On seeing the revival of ‘The Last Picture Show’ earlier this year my interest was peaked and I ordered the source material, the McMurtry novel the film is based on.
I have to say it was one of my better decisions because in my opinion it’s a rather unjustly overlooked minor classic.
I would describe it as beautifully written but when people write that they’re normally talking about rather high-flown, self-conscious prose with plenty of literary allusions, which is the very opposite of beautiful.
McMurtry’s writing style by contrast is conversational, plain spoken, occasionally poetic, often very funny and frequently touching. His prose struggles, not to impress but to communicate the lives of his characters.
He also manages to address quite depressing material, from unhappy marriages to death, in a way that doesn’t have us reaching for the razor blade.
I suppose there is nothing particularly different about the book. It doesn’t play with structure or write from the point of view of a bison or something. It’s just too straightforward and honest to be feted in the way some far lesser books are.
Yet for me it’s left an impression and even though I’ve never lived in a small Texas town, I feel that this book gives me a very good idea of what it might be like.
The film is justifiably famous but the novel is its equals in many regards.