The North Texan, Volume 29, Number 1, November 1978 Page: 2
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. ■■■linn m uatna—
"I tried not to let on what a provincial I felt. After all, I
spent most of my time pretending to be a man of the
world. I was the man who had been everywhere and
seen everything—or so / allowed. Since I am just
enough of a writer to be able to convince myself with my
own lies, I had easily managed to take myself in. I really
considered myself a man of the world."
—From Somebody's Darling, by
Larry McMurtry (B.A., English, '58)
C., 1978, Simon & Schuster
Cohere was the smallish boy-man in his burgundy
; I jacket, blue shirt, tan pants and long, black curly
With his horn-rimmed glasses and his red ball-
point pens sticking out of his shirt pocket and his black
loafers with holes in the bottoms he looked closer to
Woody Allen than Paul Newman, star of the movie
version of one of his books.
Onty this part of Larry McMurtry (B.A., '58) was
showing when he arrived on the NTSU campus in
What wasn't showing at first was the horizonless
world of his imagination—all of the latent characters
and stories, the dead-right lines of dialogue waiting to
be born. Neither were all the to-ings and fro-ings of past
characters, imaginary only in the fact that they never
lived in the flesh, only on book pages and in minds.
But after a couple of hours visiting with a cluster of
students and faculty members and an hour of "talk" at
his "reading" sponsored by the English Department as
part of the Texas Reading Circuit, that other part of
Larry McMurtry was highly visible to the assembled
Contrary to what the character in his new book
said, he tried to be a provincial again, but came out a
man of the world.
McMurtry said he left Denton in June of 1958 "with
half a novel in my pocket" and was coming back 20
years later with eight books to his credit, "none from
which I can find a beautiful passage to read to you."
Ndrth Texas, Belaid, was a wonderful place to
start writing. He said he looked back on his college life
in Denton with fondness. "I was quite happy here," he
said. "It was a stimulating school. It was a time when it
was a varied school. There were a lot of people on the
Gl Bill. It was a time about then when they brought in a
lot of professors from out of Texas, from the Midwest
and other places. Then there was the jazz school. I
found it a very stimulating school."
He mentioned some of his old teachers,
particularly Dr. James M. Brown, sponsor of Avesta,
the campus literary magazine, "who nurtured me and
read most of my first efforts." And Dr. E. G. Ballard,
"who got me into reading 19th Century novels." And Dr.
George Linden, who founded the philosophy
department. (He said if he hadn't been in Denton he
would have been having dinner in Washington with
Brown, who is with the University of Illinois and does
Since leaving in 1958 McMurtry has published
seven novels and a book of essays. Two of the novels
have become popular movies, Hud and The Last
Picture Show. Another movie, Lovin' Mollie, was less
successful. His books are Horseman, Pass By, from
which Hud was made, Leaving Cheyenne, from which
Lovin' Mollie was made, The Last Picture Show, Moving
On, All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers, Terms
of Endearment, In a Narrow Grave (essays) and his new
one, Somebody's Darling, a novel about Hollywood
published in November.
During his afternoon and evening at NTSU
McMurtry talked about his books, himself (in response
to questions), writing and publishing.
His people settled first in Denton County when they
came to Texas from Missouri, he said. He himself lived
a couple of blocks north of the campus, he doesn't quite
remember where, at a place that took in a couple of
He wrote short stories and poetry for Avesta, and
was an English major at NTSU. His poetry in Avesta,
which he declined to read when an old issue was shown
to him, was probably the last he ever wrote. "I'm slightly
appalled that any of it remains," he said.
Two of the stories he did for Avesta were about
an old rancher's funeral and a scene in which a herd of
cattle is shot because of hoof and mouth disease. "It
was a couple of years before I conceived that they might
be a part of a sequence of events," McMurtry said.
They were the only two things, out of about 65 or
70 short stories he wrote on campus, that had any
value, he said. He wrote them separately without seeing
the connection. Then in the summer that he graduated
he wrote a story to connect the two. It was Horseman,
Pass By, which was published in 1961 and became
■ - l
by Keith Shelton
It chronicled the end of rural Texas and the
beginnings of urban Texas, "the gradual drainage of the
small towns," as McMurtry put it.
"It (North Texas) was a naturally fertile place for a
novelist to develop," he said. "I found when I was at
North Texas that it was a perfect place for these ideas to
find their way into print."
[~lTke described a heterogeneous campus that
■ I em bodied the end of Texas ruralism and the new
Sjjmix of urban life. The campus had students from
small counties, urbanites from Dallas and Fort Worth
and Gl Bill students, who were older.
It was also the perfect time to write about the
change that was coming over the state.
Almost as an example of the rural-urban mix that
he embodies, McMurtry said when he goes from his
Georgetown rare book store in Washington, D.C., to
visit his family in Archer City, Tex., near Wichita Falls,
he always comes by Denton "so i can go out to Ponder
and eat." The Ranchman Cafe in Ponder has been a
favorite of his since college days, he said. (He has his
mother, two sisters and a brother in Archer City.)
Horseman, Pass By was rejected four or five times
but he almost got it published by sending It through the
mail. Frank Wardlaw of the Texas Quarterly couldn't
publish it, but sent it to a friend at Harper and Row,
Although his books never have sold more than
20,000 copies, they have never lost money for the
publishers, either, he said. He has "an eccentric literary
agent, he said, and the two "can't figure a way to get rid
of each other."
The Last Picture Show, which was a highly
successful movie, was never one of his favorite books,
he said. McMurtry feels best about Terms of
Endearment and All My Friends Are Going To Be
Strangers. He likes All My Friends best, but thinks
Terms is a better book.
"All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers is a
luck book," McMurtry said. "I wrote it without any self
consciousness. It is an awfully good read, the only one I
would be tempted to re-read."
He said he had a strong sense of trilogy in the first
three books, but his publishers wouldn't advertise them
that way because they thought no one would buy a book
they thought they would have to buy two more to
complete the story. "No one knows it's a trilogy but me,"
The North Texan
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North Texas State University. The North Texan, Volume 29, Number 1, November 1978, periodical, November 1978; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc98813/m1/2/: accessed May 14, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.