Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to Thalia

Tonight, if I ever escape this insane asylum called work, I'm going home, fixing dinner and spending the evening with some old friends in Texas.

Not literally, of course. I'm still here in Halls, doing what I love and loving what I do.

But author Larry McMurtry has released the apparently final installment in his long saga of the life of Duane Moore that began years ago with "The Last Picture Show." And, tonight, before I tackle the American Revolution and John Adams, I'm going back to Thalia. The book is called "When the Light Goes."

I'm quite hesitant to return to that sleepy little Texas town. McMurtry is notorious for taking characters you love and doing crazy things with them. (Read "Streets of Laredo," his bizarre sequel to "Lonesome Dove.")

They're his characters. I guess it's his right. But they've bounced around in my head so long I feel some kind of claim on them, too.

Return I will, though. I once drove, as part of a vacation, all the way to Archer City, Texas, McMurtry's one-stoplight hometown and the model for his fictional Thalia, on some kind of crazy, quixotic odyssey.

I ducked into McMurtry's delicious antiquarian bookstore hoping I'd see him, but he wasn't around. I left on the shelf a first edition of James Reston Jr.'s biography of former Texas governor John Connally -- a move I've regretted for four years.

(Film buffs will know the town. Peter Bogdanovich filmed the cinematic version of "The Last Picture Show" there in 1970. I still contend that's one of the finest films I've ever seen.)

It's funny how books, and characters, can grab you. One of my editors, Larry Van Guilder, says they become like old friends, members of the family.

So it is with Duane. When last I left him, he was living in a cabin, going everywhere on foot, in love with his shrink, reading Proust at night.

I feel like this book is going to leave me terribly depressed. But, off I go, back to Texas, to spend a few hours with an old pal.

Mark this down: writers -- and readers -- are a sick bunch.

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