Duane's Depressed

( 10 )


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 ...

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Duane's Depressed

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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 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.

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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
From The Critics
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.
Washington Post Book World
Perfectly rendered.
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 Book Review
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
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743230155
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Series: Thalia Trilogy Series, #3
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 447,086
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 1.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry

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.


Back in the late 60s, the fact that Larry McMurtry was not a household name was really a thorn in the side of the writer. To illustrate his dissatisfaction with his status, he would go around wearing a T-shirt that read "Minor Regional Novelist." Well, more than thirty books, two Oscar-winning screenplays, and a Pulitzer Prize later, McMurtry is anything but a minor regional novelist.

Having worked on his father's Texas cattle ranch for a great deal of his early life, McMurtry had an inborn fascination with the West, both its fabled history and current state. However, he never saw himself as a life-long rancher and aspired to a more creative career. He achieved this at the age of 25 when he published his first novel. Horseman, Pass By was a wholly original take on the classic western. Humorous, heartbreaking, and utterly human, this story of a hedonistic cowboy in contemporary Texas was a huge hit for the young author and even spawned a major motion picture starring Paul Newman called Hud just two years after its 1961 publication. Extraordinarily, McMurtry was even allowed to write the script, a rare honor for such a novice.

With such an auspicious debut, it is hard to believe that McMurtry ever felt as though he'd been slighted by the public or marginalized as a minor talent. While all of his books may not have received equal attention, he did have a number of astounding successes early in his career. His third novel The Last Picture Show, a coming-of-age-in-the-southwest story, became a genuine classic, drawing comparisons to J. D. Salinger and James Jones. In 1971, Peter Bogdonovich's screen adaptation of the novel would score McMurtry his first Academy award for his screenplay. Three years later, he published Terms of Endearment, a critically lauded urban family drama that would become a hit movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in 1985.

That year, McMurtry published what many believe to be his definitive novel. An expansive epic sweeping through all the legends and characters that inhabited the old west, Lonesome Dove was a masterpiece. All of the elements that made McMurtry's writing so distinguished -- his skillful dialogue, richly drawn characters, and uncanny ability to establish a fully-realized setting -- convened in this Pulitzer winning story of two retired Texas rangers who venture from Texas to Montana. The novel was a tremendous critical and commercial favorite, and became a popular miniseries in 1989.

Following the massive success of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's prolificacy grew. He would publish at least one book nearly every year for the next twenty years, including Texasville, a gut-wrenching yet hilarious sequel to The Last Picture Show, Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of the later days of Calamity Jane, and several non-fiction titles, such as Crazy Horse.

Interestingly, McMurtry would receive his greatest notoriety in his late 60s as the co-screenwriter of Ang Lee's controversial film Brokeback Mountain. The movie would score the writer another Oscar and become one of the most critically heralded films of 2005. The following year he published his latest novel. Telegraph Days is a freewheeling comedic run-through of western folklore and surely one of McMurtry's most inventive stories and enjoyable reads. Not bad for a "minor regional novelist."

Good To Know

A miniseries based on McMurtry's novel Comanche Moon is currently in production. McMurtry co-wrote the script.

The first-printing of McMurtry's novel In a Narrow Grave is one of his most obscure for a rather obscure reason. The book was withdrawn because the word "skyscrapers" was misspelled as "skycrappers" on page 105.

McMurtry comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers. His father and eight of his uncles were all in the profession.

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

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

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter 3 Duane, meanwhile, was walking briskly along the dirt road toward his cabin, the collar of his Levi's jacket turned up against the norther. He had skirted the downtown area, such as it was, slipping through some of the same alleys that Ruth Popper used on her way to and from work. He was well aware that the fact that he was walking would attract attention, so he chose an obscure route out of town -- a route along which there would be little attention to attract.

Even so, by the time he reached the city limits, a dozen passing motorists had stopped to ask if his pickup was broken down. All twelve offered him a ride.

"No thanks," Duane said, twelve times. "I'm just out for a walk."

"Out for a what?" Johnny Ringo asked -- Johnny was a wheat farmer who owned a fine patch of cropland in the Onion Creek bottoms.

"A walk, Johnny," Duane repeated.

Johnny Ringo was a tough old bird who took little interest in the doings of his fellowman. Of the twelve people who stopped to offer Duane a ride, he was the least disturbed by the notion of pedestrianism.

"Well, a walk's something I never tried," he said. And then he drove off.

Duane knew that it would take a while to accustom the citizens of the county to the notion that he was tired of driving pickups and just wanted to walk around for a few years. By his reckoning there were fewer committed pedestrians in the county than there were followers of Islam. Pedestrians, by his count, numbered one -- himself -- whereas two lonely and diminutive Muslims had somehow washed up in the nearby town of Megargel, where they worked in a feed store. Anyone who cared to visit Megargel could see them struggling with huge sacks of grain, their turbans covered with the dust of oats and wheat.

Duane walked on into the dun countryside, obligingly stopping every half mile or so to explain to a passing cowboy, or pickup full of roughnecks, that no, his pickup hadn't broken down, he was just walking out to his cabin, enjoying the February breeze. Although annoyed to have to explain himself to every single car that passed, he was not surprised and took care to preserve his amiability. The county had slowly come to accept C-SPAN and computers -- in a few months they could probably be brought to accept a walker, too. Then his walks would get easier, more pure. A day would finally come when none of the roughnecks or the hunters would stop at the sight of him walking -- not unless he waved them down. He could walk in peace, think, be alone.

Even now, on what was essentially the first solitary walk of his life, there were pleasant stretches when the road ahead was empty, free of pickups and trucks coming and going from the oil fields or the ranches. There was just the cold blue winter sky, and the whip of the wind, so strong when it gusted that the weeds by the fences rattled against the barbed wire. He could walk along, keeping a lookout for deer, or coveys of quail, or wild turkeys or wild pigs, all of which he and his son Dickie occasionally liked to hunt.

He had passed through much of his life paying only the most casual attention to the natural world, noting only whether it was cold or wet or hot, an obstruction to his business or otherwise. He had not delved much into nature's particularities, knew the names of only a few trees, a few birds, some insects, and the common animals. The thought of his own ignorance made him feel a little guilty. He knew scarcely a thing about botany, could identify only a few of the plants he was passing as he walked. He thought he might purchase a book about weeds and flowers, and maybe a book about birds; he could at least educate himself to the point where he recognized the plants he was passing, as he walked here and there.

Rounding a bend in the road, at about the halfway point between his cabin and the town, he happened to notice a coyote, standing only twenty yards away in the pasture. The coyote, unalarmed, was watching him intently, its head cocked to one side.

"No, my pickup ain't broke down," Duane said. "I'm just out for a walk, if you don't mind."

He walked a little farther and then glanced back. The coyote was still standing there, looking at him.

Copyright © 1999 by Larry McMurtry

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2002

    Deeply moving and hilarious

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2002

    Easy reading--fast and absorbing

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2000

    he is everything

    this book is a fitting end to the trilogy that first introduced us to the town of thalia.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2000

    Pretty dang good!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2000

    from eighteen to the sixtys

    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.

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