The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry

This is a lovely book. Warm and funny, with an allusiveness to the mysteries of existence and the human condition that makes it much more than just a book about growing up.

The genre of the ‘coming of age’ novel, or the ‘rite of passage’ novel, has become well-established and perhaps a bit tired in the doing so. This book was first published in 1966 and was made into a very famous film, which I don’t think I have seen. I am glad of that, as it happens; seeing a dramatisation of any book before reading it is a bit like drinking beer after the first pint – the first pint steals all the pleasure from your taste buds and leaves them blunted for those that follow.

The best thing about this book is the voice of the writer and the subtle way it changes for each character. With just a phrase, or an implied understanding, he brilliantly takes us from the mind of a humane and wise woman looking at a young man to the mind of her daughter, shallow and child-like but still damaging people around her.

It is set in rural Texas and I don’t want anyone to think this is some cheesy, bobby-socks and soda pop sort of book. It confronts the dark side of such places, as well as the endearing humanity of them.

Since I buy my books mainly from second hand suppliers over the internet, this one turned out unexpectedly to be a large print version. Having checked it was unabridged – abridging is the unacceptable face of publishing, in my opinion – I found it quite enjoyable to move so quickly through the pages.

So, a very enjoyable experience all round.


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