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Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen


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About the Author

Larry McMurtry (1936-2021) was 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 lived in Archer City, Texas.


McMurtry, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986 for Lonesome Dove, is a true Texan. In his latest work, giving tribute to the form of oral narrative used in Walter Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller," McMurtry seizes on the value of human experience and the need to celebrate and share both significant and insignificant details in life. He did not set out to write an autobiography, yet a self-portrait is woven inseparably into his tales of rural Texas. His Texas is vast, a unique Western culture that is slowly disintegrating as the American cowboy disappears. Proud of his grandparents, whom he describes as "first generation American pioneers," McMurtry communicates a passion for literature and the impact his family, state, and his life have had on his fiction. McMurtry's memories, made up of funny stories and sensitive perceptions, are an enormously entertaining and powerful reminder to listen to and record our own valuable family history. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/99.]ÄCynde Bloom Lahey, New Canaan Lib., CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

After reading an essay by Walter Benjamin in a Dairy Queen during his hometown's centennial celebration, McMurtry set out to ponder how Benjamin's conclusions about the death of the oral tradition apply to his own desolate patch of Texas cattle country. That essay, "The Storyteller," is the touchstone McMurtry returns to throughout this digressive, erudite and frequently glum assessment of his career and the importance of storytelling. "Real curiosity," he writes, "now gets little chance to developÄit's smothered with information before it can draw a natural breath." Taking a break from writing fiction to think "about place, about my life, about literature and my relation to it," the bestselling author (Comanche Moon, etc.) and purveyor of antiquarian books offers prickly appraisals of great writers. A devotee of European literature, McMurtry considers Virginia Woolf's diaries and Proust's 12-volume opus the White Nile and Blue Nile of language. As for critics, he spurns theorists for those he considers great readers (Susan Sontag, Edmund Wilson and V.S. Pritchett, among others). Surveying his own two dozen books, he feels much like his cattle ranching father at the end of his life, contemplating his "too meager acres" and concluding he could have done more. At the same time, McMurtry claims he has exhausted the themes that interest him and hints that he may be done with fiction for good. The most infectious element in this book-length essay is McMurtry's passion for reading, which was rooted in boyhood and blossomed into a lifelong quest to understand the European culture that spawned his own pioneer familyÄa quest that brings him full circle back to Benjamin. It all adds up to a thoughtful, elegant retrospective on Texas, his work and the meaning of reading by an author who has the range to write with intelligence about both Proust and the bathos of a Holiday Inn marquee. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Bill Bell New York Daily News A love story about books...[Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen] is a sweeping, thoughtful summation, as comfortable as old boots...Richly satisfying.
Thomas Mallon The New York Times Part memoir, part commonplace book, part tour de force.
William Murchison The Washington Times The kind of long, deep wisdom found between these covers should occasion long, deep thought, suitable for the Dairy Queen or for that matter anywhere.

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