Duane's Depressed

Duane's Depressed

4.5 10
by Larry McMurtry, Joe Barrett

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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


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

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.
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.

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.

Product Details

NewStar Media, Incorporated
Publication date:
Thalia Trilogy Series, #3
Edition description:
Unabridged, 8 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.16(w) x 7.09(h) x 2.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Walker and His Family


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 flat 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 purcha sers' 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 a nymore, 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 memorie s, 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 ca binet. 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 en ough 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 anyth ing 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 anyway -- indeed, all grown-ups had a tendency to deny the plainest facts. One of the few things he and his sister, Bubbles, agreed o n 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 arm ed 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?"


Before leaving to go chase down her husband, Karla put in a call to Mildred-Jean Ennis at the beauty parlor -- Mildred-Jean was the person to check with about sudden fatalities in the community, the reason being that her beauty parlor was right acros s the street from where they parked the local ambulance. Karla was so upset by the thought of Duane walking around in a norther that she felt a panic attack coming on -- calling Mildred-Jean might be a way to keep herself on an even keel until she f ound out what lay behind her husband's strange behavior. When it came to local disturbances Mildred-Jean was at least as reliable as the Weather Channel was about the weather. It didn't take ambulance-level emergencies to prompt her interest, either. She was a solid source of information about adulteries, and even mild flirtations seldom escaped her notice.

"My antennae are always out; that's what antennae are for," Mildred-Jean liked to say; besides that she was a psychic, who sometimes gave card readings when she wasn't styling hair. Mildred-Jean hailed from Enid, Oklahoma, a garden spot by comparison with Thalia, in her opinion, but, unfortunately, she had ended up in Texas when her passionate romance with a crop duster named Woody suddenly lost altitude and deposited her on a dusty corner by Highway 79.

"Well, I just thought somebody might have died this morning," Karla said. "Most people seem to die in the morning rather than the afternoon -- I don't know why that is!"

"Nope, nobody died -- not that there ain't two or three ignorant sons-of-bitches around here who deserve to have their asses killed." She was thinking particularly of Woody, who lived a few blocks away with a redhead he had formed an unseemly relati onship with.

"Well, I just wondered. Bye," Karla said, and hung up. She didn't want to give Mildred-Jean an opportunity to start in about Woody -- hearing about other men's treachery was not likely to help quell her panic attack, not while her husband, a male him self, was wandering the streets.

"Maybe aliens came down in a spaceship and took possession of Pa-Pa's mind," Willy offered, helpfully. He was resting his fingers again.

"It could be aliens but I bet it's oil," Karla said. She raced into her bedroom and shot the TV by her bed all the way up the cable to the Financial Channel, convinced that the Saudis had opened the floodgates at last, producing a tidal wave of oil that would drop the price of West Texas crude to around two dollars a barrel, ruining everybody in Texas, or at least everybody in Thalia. Anxiety about the Saudi tidal wave had been a constant in the oil patch for years; nobody knew when it would come but everyone agreed that once it did come, ruin would be complete: no more platinum AmEx cards, no more frequent-flier miles, no more fun trips to Las Vegas or Bossier City. Apparently, though, the tidal wave still hadn't come. The commentators on the Financial Channel evinced no sign of panic.

If it's not death and it's not oil I guess he wants a divorce, Karla thought. No sooner had the notion entered her head than the last few barricades separating reason from panic were swept aside. He wanted a divorce: she knew it, should have known i t immediately. There wasn't anything wrong with Duane: he just was too chicken to come in the house and spit it out.

Julie was in the kitchen making herself and Bubbles bacon sandwiches when Karla wandered in, looking for her car keys. Now that she knew what the truth was she was in no special hurry to go chase her husband down.

"Bacon sandwiches, I love 'em," Bubbles said. "I wish they'd kill every pig in the world so there'd always be plenty of bacon sandwiches."

Bubbles, eight, had frizzy blonde hair and a blue-eyed gaze that melted the hardest hearts.

"I don't think the world needs to lose a whole species of animal just so you can stuff yourself with grease, Miss Bubbles," Karla said.

Bubbles regarded her grandmother coolly. They did not always see eye to eye.

"You shut up that talk or I'll never hug your wrinkled old neck again," Bubbles said, although without rancor. She was dipping a table knife into a big jar of Miracle Whip and licking the Miracle Whip off the knife blade.

"Thanks a lot. Who bought you that stupid purple dinosaur you sleep with?" Karla said, as she stood in the door. She glanced at Julie, hoping her daughter would offer Bubbles a word or two of correction, but Julie was gazing absently out the window, wondering what she was going to do for fun until Darren Connor got out of jail.

"If she's this rude at eight, what's she going to be like at fifteen?" Karla asked. "You need to be thinking about things like that, Julie, instead of just wasting your life on violent criminals."

"Bacon and Miracle Whip and Barney are the three best things in the whole world," Bubbles said airily, waving the knife around as if it were a wand.

Julie was wishing her mother would leave, so she could pop an upper -- handling her kids in the morning was really tiring work.

Once in her little white BMW, Karla found that her panic attack was subsiding a little. Duane's sudden desire for a divorce was annoying, but it probably wasn't the end of the world. She whirled out of her driveway in a cloud of dust, as usual, but t hen sat with the driver's-side window down, smelling the dust and feeling the cut of the norther, wondering why he suddenly wanted a divorce. He hadn't been especially restless lately -- Karla was even reasonably sure he didn't have a girlfrie nd. One of her many spies would have immediately alerted her to any romantic development. He must already be in his office; there was no sign of him on the road. She had known Duane for much of her life and had been married to him just over forty yea rs. They had never in their lives been strangers to each other, she and Duane; but, once she thought about it a few more minutes, sitting in her car with the motor idling, she realized that the part about them not being strangers wasn't quite true. L iving with Duane had become sort of like living with a stranger. a pleasant stranger, to be sure, and an attractive stranger, but not a person she could truthfully say she knew very much about. They still lived in the same house, ate at the sa me table, talked about the same kids, worried about the same crises, even slept in the same bed, but what did they know of each other now, really? Not much, it seemed to Karla, a thought that aroused only a faint sadness in her. Somehow forty years o f constant intimacy had betrayed them finally, in some sly way. The very fact of being together so long had imperceptibly swirled them farther and farther apart. If such a realization had come to her sooner, she might have been the one to act , the one to ask for a divorce.

Coming out of a panic attack was not much different from awakening from a nightmare. Once you woke up and realized you were really lost or dead, then the things of the earth slowly settled back into place. By the time Karla had made the short drive t o Duane's office she had begun to feel a little like a fool. Duane might not even want a divorce. He might just have been low on gas and walked back to the office to get something he had forgotten. He might have sneaked off on foot so as not to stir up the grandkids, who were pretty demanding where their Pa-Pa was concerned. Reassured, Karla gave her hair a lick or two with a comb before going into the office.

Ruth Popper, the old secretary whom Duane refused to push into retirement, sat in a chair in one comer of the office, peering through a big magnifying glass at a book of crossword puzzles. Ruth had a dictionary balanced on one knee and a pencil betwe en her teeth. The big magnifying glass was attached to the chair Ruth sat in. The whole office staff -- and even a few of the roughnecks -- had chipped in to buy Ruth the big magnifying glass, but it soon became apparent that they had wasted their ph ilanthropy.

"Hell, she couldn't see a crossword puzzle if she was looking at it through the Mount Palomar telescope," Bobby Lee said, putting the matter caustically. A year or two back, testicular cancer had forced Bobby Lee to surrender one ball, a circumstance that had rendered him notably testy. Bobby Lee, the drilling company, and to a degree everyone in Thalia were almost as anxious about the other testicle as they were about the coming tidal wave of Saudi oil. If the cancer should come back and force him to surrender the other ball, the general view was that Bobby Lee would get two or three young women pregnant just prior to the operation and then buy an assault rifle and shoot down everybody he had ever quarreled with, which was, in essence, the whole population of Thalia.

"If he sees he's gonna lose that other ball I expect him to fuck up a storm and then get seven or eight guns and take us all out," Rusty Aitken told Duane. Rusty was the local drug dealer, though officially he just ran a body shop on the west edge of town. Karla didn't like Rusty Aitken, largely because her own children had done their best to make him a rich man, and had largely succeeded.

Bobby Lee was right about Ruth and the magnifying glass, though. All she could see when she held the crossword puzzle book under the glass was an occasional wavy line.

"It's all right," Duane invariably said, when some busybody pointed out that he was employing a blind woman who sat in a corner all day pretending to do crossword puzzles. "Moving the magnifying glass back and forth gives her a little something to do ." A young secretary named Earlene did all the actual secretarying. Earlene and Ruth did not have a harmonious relationship, mainly because Ruth would sneak over during Earlene's lunch break and hide whatever lease orders Earlene had been working on when she left for lunch.

"I'm just testing her," Ruth said, when Duane chided her about this habit. "A good secretary ought to be able to find anything in this office in three minutes, hidden or not."

"Even if you hid it in your car?" Duane asked -- though almost blind, Ruth still drove herself to work, making use of a tortuous network of back alleys and avoiding all contact with what she called the "big roads." The worst she had done so far was k nock down a row of garbage cans.

"Well, if it's in my car I guess it's stuff I need to work on myself, in the peace of my home," Ruth informed him. She did not enjoy having her methods questioned -- she never had.

"Where's Duane?" Karla asked, peeking into the office.

Earlene was typing and Ruth was swiveling her magnifying glass back and forth. She had just caught a glimpse of the word "Mississippi," an excellent word, and she wanted to count the letters and see if she could fit it into her puzzle anyplace. Karla 's sudden entry caused her dictionary to fall off her knee.

"Ain't here; he just stuck his head in the door and said he was going to the cabin," Earlene said, without lifting her eyes from the lease contract she was typing.

The cabin was just a frame shack Duane had built a few years ago, when all their kids and grandkids were temporarily living at home. Nellie, Dickie, and Julie were all in the process of quarrelsome divorces, and Jack -- Julie's twin -- was serving a twelve-month probation for possession of a controlled substance, in this case four thousand methamphetamine tablets. All the grandchildren liked living in their grandparents' big house, though Nellie's two oldest, Barbette and Little Mike, preferred living in a commune in Oregon, where they had been for the last three years. The children themselves hated living at home and were constantly at one another's throats. Karla, who was auditing a few courses at Midwestern University at the time, audit ed one in art history and came home one day eager to explain a few new concepts to Duane.

"Now Baroque came along in real old-timey times," she explained one morning, after an evening when they had both underestimated the force of some tequila they were drinking, with the stereo in their bedroom turned up high enough to drown out the soun ds of Nellie screaming at T.C., her boyfriend of the moment.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Duane said. He didn't mind Karla auditing courses -- in fact, he encouraged it -- but he did mind having to audit her auditings, particularly when he had a hangover.

"Baroque, Duane -- Baroque," Karla said. It always pleased her to learn a complicated new word that no one else in Thalia knew the meaning of.

"I heard you. What does it mean?" he asked.

"Well, it kinda means 'too much,' you know?" Karla said, thinking that was probably the simplest way to explain it to someone like Duane, who had never given ten seconds' thought to art of any kind, unless it was just pictures of cowboys loping aroun d in the snow or something.

"Okay, too much," Duane said. He was slightly addicted to antihistamine nose sprays at the time -- he quickly squirted some nose spray into his nose before Karla could stop him.

"'Too much' is like our family," he said. "Would it be fair to say our family is Baroque?"

"Duane, of course not, our family is perfectly normal," Karla said. "They might have a few too many hormones or something but otherwise they're perfectly normal!"

" Nope, if 'Baroque' really means 'too much,' then our family is Baroque and I'm leaving," he informed her.

Ten days later he and Bobby Lee hammered the cabin together, on the edge of a rocky hill on some property Duane owned a few miles out of town. It was built in a place with no shade and lots of rattlesnakes, so many that none of the grandkids were per mitted anywhere near it, at least not in the warm months. Karla had only set foot in it twice, and the only satisfaction she got on either visit was to confiscate two or three containers of nose spray.

Rough and lonely as it was -- or perhaps because it was rough and lonely -- Duane loved the cabin and spent many weekends in it. The only regular visitor was Bobby Lee, and he only became a regular visitor after the trouble developed with his testicle, when he became so depressed and in need of company that Duane didn't have the heart to turn him out.

The existence of the cabin had always made Karla a little uneasy, though -- it still did.

"I'd just like to know what you find to do out there all by yourself," she asked, several times.

"I don't do anything," Duane explained.

"Duane, that's worrisome to me," Karla said. "It's not normal for a healthy man to sit off on a hill and not do anything." "You could at least get a telephone," she said later. "I don't want a telephone," Duane said. "I've got a radio, though." He thought he might throw his wife that small crumb of normality, a quality she had come to put a great deal of stock in, now that she was plunging on through middle age.

"Big deal," Karla said. "What if I need you quick? What do I do?"

"Call the radio station and have them page me," he suggested.

"Duane, don't be perverse," Karla said, the perverse being a concept she had learned about in a psychology class she had audited.

"Now you made me drop my dictionary and lose my place," Ruth Popper complained, while Karla was snooping around the office seeing what she could find.

"I'm sorry, Ruth -- what word were you looking up?" Karla said, picking up the dictionary.

"I was looking up 'Nepal,'" Ruth said. She always had a few good words like "Nepal" ready when busybodies asked her how she was coming along with her puzzles.

Karla opened the dictionary to the Ns but before she could find the word "Nepal" her sense of something not being quite right returned. It wasn't a full-scale panic attack, just a sense that a gear had slipped, somewhere in her life.

"If Duane went to the cabin what did he drive?" she asked.

Earlene stopped typing -- she looked blank.

"Why, his pickup, I guess," she said.

"No, his pickup is parked in the carport," Karla said. "Could he have taken one of the trucks?"

Earlene shook her head.

"The trucks are where the rigs are," she said.

"He didn't take a truck; he's walking it," Ruth said.

"Ruth, he couldn't be walking it," Karla said. "The cabin is six miles out of town and there's a norther blowing."

"Don't care -- he's walking it," Ruth said, wishing everybody would leave her alone so she could start counting the letters in "Mississippi."

"Maybe he borrowed your car," Karla suggested to Earlene.

Earlene shook her head. Her car keys were right there by the ashtray on her desk. Nonetheless she got up and ran over to peek out the door, just to make absolutely sure her blue Toyota was still there. If there was one thing Earlene couldn't tolerate it was the thought of being afoot.

"He's walking it," Ruth said again. "If you don't believe me, go down the road and you'll see."

"Oh lord, I guess he does want a divorce," Karla said, thinking out loud, her first instinct had been right; the situation was now crystal clear.

Her remark proved to be an immediate showstopper. Ruth Popper forgot about Nepal and Mississippi. Earlene ceased typing. Her fingers were still poised above the keys, but she wasn't moving a muscle. Earlene had long had a crush on Duane -- perhaps, a t last, there was a chance. Wild hope sprang up in her heart.

"Oh well, I'm surprised it lasted this long," Ruth said. "You two never did have a thing in common."

"Nothing in common -- what about those nine grandkids?" Karla asked. For a moment she felt like strangling Ruth Popper. Maybe after the murder she could plead temporary insanity and be put on probation like her son Jack.

Heartened as Earlene was by the news that Duane was finally divorcing Karla, she didn't believe for a minute that he was actually walking around in the street.

"We forgot about the toolshed," she said. "He's probably out there playing with wrenches or something. I'll go look."

"I'll go with you," Karla said. She was well aware that Earlene had a crush on Duane.

But the toolshed proved to be cold, oily, and empty. There were plenty of wrenches on the workbench, but Duane wasn't playing with any of them. Earlene had convinced herself that Duane -- for the moment her boss, but soon, possibly, her beau -- must be in the toolshed. Now that it was clear that he wasn't, she didn't know what to think. Only three cars had been parked at the office that day: her Toyota, Ruth Popper's Volkswagen Bug, and Karla's BMW. All three were still there. The unpleasant po ssibility that Ruth was right and that Duane actually was walking to his cabin had to be faced.

"I guess the divorce must have really got that man torn up," she said.

"I don't know, Earlene," Karla said. "People get divorced every day, I guess."

"I know it -- I even got divorced," Earlene said. "And I'm Church of Christ, too."

"If you ask me, a simple divorce is no excuse for doing something crazy, like walking six miles in a norther," Karla said.

The thought that Duane, her favorite boss of all time, might be crazy was not a thought Earlene really wanted to entertain.

Karla didn't want to entertain it either, but the fact was, Duane was gone and the cars weren't. What else were they to think?

The two women, who had rushed out to the toolshed eager and hopeful, convinced that they would find Duane in it, trudged back to the office depressed and uncertain, while the cold wind blew dust against their legs.

Copyright © 1999 by Larry McMurtry. All rights reserved.

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

Archer City, Texas
Date of Birth:
June 3, 1936
Place of Birth:
Wichita Falls, Texas
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.
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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.