Compared to the literary feasts McMurtry has previously delivered, this is barely a snack.
The publication of Duane’s Depressed (1999) billed that novel on its jacket as “the final volume of The Last Picture Show/Texasville story.” Not so fast. Duane’s back again in a slim, slapdash volume promoted as a sequel to Duane’s Depressed, though it seems like little more than a coda to that trilogy. Duane Moore is now 64, widowed and retired. He’s still depressed, or he’s depressed again. He has just returned from a trip to Egypt when he stops by the office where he no longer really works and discovers a new employee, a young woman in a see-through blouse who keeps jabbering about her nipples. Since sex is no longer much a part of Duane’s life, he can’t tell whether he’s aroused or disturbed, or simply obsessed. He discusses the new arrival to small-town Thalia with his lifelong friends Ruth Popper and Bobby Lee, who are still snapping at each other. He also makes the woman a focus of his ongoing therapy with his lesbian psychoanalyst, Dr. Honor Carmichael, after whom he has lusted (when lust was part of his emotional range). Dr. Carmichael tells him he knows nothing about sex, and that many men who have had long marriages know little more. Duane will ultimately find his libido lifted more than once (in graphic detail for a McMurtry novel), and his spirits will lift as well. Thalia has plainly changed—the fast-food industry has fallen to Sri Lankans, which also helps perk Duane’s appetite—and he must decide whether it’s time to leave Thalia, to change with it, or to follow the old ways into the grave (where his wife and much of his past resides). He also must deal with complications concerning his two married daughters, one of whom has decided to become a nun, while the other has discovered she’s a lesbian.
For McMurtry fans, there’s some heat here, but little light.