Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 160

Frye’s division of McMurtry’s major novels sensibly follows the author’s thematic groupings: the Thalia and Houston trilogies each receive a separate chapter treatment. Frye observes how small town Thalia, no less so than the burgeoning metropolis of Houston, seems in a state of perpetual flux to its inhabitants.  Thalia is explored as an archetypal dying town, a remnant of ranch culture gradually supplanted by Big Oil. It seems almost a character in itself, bearing mute witness to its own slow secession of (literal, figurative) ground to the suburban and urban. Frye, here and elsewhere, perceptively analyzes McMurtry’s sensitivities to place and region amidst the social currents that appears throughout his body of work. Frye posits that most of these currents come together in the Lonesome Dove multi-volume saga. This eponymous 1985 novel is best remembered by some for the later mini-series, but the best-seller garnered considerable critical acclaim—a Pulitzer Prize for fiction not least of which—alongside healthy sales. As a sweeping (at 800-plus pages) epic about an Texan cattle drive, Frye suggests that while it seemed to be the conventional Western that many hoped McMurtry would finally pen, the author also relished creating a canvas that would take in not just Texas but all of the American frontier- with all due socio-historic contradictions present. In Understanding Larry McMurtry, one comes to understand how McMurtry’s novels have been translated with such relative ease to other media, but Frye offers a convincing case that these are not   disposable summer beach reads nor screenplays in the waiting. Certainly, McMurtry has long been— as he famously and semi-ironically referred to himself—more than a “minor regionalist novelist.” McMurtry thus emerges as an ambitious author, with a vast oeuvre that both celebrates and interrogates the myths and mythos of the American West past and present. 160