An elegiac essay on memory and the power of storytelling by a master of the art. Well-known as a Pulitzer-winning novelist (Duane’s Depressed, 1998, etc.), McMurtry turns less often to nonfiction. It’s usually a delight when he does. In this book-length meditation on the past—his own, that of his ancestors, and that of the corner of west Texas whence they hail—McMurtry works from an unlikely conceit: rereading the work of the German-Jewish literary journalist Walter Benjamin over a lime Dr. Pepper (for which he gives the recipe) at a drive-through diner out on the dry plains of Archer City, the town McMurtry made famous in The Last Picture Show and other novels. Benjamin never saw a prickly pear in his life, but he had much to say about personal history and storytelling in an age that isn—t much interested in either. So, too, does McMurtry, who touches on issues of his craft (he writes that one of his purposes as a novelist has been to people the empty frontier in which he grew up), the pleasures of reading and collecting books, the lost art of conversation over supper, the aftereffects of heart attacks and urban renewal, and the tricky business of memory. (In west Texas, he observes, “Sudden death, particularly death on the highway—as much a part of that culture as football—lodged in people’s memories, whereas about almost everything else they were vague—). It’s philosophy, literary criticism, and memoir all rolled up into one neat package, and McMurtry’s constant readers will find much pleasure in these pages.