When I walked in the door, among the “new arrivals” was an extremely thick volume that had just hit the shelves by Larry McMurtry …
No, not a much appreciated re-issue in hardback of the book that made him famous, but a compilation of some of his weakest work ever, entitled “The Berrybender Narratives” …
Yes, that’s correct.
With 1,500+ pages.
Priced at $37.50 USD!
And, devoted to … combining the four individually awful books that were already published earlier, each costing around $25 bucks apiece.
I suppose you could almost have predicted that this would happen. There was absolutely no reason for the four original volumes to have been published separately. In fact, I maintain that they were so uniformly bad, that there was little justification for publishing them at all.
A short while back, I wrote a blog giving my impressions of the direction McMurtry, one of my favorite authors, has taken since hitting the literary jackpot by writing “Lonesome Dove” … my all-time favorite novel! Here, he created an epic tale that painted a huge story on an immense canvas, populated by some of the most well-developed and interesting characters ever conceived.
Of course, he’d had successful efforts prior to this. For instance, his “Last Picture Show” was a very popular novel and proved to be an extremely successful movie when it was filmed in the late 70s, as was “Terms of Endearment” later in the 80s.
But, it’s hard to argue that he really hit his stride when he conjured up the vibrant characters of aging Texas Rangers Augustus McRae and Woodrow Call, and set them in motion through the glorious “Lonesome Dove” saga and subsequent sequels and prequels.
For me, there has been no greater piece of modern fiction and no finer film adaptation than this masterpiece.
So, it troubled me to report that in the decades following his best effort, McMurtry seems to have fallen victim to the curse that has afflicted other hugely successful fiction writers like John Grisham and Stephen King, etc.
McMurtry appears to have either consciously or subconsciously decided to rest on his laurels.
Individually, each Berrybender Narrative proved worse than the one that preceded it. For a fan of McMurtry, getting through these shorter stories was difficult, but achievable when taken in smaller doses with the forlorn hope that it would get better if I just gave it time.
In the form of this one huge tome, I fear the task will prove unbearable even for the most dedicated McMurtry disciple.