A place is lucky if it gives birth to good writers and luckier still if it is able to hold on to them. Most places aren’t, maybe because good writing about home is usually not celebration; it involves ambivalence, love mixed with hate, pride mixed with dismay, hope mixed with anger, all of which can be counted on to drive the writer away at some point—though if the place where he’s from is really lucky, he’ll come back before too long.
In an alarmingly productive career that has taken place mostly in Texas, Larry McMurtry, the pride of Archer County, has published no fewer than 45 books, and it seems likely that I have overlooked a couple or that he will find a way to bring another one out before the magazine gets back from the printer. The most famous of these, of course, is Lonesome Dove, which has now reached its twenty-fifth anniversary, an occasion we have seen fit to commemorate this month with senior editor John Spong’s meticulous oral history of the book and the beloved miniseries it inspired (“ True West”).
This long shelf of McMurtry books is a treasure we are fortunate to have. Their sum constitutes a miraculous meditation on place, spanning almost half a century. How many states have had the benefit of such keen observation? Mississippi had Faulkner. California had Steinbeck. McMurtry’s subject is Texas, and since Horseman, Pass By, he has devoted himself to it almost entirely. “Man’s fate attends us all, but we grapple with our own in particular places, and where people talk and behave in particular ways.” He tossed off this smart line in a 2007 Newsweek review of the film adaptation of