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DUANE'S DEPRESSED by Larry McMurtry

DUANE'S DEPRESSED

By Larry McMurtry

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85497-X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Likable characters, wry dialogue, and a bittersweet sense of time passing and opportunities lost are the engaging features of this amiable follow-up (and the conclusion of a trilogy) to McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (1966) and Texasville (1987). Once again, the story’s set in and around the west Texas town of Thalia, where former high-school football hero and wealthy oilman Duane Moore is enduring, at the age of 62, a late midlife crisis. Forty years of marriage to his beloved, exasperating Karla and a houseful of itinerant dysfunctional adult children and their smart-mouthed progeny have taken their toll: inexplicably one day, Duane abandons his pickup truck and begins a regimen of long, meditative walks (raising family speculations about his fidelity and sanity), and, in unconscious emulation of Thoreau, moves to a cabin conveniently distant from family obligations and pressures (“He had stepped out of the flow of ongoingness”). With one dramatic exception, little happens—other than Duane’s bemused scrutiny of his own “depression,” and encounters with such agreeably deranged friends and neighbors as his self-destructive employee Bobby Lee, nearsighted secretary Ruth Popper (Picture Show’s unlikely femme fatale), and storekeeper Jody Carmichael, WWII veteran and “compulsive sports gambler.” Duane does gather enough energy to rent the bridal suite at a deliciously seedy motel while undergoing psychotherapy with Jody’s daughter, Dr. Honor Carmichael, with whom he falls absurdly in love, leading to a yearlong struggle reading Proust and some climactic self-discoveries that don’t surprise either Duane or us, but do precipitate a highly satisfying ending that reconciles him with Karla and enables Duane to finally indulge the pleasures he has long denied himself. There’s a scarcity of story here, but McMurtry obviously enjoys these folks so much he can’t resist hanging out with them for 400-plus pages. You probably won’t be able to either.