What did Larry McMurtry think of last month’s cover profile? Executive editor Skip Hollandsworth called to find out, and this is what the notably brusque, unassailably iconic man of Texas letters had to say: “I liked it. It was fine. I’m not giving it profound attention at the moment because I need to go to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. But I had perfect confidence in you. The pictures were also good. All is well, as far as I know. Thank you for calling.” Additional feedback from the mailbag follows.
I have just finished reading Skip Hollands-worth’s article on Larry McMurtry [“The Minor Regional Novelist”], a wonderful tribute to a great writer. I am Larry’s age and had no books in my house until my sisters and I started to school. I can’t write, but I sure can read, and my husband will tell you that I read every printed word, even the wrappers on the cans in the grocery store (you have to know what’s inside). Some people are born to write. Larry McMurtry is one of the few!
Deanie Alston Chollett, Columbus
It never occurred to me until this moment, as I finished reading this piece, that Larry McMurtry will eventually die and, subsequently, stop writing. He has been a part of my reading life for so many years it’s hard to think of when I didn’t have his newest book on order. I don’t love everything he’s written, but I have always chased down and read his fiction. Thank you, Skip, for giving us one more look into the genius that is Larry McMurtry.
Malinda Wilson, Eagle Rock, Missouri
In 1986 Larry McMurtry was the celebrity guest at the annual arts and literary event at Southwest Texas Junior College, in Uvalde. He spoke at a morning session and at the luncheon with faculty. He stated that it was unlikely that the recently published Lonesome Dove would ever be made into a movie because of the logistics of filming a long cattle drive and the intricacies of the plot. That afternoon we had a book signing for him in the library. There were very few book buyers so, to fill in the awkward lapses, I, as the library director, tried to be polite, comment on the book, and ask questions about his writing. Larry McMurtry does not do small talk. I was relieved when the editor of the local newspaper dashed into the library, spoke briefly with him, and they both rushed out without explanation. The editor had come to inform McMurtry that he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove. That evening, McMurtry spoke to a large crowd at the closing ceremony. He almost glowed. He even smiled a little! Larry McMurtry has gained fame and fortune by bashing everything Texan, and I expect that there is more of that to come.
Evelyn Kingsbery, Kerrville
Who better to produce an accounting of Larry McMurtry than Skip? I loved it. Especially since I was the Holden Caulfield of Holliday, Texas, raised 25 miles from Archer City. Larry’s works rank with J. D. Salinger’s, maybe even Ayn Rand’s. Happy birthday, Larry. Thanks, Skip.
Wayne E. Roberts, Midland
We are dismayed to read Dr. Johnston’s remark [“A Better Pill to Swallow”]: “There is this thing called the Krebs cycle—I have never used it since my memorization of it, which is, of course, gone.” We wish to put “this thing” into perspective: the Krebs cycle is an essential part in the biochemistry of every cell, and biochemistry is the chemistry of life. Consequently, disruptions of the Krebs cycle are, for example, the major feature of glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, and of myelogenous leukemia, a deadly blood cancer. Even more common, impaired function of the Krebs cycle is the root cause for congestive heart failure, a disease that claims the lives of 5.8 million Americans each year. We posit that no medical school curriculum should be allowed to ignore the fundamentals of nature. Aside from this, Hans Krebs was also one of the greatest physician-scientists of his time, very much like Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin. Role models for every medical student.
Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer and Dr. Merrill L. Overturf, Professors of Medicine, McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Having spent much of my career in academic health centers of elite research universities, I was shocked to read Clay Johnston’s statement that he’s never used the Krebs cycle since medical school and, by inference, thinks it is inappropriate to waste current medical students’ time on. Defects in intermediary metabolism (which is the Krebs cycle and associated pathways of intermediary metabolism) are responsible for many of the major causes of health problems in the U.S., namely metabolic syndrome and the associated cardiovascular and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. I would not want to be treated by a physician who had little understanding of the underlying molecular basis of these diseases and who could therefore not understand what the basis was for the many therapeutic approaches that could be used. I would want a physician who understands why I have a clinical problem rather than someone who depends on his iPad to see which treatment to provide for which symptoms.
Furthermore, I take issue with the new dean’s statement that “Obamacare has been so polarizing that nobody is going to do anything substantial that moves the national system forward.” First off, it is the Affordable Care Act—“Obamacare” is the pejorative used by those who have fought so hard to undermine this very successful health care initiative—and Texas’s refusal to accept its Medicaid support leaves the state at the bottom of the states in terms of numbers of uninsured citizens (and our major hospitals bleeding money). Secondly, with a Congress that is supportive of the ACA (in contrast with the current congressional majority), the improvements that are needed in the act, and recognized as such by our president, could be implemented—and hopefully will be by President Clinton. So, bad luck, Austin. Sounds as if you will be getting a cadre of new physicians who will have little understanding of the underlying basis of your health problems, but they will have great bedside manners!
Charles F. Louis, Houston
Out of Order
I just finished reading “Bathroom Pass” in the July issue. While I enjoyed the article and definitely agree with the fact that Texas needs to make strides in public education for the future of our state, it was, unfortunately, the kind of one-sided, liberal-leaning reporting I have become accustomed to in Texas Monthly. Dave Mann takes liberties to defend President Obama each chance he gets while laying blame at the feet of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott for not being aware of the gravity of the situation. While the article refers to the growing number of low-income students of Latino descent, who cost more to educate, it doesn’t mention the role that Texas’s illegal immigration problem plays in the public education failure. It seems that just as President Obama turns a blind eye to the growing threat of radical Islam, Texas Monthly turns a blind eye to illegal immigration, even when it’s doing its fair share to strangle the public education system.
Cameron Stewart, Dallas
It is time for Dan Patrick and the state of Texas to step up to the reality that our education system is failing. As an administrator for an urban school district, I see the impact that funding has on student performance and teacher retention. This is an epidemic not just in our great state but across our country, where there is no desire to revamp a very broken, outdated education system. By not emphasizing change and allocating funds to education, we are doing a great disservice to our state and country.
Jake Jimenez, via texasmonthly.com
Down on the Farm
I can relate [“Buying the Farm”]. Former Texans, we bought a gorgeous 82-acre farm in western Pennsylvania. The house looks (now) like a storybook Victorian. And we have a huge horse barn, an extra cottage, a lake, the works. For years we made hay throughout the summer, while I (with a little help) maintained a huge, lush, gorgeous yard. Raised a few horses, renovated and repaired the house, et cetera. Been here eighteen years now. Every summer night, when I’m out taking care of chores, I rejoice in the peace and beauty and fireflies and my horses grazing in the field. But then reality sinks in. I realize just how tired I am. As beautiful and tranquil as it is here, I realize I want to escape to my travel trailer, or maybe a tiny house, and head out. Freedom from so much responsibility. We’re planning to sell our place soon. It will be so bittersweet, and I know I’ll bawl like a baby. (We almost sold it years ago, great cash offer. Then I just couldn’t do it. Now I think I can.) People think I’m crazy to want to give this heavenly place up. Maybe I am. But I so appreciate your article, because it makes me realize I’m not the only one. It’s time for someone else (younger and with strapping young, strong sons) to be able to enjoy this idyllic and exhausting haven.
Kathy Nowotny, via Facebook
So sorry for the loss of Jack Unruh [The Texanist]. But one thing I’ve wondered about for years is why in his illustrations of you, your nose is always red? It looks quite normal in the picture of you two in the most recent issue. You don’t look old enough to have had enough tequila under your belt to have cultivated a red schnoz.
Dale Smith, Fort Worth
Editors’ note: In last month’s tribute to Jack Unruh, we mistakenly listed his place of birth as Petty Prairie, Kansas. Great citizens of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, we deeply regret the error.