure he went when he did go. And, they supported him when he needed to leave Rice University and go to North Texas in Denton. McMurtry takes us through graduate school and teaching experiences. He lists favorite books and authors and helpful teachers. He comments on the authors he met. He introduces us to authors who he thinks have been ignored or forgotten and should not have been. McMurtry shares his opinion of his own writings. He thinks Duane's Depressed and Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen are his best. In these ruminations, McMurtry does not provide deep analysis. His recollections are enjoyable to read because we receive his opinions, insights, and anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed the story he tells on Susan Sontag when she was visiting McMurtry in Archer City. They came upon a Race car track and race in session. What happens then certainly provides a different perspective of Sontag. McMurtry worked hard at writing. He keeps typing away on his typewriter. But, he attributes his literary success to luck. He was lucky to get 19 books at 6; lucky to send his first novel to an editor who actually read it and passed it along to an editor who made sure it got published; lucky that several of books caught the attention of Hollywood; Lucky to use Hollywood connections to write screen plays. McMurtry lived a different life than his ancestors. He should have been a cattleman. Instead, he became a man of letters and he is satisfied. McMurtry felt the desire to return home. Fascinating how the one who grew up in a house and town without books or library managed to fill up both home and town with the printed word.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vel Veeter

    Like his previous memoir that I also recently reviewed, The Literary Life, is hyper-focused on his writing career. For the most part, he doesn’t repeat any important stories, though he does trace over a few events and ideas that have come up before. I think to enjoy this one — which reviews of the other books suggest — you have to be interested in the publishing industry, be relatively aware of the figures around at the times he’s describing, and to like Larry McMurtry and have some familiarity Like his previous memoir that I also recently reviewed, The Literary Life, is hyper-focused on his writing career. For the most part, he doesn’t repeat any important stories, though he does trace over a few events and ideas that have come up before. I think to enjoy this one — which reviews of the other books suggest — you have to be interested in the publishing industry, be relatively aware of the figures around at the times he’s describing, and to like Larry McMurtry and have some familiarity of his work pre-Lonesome Dove. The memoir is nothing if not laconic in its storytelling. For someone who has written 30 plus novels, three of which are at least 700 pages long, he’s pretty terse when he talks about his life, at least in these memoirs. He goes more at length in his very good book I will review later in this post. McMurtry wrote his first novel when he was 21, published it about 24/25 and had three more published before he was 30. He also spent a lot of time teaching literature and writing at various universities. His novels began as small town Texas novels, grew into the kinds of discovering contemporary America of the 1970s, split between contemporary explorations of life and the Old West in the 1980s and 1990s, and more recently he’s been revisiting the Old West as a mythic place by writing and unwriting those myths. In addition to all his writing, because he was president of PEN America, he was friends with a lot of famous writers, namely Susan Sontag, and he tells some very funny and salacious stories about literary conferences and agents and awards.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zach Cole

    A short, pleasing non-fiction book on McMurtry's lifelong exploration of literature. It's skimpy, really more of a glorified essay, but McMurtry explores how ever since childhood (and especially after attending Rice College) he has been doggedly pursuing arcane texts. He can comfortably give paragraph-long assessments of long-forgotten travel writers, and he devotes more than a few pages to some of his peers at Rice, who went on have robust careers (the most of which was Ken Kesey.) McMutrty doe A short, pleasing non-fiction book on McMurtry's lifelong exploration of literature. It's skimpy, really more of a glorified essay, but McMurtry explores how ever since childhood (and especially after attending Rice College) he has been doggedly pursuing arcane texts. He can comfortably give paragraph-long assessments of long-forgotten travel writers, and he devotes more than a few pages to some of his peers at Rice, who went on have robust careers (the most of which was Ken Kesey.) McMutrty doesn't spend much time covering his life as a writer, a topic he was famously hesitant to examine in interviews. This book is more like a guided tour of his study; much of the study is roped-off, but McMutry occasionally pauses to pull a book off the shelf and tell you all about it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hank Pharis

    This is the second of three memoirs by Larry McMurtry. I enjoyed the first one, Books, more than this one. (Note: I'm stingy with stars. For me 2 stars means a good book. 3 = Very good; 4 = Outstanding {only about 5% of the books I read merit this}; 5 = All time favorites {one of these may come along every 400-500 books}) This is the second of three memoirs by Larry McMurtry. I enjoyed the first one, Books, more than this one. (Note: I'm stingy with stars. For me 2 stars means a good book. 3 = Very good; 4 = Outstanding {only about 5% of the books I read merit this}; 5 = All time favorites {one of these may come along every 400-500 books})

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzi

    Interesting low key memoir that starts with a box of books. I have lived in Texas more than half my life and currently on parole. Larry McMurtry has been a success story hero most of those years. This is an engaging look at how he taught himself to read and then to write and how he views himself, his efforts, and his life. Very honest without being sulky.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stan Shelley

    I think Larry McMurtry fans, like myself, will find this book interesting. You learn things like, he wrote Last Picture Show in 3 weeks. If you are not into McMurtry, this book is probably not for you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Stanford

    Did not enjoy this as much as I'd hoped. Did not enjoy this as much as I'd hoped.

  21. 5 out of 5

    SR

    McMurtry has been both at the center and at the fringes of the bi-coastal literary scene. His devotion to good writing and books is chronicled in this second part of a three-volume series of memoirs.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Being a McMurtry fan this was a pleasure to read. It’s conversational in tone and entertaining as well. I look forward to reading the next volume about Hollywood.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hazel Blankenship

    Short and easy to follow. Fun to hear his stories!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    McMurtry has written several memoirs, and they all overlap a bit here and there. But I really enjoy his writing -- and he's had a fascinating life -- so I don't mind a little repetition! McMurtry has written several memoirs, and they all overlap a bit here and there. But I really enjoy his writing -- and he's had a fascinating life -- so I don't mind a little repetition!

  25. 5 out of 5

    JW

    Surprisingly insightful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Interesting to hear how other authors and events helped to shape his own writing. I was also surprised by people he was acquainted with or studied with/under.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    McMurtry moves me to want more, read more…. It’s incredibly easy to read McMurtry—I’ve read Books: A Memoir, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, and now Literary Life. It seems, repeatedly, that he writes in an off-hand way; thoughts and scenes and chapters can end very abruptly. Yet, the work seems polished. The prose is spare, as Larry acknowledges. I am titillated by his familiar references to so many authors and works. I would love to be a “man of letters,” as McMurtry claims to be. The draw f McMurtry moves me to want more, read more…. It’s incredibly easy to read McMurtry—I’ve read Books: A Memoir, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, and now Literary Life. It seems, repeatedly, that he writes in an off-hand way; thoughts and scenes and chapters can end very abruptly. Yet, the work seems polished. The prose is spare, as Larry acknowledges. I am titillated by his familiar references to so many authors and works. I would love to be a “man of letters,” as McMurtry claims to be. The draw for me is McMurtry’s immersion in books. I would be thrilled to own 200,000 books. Desperately thrilled. I’m pretty sure that McMurtry’s passionate engagement with books and authors is a believable lifestyle. His many references to re-reading books is a believable commitment. I have for some time, since I retired a few years ago, envisioned taking the pledge to read the entire oeuvre of an author I like. Now I am moved to read McMurtry’s books. I plan to re-read Books and Literary Life to get clues about how to read them. I may try to contact McMurtry and ask for his advice. I’ll consider reading his works in order by pub date, except for the Lonesome Dove and Berrybender tetralogies, of course. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved. Read more reviews on my website: http://richardsubber.com/

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    As a kid of the West, and one who, particularly as I get older, forges ahead with my admittedly random study of the region, I often wonder when I'll get around to reading McMurtry's fiction. I made it a ways into Lonesome Dove but ultimately tired of it, as I don't tend to read for character, and that seems to be the core purpose of the book (and, as I far as I can tell, the central motivator in all of McMurtry's fiction, so, perhaps, I may never wind up reading his novels). But this is the seco As a kid of the West, and one who, particularly as I get older, forges ahead with my admittedly random study of the region, I often wonder when I'll get around to reading McMurtry's fiction. I made it a ways into Lonesome Dove but ultimately tired of it, as I don't tend to read for character, and that seems to be the core purpose of the book (and, as I far as I can tell, the central motivator in all of McMurtry's fiction, so, perhaps, I may never wind up reading his novels). But this is the second piece of non-fiction by McMurtry that I've read, and I enjoyed it. I appreciate the clean, casual (often tangential) tone--the entire thing is beguilingly conversational. McMurtry's recollection of American literary life from the 60s to the present is entertaining, and I was often amazed at his ability to recall detailed events from decades ago with such precision. Throughout, McMurtry reminds us that a full life often occurs when you doggedly pursue what you love but also embrace the unexpected and let life take its course. Of course, a nice helping of luck goes a long way in being able to wholly realize one's grand ambitions, and McMurtry will be the first to admit that he's been quite lucky from the start.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Juergen John Roscher

    I listened to this book on CD. I was looking for a book to listen to while driving back and forth from work. I choose “Literary Life: A Second Memoir” by Larry McMurtry, because I wanted to better understand what was required to be a novelist. This memoir was not a good choice for what I was wanting since McMurtry covered more of the business and professional phase of his career rather than his writing. The memoir described his relationships with other literary figures, which I have little knowle I listened to this book on CD. I was looking for a book to listen to while driving back and forth from work. I choose “Literary Life: A Second Memoir” by Larry McMurtry, because I wanted to better understand what was required to be a novelist. This memoir was not a good choice for what I was wanting since McMurtry covered more of the business and professional phase of his career rather than his writing. The memoir described his relationships with other literary figures, which I have little knowledge of and limited desire to know about. The one aspect of McMurtry’s life I did find interesting was his experiences in opening, and running used-books stores. I found especially fascinating was/is his attempt to make Archer City, Texas a used-book buyer’s destination (I am not sure if he has his used-bookstore in Archer City still). I would not recommend this book to those who are looking for further insight into the day-to-day write habits of a successful author. Those who like to see the relationships that an author has with other authors and literary figures might find this book interesting.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Stillman

    About as limp and half-finished a book as you could ever believe they'd allow out into the wild. Almost no insight into his novels or his creative process, instead all soapsy dish like detailing his pal Susan Sontag pissing people off right and left and then when it comes to his writing, you get grating revelations like Larry's decision to stop writing intros to Pocket Books reissues of some of his novels because they decided to stop paying him $1000 for each effort, and there are at least two i About as limp and half-finished a book as you could ever believe they'd allow out into the wild. Almost no insight into his novels or his creative process, instead all soapsy dish like detailing his pal Susan Sontag pissing people off right and left and then when it comes to his writing, you get grating revelations like Larry's decision to stop writing intros to Pocket Books reissues of some of his novels because they decided to stop paying him $1000 for each effort, and there are at least two instances of his pouting over why the east coast book reviewers have never paid him enough attention. Boo. Fricking. Hoo. I wonder how much Simon and Schuster paid Larry and Michael Korda - his editor - also mentioned in the book for filler material purposes - to squeeze out this colossal dud. I wish I could go back in time and unread the handful of McMurtry's books I've spent time with. In 170 pages he manages to paint the hyphenate writer-Texan-and-book collector species as a gray souled worm that can't go extinct fast enough. Maybe that's harsh. Me, I'd settle for licking the tips of my fingers and swiping them down the front of his glasses.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.