The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
I’ve now driven through West Texas five times, and every time I’m amazed at how open it is. How flat. How dusty. And I’m continually amazed that small, lonely freeway towns are there. Only now after reading The Last Picture Show, do I feel like I have any kind of insight to how it would feel to live in the middle of the Texas nowhere.
The Last Picture Show is set in a small North Texas town, where the teenagers are so bored that they find comfort in high school football, confusing, unsatisfying sex, shooting pool and drinking. Duane and Sonny are best high school friends who are trying to figure out what is out in the world after graduation, while Jacy, Duane’s girlfriend, navigates her own sexuality and its power over others.
McMurtry knows how to tell a coming of age tale, while still keeping an absolutely non-sentimental tone. This is not looking back at high school through a rosy lens, but rather with a sharpness and almost too harsh reality. This is not about high schoolers blooming, but rather them hardening into the people they have to be.
While Lonesome Dove, the other book I’ve read by McMurtry feels like a Western epic, The Last Picture Show is drama on a tiny scale, but not any less devastating.