Fightin’ Words: Larry McMurtry v. the People of Marfa

The grumpy Texas literary legend rips the Texas art and music mecca in his review of a new book about Elizabeth Taylor, calling Marfa "as bleak a place as you'll find in America." 
Wed April 18, 2012 9:47 pm
Flickr | Peter Guthrie

Larry McMurtry’s stint as a critic for The New York Review of Books has already had its share of detractors. Now he’s riled up the good people of Marfa (well, one person, anyway).

In his April 26  review of M.G. Lord’s book about Elizabeth Taylor, The Accidental Feminist, McMurtry takes a 251-word detour (in a 1,242-word review) into Marfa, mostly to discuss his low opinion of the place: 

The friendship with Rock Hudson began in the mid-Fifties, when they were making Giant in the harsh environs of Marfa, Texas, as bleak a place as you’ll find in America, except for maybe Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I won an award there recently and was able to visit the ghosts of Liz and Rock: I was given the Rock Hudson suite in the Paisano Hotel, where the actors stayed while making Giant. My writing partner, Diana Ossana, stayed in the Elizabeth Taylor suite, which was modest compared to Rock’s digs; his featured seven telephones. Who was he talking to, during those long dusty weeks? Not yet, probably, the world-class beauty across the hall.

James Dean would have been around somewhere, doing the character of Jett Rink, his fine imitation of the long-forgotten wildcatter Glenn McCarthy. Edna Ferber, though not without some doubts, was a little too fond of the ranching elites; Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor provided so much glamour to Marfa that the town still thinks it’s important, a delusion not lessened by the Coen brothers’ dark fable No Country for Old Men, in which Tommy Lee Jones’s furrowed brow is the closest we get to the truth.

McMurtry goes on to recount how Taylor had her food flown in from Chasen’s in Beverly HIlls, because the food in Marfa “ranges downward from horrible.” Had he not said otherwise right there in the piece, you’d almost think McMurtry simply hadn’t been to Marfa recently. 

The visit that McMurtry’s

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