BOREDOM. Not your common post-modern urban/urbane detachment but something more traditional like the heavy and stultifying boredom of the small town. The brand of boredom that drove women of literature like Eustacia Vye and Emma Bovary to old fashioned adultery drives the women of Texasville to a frenetic promiscuity. Adultery is a concept too judgmental, a word too ponderous to describe what is happening in the beds, hot tubs, and cars \(the latter squarely Thalia, Texas in a year when the price of West Texas Intermediate has slid to $8.89 a barrel. Most of the sexual movement it’s not quite action is of the standard missionary-position variety. Though one incident involves a toe and occurs in a car parked behind the Thalia post office, all of this is rather standard fare. McMurtry does not, in Texasville, write erotica. What he does write is frequency. The practical sexual morality of the AIDS generation just hasn’it arrived in the second book of what now appears to be thee Thalia trilogy that begins with the The Last Picture Show. What has arrived in Thalia now largely recognized to be McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City to whence the Associated Press dispatched a reporter and photographer upon publication of Texasville is urban culture. For years now, McMurtry has admittedly been leaving Cheyenne, arguing that the literary future in Texas that really matters lies in the big city \(TO, Texans still live in small towns. So as Mohammed wouldn’t come to the mountain, the author here brings the mountain to Mohammed. And this mountain of urban culture arrives in the form of big money, satellite and compact discs, jaccuzis, VCRs and BMWs, and drugs. \(For those who confuse technology with civilization Texasville characters cast of Picture Show have remained in Thalia. The Quixotic trinity of Duane, Sonny and Jacy is drawn together by a series of incidents and accidents. Duane, the roughneck hero of the earlier novel, has made and lost millions in the oil patch, Sonny is a benignly insane Rotarian success and owns most of the town’s small businesses, and Jacy, retired from the screen, is like Quixote’s Dulciena a woman more ideal than real until she is drawn out of seclusion. And as this is a postsesquicentennial and not a post-modern novel, there is something of a plot. It involves the dissolution of TEXASVILLE By Larry McMurtry New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987 542 pages, $18.95 Duane and Karla’s family, the resolution of Duane’s financial difficulties and the planning and consummation of Thalia’s centennial celebration. Here, too, is John Cecil, the peripatetic homosexual and former English teacher; Lester Marlow, a congenital banker; Abeline, Picture Show’s womanizing whiskey roughneck; Ruth Popper, the wife of the stereotypical and secretly homosexual high school coach and Joe Bob Blanton, the preacher’s son who has left Thalia to become an evangelical pedophile and editor of a newsletter called Child’s Play. There are more: sociopathological, homocidal children, maybe Willie Nelson, a dog named Shorty with something of a voice in the novel’s third person narrative and a larger than usual number of McMurtry’s Texcentrics. Yet even before the centennial celebration occurs, regular McMurtry readers or moviegoers recognize that almost no one in Thalia has aged well. This is, when all is said and done, the saddest lot of small town Texas folks. Like the citybillies who have moved to Houston or Dallas only to find their unhappiness more complicated, most of Thalia’s citizens can’t even seem to be even modestly happy in 1986. FIFTY-FIVE CHAPTERS into Texasville it appears that McMurtry has taken a page from the greatest American novel of our time: “It seemed,” the omniscient narrator observes, “that it had only taken the country one hundred years to become completely crazy and also completely sad.” And when Duane and Jacy are cast as Adam and Eve in Thalia’s ambitious historical pageant, it becomes evident that McMurtry’s Macondo is finished, that an apocalyptic ending will surely follow the allegorical genesis in the rodeo arena. But no, when a last days’ storm arrives, blowing the centennial wagon train off course, burying centennial mini-marathoners and the town in tumbleweeds and turning the governor’s helicopter south toward home, it’s too early in the book to be more than a portent of the end and: “Adam and Eve walked hand in hand out of Eden, toward the bucking chutes.” Neither the patriarch nor matriarch has reached sixty, both remain sexually active and perhaps deserving of forty or so more years of moral turpitude. Yet this might be more than the most dedicated McMurtry reader can endure. And it might be more than McMurtry’s characters can endure. For like the inhabitants of Garcia Wrquez’s Macondo, all seem destined to live within their own impenetrable walls of solitude. Because to live in Thalia is to live without emotional intimacy. Jacy, returned from the expatriate’s life in Italy, loves the memory of her lost son. Duane thinks, at times, that he loves his wife Karla. But essentially this is a novel without passion, without love. All of the intimacy is brief and physical. Two decades of marriage are arithmetically reduced to “three thousand first-rate fucks.” The protagonist’s son shares an older mistress with his father and is only a marriage or two away from becoming, in the words of the Homer and Jethro song, “his own grandpa.” There is not even filial love. Duane feels something in relation to his eldest son Dickie whose name describes in a small phallic way an important element of his Freudian persona. Like the children of Lake Wobegone, all of Thalia’s children are above average. But most, and particularly the pre-adolescent twins of the protagonist, are sociopathological brats that relate to one another and the world in harsh monosyllabic sexual insults. In the preadolescent fiction of Judy Blume younger characters serve as vehicles for a brand of disparaging humor that provides young readers a certain necessary justification for their own feelings of resentment toward younger siblings. McMurtry’s caricatures of children and adolescent adults serve a similar purpose. Yet these are not the annoying little pranksters of Blume’s world of fiction. They are, rather, sociopathological little nihilists bent on destruction whenever it serves the purposes of their own amusement. Just One Hundred Years Of Turpitude By Louis Dubose 1 4 JULY 17, 1987
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