When the Light Goes

When the Light Goes

3.2 11
by Larry McMurtry

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In this masterful and often surprising sequel to the acclaimed Duane's Depressed, the Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning author of Lonesome Dove has written a haunting, elegiac, and occasionally erotic novel about one of his most beloved characters. Duane Moore first made his appearance in The Last Picture Show and, like his author, he has aged but


In this masterful and often surprising sequel to the acclaimed Duane's Depressed, the Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning author of Lonesome Dove has written a haunting, elegiac, and occasionally erotic novel about one of his most beloved characters. Duane Moore first made his appearance in The Last Picture Show and, like his author, he has aged but not lost his vigor or his taste for life.

Back from a two-week trip to Egypt, Duane finds he cannot readjust to life in Thalia, the small, dusty, West Texas hometown in which he has spent all of his life. In the short time he was away, it seems that everything has changed alarmingly. His office barely has a reason to exist now that his son Dickie is running the company from Wichita Falls, his lifelong friends seem to have suddenly grown old, his familiar hangout, once a good old-fashioned convenience store, has been transformed into an "Asian Wonder Deli," his daughters seem to have taken leave of their senses and moved on to new and strange lives, and his own health is at serious risk.

It's as if Duane cannot find any solace or familiarity in Thalia and cannot even bring himself to revisit the house he shared for decades with his late wife, Karla, and their children and grandchildren. He spends his days aimlessly riding his bicycle (already a sign of serious eccentricity in West Texas) and living in his cabin outside town. The more he tries to get back to the rhythm of his old life, the more he realizes that he should have left Thalia long ago—indeed everybody he cared for seems to have moved on without him, to new lives or to death.

The only consolation is meeting the young, attractive geologist, Annie Cameron, whom Dickie has hired to work out of the Thalia office. Annie is brazenly seductive, yet oddly cold, young enough to be Duane's daughter, or worse, and Duane hasn't a clue how to handle her. He's also in love with his psychiatrist, Honor Carmichael, who after years of rebuffing him, has decided to undertake what she feels is Duane's very necessary sex reeducation, opening him up to some major, life-changing surprises.

For the lesson of When the Light Goes is that where there's life, there is indeed hope—Duane, widowed, displaced from whatever is left of his own life, suddenly rootless in the middle of his own hometown, and at risk of death from a heart that also doesn't seem to be doing its job, is in the end saved by sex, by love, and by his own compassionate and intense interest in other people and the surprises they reveal.

At once realistic and life-loving, often hilariously funny, and always moving, Larry McMurtry has written one of his finest and most compelling novels to date, doing for Duane what he did so triumphantly for Aurora in Terms of Endearment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With less than happy results, McMurtry picks up the story of Duane Moore (Duane's Depressed) two years after he left him alone in a remote Texas cabin, suddenly widowed and among his fractious brood. As Duane, now 64, returns from an impromptu trip to Egypt, he's confronted by Anne Cameron, a young, flirtatious computer expert hired by Duane's son, Dickie (now manager of the small family oil company). Although smitten, Duane is still haunted by the memory of his wife, Karla, and also succumbs to a lassitude about his sex drive that ultimately reveals a more serious health problem. His therapist, Honor Carmichael, decides (after the death of her lover) that all Duane needs is some self-confidence, so she temporarily sets aside her professional ethics (and her lesbianism) to come to his aid. In the meantime, old friends die, as does his tiny town of Thalia (setting of six McMurtry novels, finally swallowed up by creeping sprawl), and his daughters annoy him. Bereft of subplot or complications, this slim novel reads like a short story, and the second half is dominated by vivid but curiously clinical sex scenes. Although amusing in places and full of sharp McMurtry observations and sentences, it's as weak a book as he has produced. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Duane Moore (Duane's Depressed) is back, and he is still depressed. Duane is now a widower with major heart blockage whose west Texas hometown of Thalia is also on its last legs. Family and friends are dead or gone. He has no interest in the family oil business, and the allure of his bicycle-only mode of transportation is fast fading. A trip to Egypt gave Duane some joy, but basically he feels apathetic about life. Such discontent a dull novel makes, so McMurtry spikes Duane's life with a bevy of younger females who throw themselves at him everywhere he goes. The result reads like an old geezer's pillow book, full of graphically rendered sex scenes and fantasies. The fourth entry in the series that McMurtry began with the classic The Last Picture Show(1966), this latest effort will strike many readers as a disappointing coda. An optional purchase. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/06.]
—Keddy Ann Outlaw

Kirkus Reviews
Compared to the literary feasts McMurtry has previously delivered, this is barely a snack. The publication of Duane's Depressed (1999) billed that novel on its jacket as "the final volume of The Last Picture Show/Texasville story." Not so fast. Duane's back again in a slim, slapdash volume promoted as a sequel to Duane's Depressed, though it seems like little more than a coda to that trilogy. Duane Moore is now 64, widowed and retired. He's still depressed, or he's depressed again. He has just returned from a trip to Egypt when he stops by the office where he no longer really works and discovers a new employee, a young woman in a see-through blouse who keeps jabbering about her nipples. Since sex is no longer much a part of Duane's life, he can't tell whether he's aroused or disturbed, or simply obsessed. He discusses the new arrival to small-town Thalia with his lifelong friends Ruth Popper and Bobby Lee, who are still snapping at each other. He also makes the woman a focus of his ongoing therapy with his lesbian psychoanalyst, Dr. Honor Carmichael, after whom he has lusted (when lust was part of his emotional range). Dr. Carmichael tells him he knows nothing about sex, and that many men who have had long marriages know little more. Duane will ultimately find his libido lifted more than once (in graphic detail for a McMurtry novel), and his spirits will lift as well. Thalia has plainly changed-the fast-food industry has fallen to Sri Lankans, which also helps perk Duane's appetite-and he must decide whether it's time to leave Thalia, to change with it, or to follow the old ways into the grave (where his wife and much of his past resides). He also must deal with complications concerninghis two married daughters, one of whom has decided to become a nun, while the other has discovered she's a lesbian. For McMurtry fans, there's some heat here, but little light.

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Simon & Schuster
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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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When the Light Goes 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
wftx More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing. I've grown used to settling down with a Larry McMurtry novel for a long, rich read. If you've read the reviews, you've pretty much read the book here. Take out the gratuitous sex and rehashing of previous books, and it could have been an essay. Maybe it should have been combined with the next volume (Rhino Ranch) to make an actual book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
Book 4 in the "Last Picture Show" series This is an epic in the Duane Moore's saga...now 64 he is set for his last hurrah before the lights go out.. This novel is a funny and erotic tale of a man who has aged but has not lost his taste for life. The story opens with Duane back from a trip from Egypt and still wondering if he can find happiness and solace in his hometown. His prospects improve when he meets the young, attractive and seductive Annie Cameron who was hired by his son Dickie to work at the Thalia office..... Another boost for his libido happens when his psychiatrist Honor Carmichael, a person he has the hots for, decides to use sex therapy to stimulate his desires....It works wonders on Duane... ...and the details are comical and entertaining for the reader...I am not going any further....lol This story is written to highlight every old man's fantasy...and reads like an X-rated novel. The only thing driving the characters are their interest in sex and Duane is the lucky man who gets the gorgeous 26 year old virgin and a rump in the sack with a lesbian psychiatrist.. The prose is vivid and the lust is very explicit in its details, not much left to the imagination. Where was the ingenious literary work in this one.... Ok I admit I read every word....but does Duane have a life outside the bedroom. Although Larry McMurtry is a prolific writer and his reputation precedes him, my first experience reading him left me disappointed, nonetheless I plan reading more of his accomplishments to see how diversified a writer he is.
c0093k More than 1 year ago
Very good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with Bart. While I could not wait for a new book about Duane and the gang, I can not say it fulfilled my wishes. Still a great read 'what book from McMurtry isn't' I guess just not the ending for Duane I was looking for. Kind of seemed scattered and off the mark. None the less, I appreciate the conclusion. I laughed and cryed with all in the complete series. Many thanks for the books go out to Larry.