Duane's Depressed

Duane's Depressed

4.5 10
by Larry McMurtry
     
 

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Funny, sad, full of wonderful characters and the word-perfect dialogue of which he is the master, McMurtry brings the Thalia saga to an end with Duane confronting depression in the midst of plenty. Surrounded by his children, who all seem to be going through life crises involving sex, drugs, and violence; his wife, Karla, who is wrestling with her own demons; and

Overview

Funny, sad, full of wonderful characters and the word-perfect dialogue of which he is the master, McMurtry brings the Thalia saga to an end with Duane confronting depression in the midst of plenty. Surrounded by his children, who all seem to be going through life crises involving sex, drugs, and violence; his wife, Karla, who is wrestling with her own demons; and friends like Sonny, who seem to be dying, Duane can't seem to make sense of his life anymore. He gradually makes his way through a protracted end-of-life crisis of which he is finally cured by reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, a combination of penance and prescription from Dr. Carmichael that somehow works.
Duane's Depressed is the work of a powerful, mature artist, with a deep understanding of the human condition, a profound ability to write about small-town life, and perhaps the surest touch of any American novelist for the tangled feelings that bind and separate men and women.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly McMurtry at the top of his form.

The New York Times Book Review A worthy end to an important trilogy, one that captures vividly and movingly nearly half a century of life in a great swath of America.

Craig Nova The Washington Post Book World Duane's Depressed...defines the moment, and the consequences of it, when a man comes up against the confines of his life, both practical and spiritual, and decides that he has had enough...striking and moving.

Kyle Smith
...[E]very page...is as welcome as a letter from home, a sad and funny one.
People Magazine
Bob Hughes
...Mr. McMurtry's touch is always light and humorous, even when dispensing sharp insights into the crises of middle age....Mr. McMurtry renders with remarkable tenderness Duane's search for meaning.
Wall Street Journal
Robert Houston
[McMurtry] proves again that he is as clear-eyed a writer as anyone in the business....Duane's Depressed is a worthy end to an important trilogy...that captures vividly and movingly nearly half a century of life in a great swath of America.
New York Times Sunday Book Review
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
...[T]hrough typical narrative sleight-of-hand on Mr. McMurtry's part, the farce is modulated into something drolly moving....Mr. McMurtry...skillfully [plumbs Duane's] psyche layer by surprising layer....Duane's Depressed holds steady at its core.
The New York Times
McMurtry's touching belief in the flesh-and-blood reality of people who never existed is a large part of his appeal.
Library Journal
McMurtry is in fine form in this conclusion to a trilogy that began with The Last Picture Show (1966) and continued in Texasville (LJ 4/1/87). Now in his early sixties, Duane Moore is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. He first decides to do without a car and starts walking everywhere--a real shocker in Thalia, TX, where the notion of getting anywhere by foot is laughable. Duane also leaves home and moves to a one-room cabin and then proceeds to pretty much wash his hands of his (totally) dysfunctional adult children and their children. Karla, Duane's long-suffering wife, suspects that he is having an affair. Since Duane is as bewildered by what's happening to him as everyone else is, he finally agrees to see a psychiatrist. (His experiences with the psychiatrist include falling in love with her, reading Proust, and, in an extremely funny scene, attending a book discussion group.) McMurtry's characters are rendered lovingly, if outlandishly, and the pleasure of his easygoing style more than makes up for a plot that really doesn't hold together for a minute. The ending feels rushed, a shame because most of us wouldn't mind reading another hundred pages or so of this entertaining novel. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/98.]--Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Malcolm Jones
Heartbreaking and hilarious....No living American writer has steeped himself so thoroughly in the history and habits of his homeland or translated it all so vividly onto the page.
Newsweek
Washington Post Book World
Perfectly rendered.
Kirkus Reviews
Likable characters, wry dialogue, and a bittersweet sense of time passing and opportunities lost are the engaging features of this amiable follow-up (and the conclusion of a trilogy) to McMurtry's The Last Picture Show and Texasville.

Once again, the story's set in and around the west Texas town of Thalia, where former high-school football hero and wealthy oilman Duane Moore is enduring, at the age of 62, a late midlife crisis. Forty years of marriage to his beloved, exasperating Karla and a houseful of itinerant dysfunctional adult children and their smart-mouthed progeny have taken their toll: inexplicably one day, Duane abandons his pick-up truck and begins a regimen of long, meditative walks (raising family speculations about his fidelity and sanity), and, in unconscious emulation of Thoreau, moves to a cabin conveniently distant from family obligations and pressures ("He had stepped out of the flow of ongoingness"). With one dramatic exception, little happens—other than Duane's bemused scrutiny of his own "depression," and encounters with such agreeably deranged friends and neighbors as his self-destructive employee Bobby Lee, nearsighted secretary Ruth Popper (Picture Show's unlikely femme fatale), and storekeeper Jody Carmichael, WWII veteran and "compulsive sports gambler." Duane does gather enough energy to rent the bridal suite at a deliciously seedy motel while undergoing psychotherapy with Jody's daughter, Dr. Honor Carmichael, with whom he falls absurdly in love, leading to a yearlong struggle reading Proust and some climactic self-discoveries that don't surprise either Duane or us, but do precipitate a highly satisfying ending that reconcileshim with Karla and enables Duane to finally indulge the pleasures he has long denied himself.

There's a scarcity of story here, but McMurtry obviously enjoys these folks so much he can't resist hanging out with them for 400-plus pages. You probably won't be able to either.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743230155
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
04/01/2003
Series:
Thalia Trilogy Series, #3
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
286,779
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 8.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Two years into his sixties, Duane Moore -- a man who had driven pickups for as long as he had been licensed to drive -- parked his pickup in his own carport one day and began to walk wherever he went.
The carport was a spacious affair, built to house six cars in the days when cars still had some size; now that cars had been miniaturized -- as had horses -- the carport could accommodate ten vehicles and might have accommodated as many as a dozen if the vehicles had been parked with some care; but care, defined as a capacity for attention to such things as order and propriety, was not something that most members of Duane's large family had proven to be capable of or interested in -- not so far, at least. In the Moore carport cars tended to stack up behind one another, so that the person who had parked in front could rarely get his or her car out without a bitter quarrel, sometimes involving fisticuffs, with the person or persons whose car or cars were parked behind theirs.
In fact -- and it was a fact that had vexed Duane for years -- the spacious carport mainly housed a collection of junk: welding tools, old golf clubs, fishing equipment, baby carriages whose tires had been fiat for several years, couches and chairs that had stalled, somehow, on their way to the upholsterer, and towering pyramids of objects acquired by Karla or one of the girls at garage sales, department stores, swap meets, or discount malls -- objects that had evidently fallen in their purchasers' esteem before they could even get into the house -- though the house too contained comparable pyramids of objects that had made it through the doors but not much farther.
Contemplation of his own misused carport was one of the reasons Duane parked his pickup one day and began to walk, but it was not the only reason, or necessarily the most important. He had spent almost fifty years of his life in the cab of a pickup, racing through the vast oil patch that extended over much of West Texas, hurrying from one oil-soaked lease to another; but now he was sixty-two and the oil game had lost its thrill, the chase its flavor. He didn't want to be in the cab of a pickup anymore, because being in the cab of a pickup suddenly made him wonder what had happened to his life. It occurred to him one day -- not in a flash, but through a process of seepage, a kind of gas leak into his consciousness -- that most of his memories, from first courtship to the lip of old age, involved the cabs of pickups. His long marriage to Karla, their four children, their nine grandchildren, his booms and his busts, his friendships and his few love affairs had somehow all happened in the few brief periods when he hadn't been in the cab of a pickup, somewhere in the Texas oil patch.
So, one day in February, with a blue norther cutting through the pastures of dead mesquite like a saw, Duane parked his pickup in the southernmost parking spot in the carport and hid the keys in a chipped coffee cup on the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet. Nobody used that coffee cup anymore -- it had sat untouched on the top shelf for years. All Duane hoped was that the keys could be hidden in it for a year or two -- that way none of the grandkids could steal his pickup until they grew adept enough to hot-wire it, which ought to be a while.
Then, pleased with his decision and even rather enjoying the crisp cut of the norther, Duane took the first walk of his new life, a short one of some three-quarters of a mile along a dirt road to his office. His departure was observed only by Willy, the grandson Julie had presented them with only a few days prior to her seventeenth birthday; now Willy was nine. The prospect of great-grandchildren was never far from Duane's thoughts -- or Karla's either. Willy sat in front of the living room TV, playing a video game called Extreme Rampage -- he was merely resting his fingers for a moment when he saw his grandfather walk off down the dusty road. The sight struck Willy as being slightly odd, but he loved Extreme Rampage too much to allow anything to distract him from it for long. He forgot all about his grandfather until his grandmother came into the living room a few minutes later, looking puzzled.
"Willy, have you seen Pa-Pa?" she asked. "I thought sure I heard his pickup drive up, and his gloves are in the kitchen, but I can't find him anywhere."
"Pa-Pa walked off," Willy said, his fingers dancing expertly on the buttons of the video game.
"What?" Karla asked, supposing she had heard wrong.
"Pa-Pa walked off down that road -- that road right out there," Willy insisted. He didn't point -- matters on the screen were critical -- indeed, domination of the world was at stake. He couldn't spare a hand.
"Willy, I've told you not to lie to me," Karla said. "Just because your little sister lies to me constantly don't mean you have to start."
"It wasn't a lie!" Willy protested indignantly. Unfortunately the brief shift in his attention proved fatal: the Ninja Master kicked him off the cliff.
"Oh no!" Willy said. "I was winning and now I'm dead." His grandmother was unmoved.
"I'm gonna talk to your mother about you, young man," she said. "I think you spend too much time playing those dumb video games. They're screwing up your cognition or something. Pa-Pa's never walked anywhere in his life, much less on a day when there's a norther."
Willy saw no point in arguing with his grandmother. Grown-ups who were that old could never be convinced of anything anyways -- indeed, all grown-ups had a tendency to deny the plainest facts. One of the few things he and his sister, Bubbles, agreed on was that grown-ups were weird.
Just as his grandmother was about to leave the room the phone rang and she picked it up.
"Maybe it's Pa-Pa -- he might be on the cell phone," she said, but instead it was Julie, mother of Willy and Bubbles. Julie was just returning from visiting her boyfriend, Darren, who was in jail in Lawton, Oklahoma, awaiting trial on a charge of armed robbery and aggravated assault, a charge Julie was convinced was unjust. Julie was making the call from the edge of her parents' driveway; she was not about to rush into the house without making a few inquiries, not after what she had just seen.
"Did you and Daddy just have a big fight?" Julie asked. "If you did I'm going back to Wichita Falls and spend the night in a motel."
Karla was too surprised to answer right away. She had just put in a peaceful morning watching the international table tennis championships on cable -- it was amazing how fast a little Ping-Pong ball could travel if someone from China whopped it.
"It's bad enough seeing Darren in custody just because he hit some old fart with a wrench," Julie said. "I shouldn't have to come home and be a witness to parental violence."
"Julie, Darren was robbing the old man he hit with the wrench," Karla reminded her. "Darren's a criminal. That's why he's in custody."
"I don't want to talk about that -- I want to talk about you and Daddy," Julie insisted. She was close enough to the house to be able to see into the kitchen, but was not close enough to be able to tell whether there was blood on the walls.
"Honey, your father and I haven't been violent in years, and then it was just me throwing things," Karla told her. "Bubbles is watching Barney and Willy is right here playing video games."
"Then why is Daddy walking down the road?" Julie asked.
Karla threw Willy a quick, slightly guilty glance, but Willy was in space, trying to keep aliens from destroying planet Earth.
"Duane's walking down the road?" she said. "Are you sure it's him -- a lot of men look alike from the back."
"I guess I know my own daddy; he's been my daddy my whole life," Julie said.
"I told you Pa-Pa was walking down the road," Willy said, without taking his eyes from the TV screen. "You should apologize for calling me a liar."
"I do apologize for calling you a liar," Karla said. "I just hope I don't have to call your mother something worse. There's all kinds of dope available in those Oklahoma jails. I don't think your mother's lying but she could be hallucinating."
"Momma, all I took was a little speed so I wouldn't fall asleep driving and leave my children without a mother," Julie said. "I'm not hallucinating! My daddy is walking down the road! Get it?"
"Then oil prices must have really tanked, or else somebody's died," Karla said, suddenly convinced. "There'd be no other reason why Duane would get out of his pickup and go walking down a road."
"Momma, I wish you'd just ask him," Julie said. "He hasn't gone very far."
"Oh, I mean to ask him," Karla said. "What does he think he's doing, scaring us this way?"

Copyright © 1999 by Larry McMurtry

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly McMurtry at the top of his form.

The New York Times Book Review A worthy end to an important trilogy, one that captures vividly and movingly nearly half a century of life in a great swath of America.

Craig Nova The Washington Post Book World Duane's Depressed...defines the moment, and the consequences of it, when a man comes up against the confines of his life, both practical and spiritual, and decides that he has had enough...striking and moving.

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Archer City, Texas
Date of Birth:
June 3, 1936
Place of Birth:
Wichita Falls, Texas
Education:
B.A., North Texas State University, 1958; M.A., Rice University, 1960. Also studied at Stanford University.

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Duane's Depressed 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Duane's Depressed was the perfect mixture of serious drama from The Last Picture Show and the often slapstick comedy of Texasville. It was probably the best of the three books in the series because it doesn't bog you down into the depression alluded to in the title and doesn't get too outlandish in the comedy. Reading this book make me think much about my own committment to walking -- for exercise, that is, not a way of life. I recommend this book to practically anyone who likes to read. But be sure to read the whole series in sequence if you haven't already.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My favorite McMurtry book!I loved Duane,Karla,and the whole cast of eccentrics in a way I hadn't with the first books.I loaned it to my friend,who then had her husband read it and her husband recommended it to his brother,and on and on.Noone disliked it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a fitting end to the trilogy that first introduced us to the town of thalia.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I just finished it last night, I couldn't put it down. You tend to find yourself with the book in your hands at every waking moment. It has surprising twists and turns. Easy to follow and understand. You can relate to the characters. It has a positive message. But in my opinion the ending could have been better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Found this book to be a fine ending for the saga of the last picture show.I am from the same generation as the characters of the book. grew up in the 50's and could understand where they were coming from. Duane's depressed tells the final chapter of all from the last picture show. great writing.