As he nears the winter of his Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning career, Larry McMurtry is taking a staid victory lap with a three-volume memoir, which now yields its second installment: Literary Life . At 175 pages, it is a scant look back at forty-plus books and half a century of writing, but it is nevertheless a pleasurable seat at the knee of the famously reticent writer, who chatters on about himself (“an old fashioned realist”), his books (“Little of my work in fiction is pedestrian, but, on the other hand, none of it is really great”), and his influences (such as On the Road , Kerouac’s “one really good novel”). Deadpan and self-deprecating, he is equally likely to expound on the autobiographical nature of Duane’s Depressed as he is about the time he ate chicken gizzards in Wichita Falls with Susan Sontag. Not surprisingly, Literary Life offers insight into the workaday nature of the writer’s profession, and when McMurtry finally allows that, yes, over the years he might have made himself into a “man of letters,” even the hardest of cynics will smile. Simon & Schuster, $24
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