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In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas [Kindle Edition]

Larry McMurtry
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc


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Book Description

Writing with characteristic grace and wit, Larry McMurtry tackles the full spectrum of his favorite themes -- from sex, literature, and cowboys to rodeos, small-town folk, and big-city slickers.

First published in 1968, In a Narrow Grave is the classic statement of what it means to come from Texas. In these essays, McMurtry opens a window into the past and present of America's largest state. In his own words:

"Before I was out of high school, I realized I was witnessing the dying of a way of life -- the rural, pastoral way of life. In the Southwest the best energies were no longer to be found on the homeplace, or in the small towns; the cities required these energies and the cities bought them...."

"I recognized, too, that the no-longer-open but still spacious range on which my ranching family had made its livelihood...would not produce a livelihood for me or for my siblings and their kind....The myth of the cowboy grew purer every year because there were so few actual cowboys left to contradict it...."

"I had actually been living in cities for fourteen years when I pulled together these essays; intellectually I had been a city boy, but imaginatively, I was still trudging up the dusty path that led out of the country...."

Editorial Reviews


A. C. Greene Takes apart Texas with all the skill and sadness of a master surgeon performing a postmortem on his mother.

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Product Details

  • File Size: 311 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0684868695
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 2 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003NHR7RG
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,664 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I would give this book ten stars if allowed to do so! September 4, 1998
By A Customer
In A Narrow Grave depicts Texas according to its geographic divisions exactly. McMurtry describes the people, customs, morals and behaviors of each of the divisions of Texas to a tee! If the reader happens to be from Texas or has lived extensively in Texas, he/she knows how accurate McMurtry's descriptions are and cannot help spending a large amount of the reading time laughing because of the accuracy. This books is absolutely enjoyable over and over again. My wish, is that he would write a sequel and revist the state again, doing a 90's or turn of the century version.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Messing with Texas. . . August 7, 2004
McMurtry, in this collection of essays about Texas, says he prefers fiction to nonfiction, for various reasons, but I for one find these ambivalent ruminations on his home state more enjoyable than some of his fiction. The insights come fast and furious in this short book, by comparison with a slow-moving novel like "Moving On," written about this same time, where a few ideas are stretched thin across several hundred pages.

Published in 1968, the content of "Narrow Grave" will seem dated to some readers. Written in the shadow of the assassination in Dallas and while another Texan was in the White House, the essays capture Texas in a period of rough transition from its rural past to its globalized present (the rise and fall of Enron would certainly have been featured in a current version of this book).

Much of it is timeless, however. It includes one of my favorite McMurtry essays, "Take My Saddle From the Wall: A Valediction," in which he provides a history of the McMurtry family, who settled in the 1880s on 320 acres west of Wichita Falls and in the following generation relocated to the Panhandle to live mostly as cowboys and ranchers. In this essay, McMurtry separates the mythic cowboy from the actual one and describes how cowboys are probably the biggest believers in the myths about them. It's full of ironies, colorful personalities, and wonderful details.

Altogether, the book attempts to present an unsentimental portrait of a state that also tends to get carried away by its own myths. The result is often a jaundiced view and gets to sounding like the worst Paul Theroux travel writing, where it seems like the writer has a personal grudge against the place he's describing.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent companion to early McMurtry novels February 18, 2002
In a Narrow Grave is a short collection of essays published in 1968 after McMurtry's first three novels ("Horeseman, Pass By," "Leaving Cheyenne," and "The Last Picture Show"). The themes explored in these works of fiction are delved into further in this non-fiction work. Specifically, McMurtry discusses growing up in rural Texas and how that influenced his work. The main theme of the essays, not surprisingly, is the death of small town Texas as people abandoned the country for the big cities (he focuses on Dallas, Houston, and Austin).
Perhaps the most interesting chapter is the last one; McMurtry talks about his family, which includes several generations of Texas ranchers and cowboys. Many of the stories he tells have made their way into his novels, so one really begins to appreciate just how autobiographical his novels are. I also greatly enjoyed the chapter about the filming of the movie version of his novel, "Horseman, Pass By" (the movie is called "Hud" - a great classic). Another interesting section describes McMurtry's road trip across Texas. Less enjoyable was the chapter on Texas writers pre-1960, which focused on several non-fiction writers of whom I was unaware.
Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and look forward to reading more of McMurtry's work. If you like McMurtry's fiction work, then you'll also likely enjoy this short compendium.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great essays. March 21, 2010
This book is a great read. It was the first time I had read anything "short" for pleasure. I was thirteen years old and was into novels. I had already read "The Last Picture Show", "Horseman Pass By", "Texasville", all numerous times. The only essays and short stories I had consumed were the ones forced upon you (either to read or to write) in school. This book changed that for me. It showed how powerful a well written essay or short story can be.
My favorite of the essays was "A Look at the Lost Frontier" -the one about the south to north car ride across Texas on Hwy 281. This seemed so personal, because I had visited some of the places that he mentioned on that trip. I have remained fascinated about this road ever since, regularly having to travel on it because of business. I can feel the same kind of ironic peacefullness that he mentions when he gets to the New Mexico border and turns back around and heads home. If I have been out of state for a while, to get re-acclimated , I will get into the truck and drive either up or down 281 aimlessly for however long it takes and the next thing you know, I am the Texas state of mind once again. When I am doing this I will stop somewhere and read this story (my favorite place to do this for some reason is around Hico, Texas) and the next thing you know whatever state I was in and getting used to is very distant and I am home. It has such a calming effect. That is a powerful essay.
The other reason I like this and all of McMurtry's non-fiction is that you are continually discovering other authors. This was the first time I had ever heard of John Graves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book is an insightful glimpse of Texas. Especially the chapter on John McMurtry.
Published 11 days ago by GARY W. MARKHAM
2.0 out of 5 stars Somethings just Flop
I like Larry's writings. Well, most of them, till i bought this Book. I started it, and was just struggling with it, thinking, this story isn't going anywhere. Read more
Published 2 months ago by The Ledgend
5.0 out of 5 stars PURE POETRY
I've read this book a dozen times, some chapters more. Although it's set in Texas, it's not really about Texas, it's about the human spirit dealing with profound loss, or as... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Thomas J. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars For Texans Only (or close neighbors)
As a novelist with one or two book sales to Hollywood, but no major best sellers, many years ago, McMurtry offers his honest look at Texas writers, books, cities, small towns, and... Read more
Published 13 months ago by william l.
4.0 out of 5 stars In A Narrow Grave-Essays On Texas--Larry McMurtry
The opinions by Mr. McMurtry on Texas are based on his travel and personal insights. One may feel the author is at times being too judgmental and harsh regarding the geography,... Read more
Published on February 15, 2010 by Charles Hamilton Sr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, intelligent perceptions with occasional tributes
This book, dating back to 1968, following the immense success of three early novels, is the author's first attempt at writing non-fiction. Read more
Published on June 27, 2009 by Robert Tucker
1.0 out of 5 stars In A Narrow Grave
Larry McMurtry's only great works was Lonesome Dove. He is very narrow minded. In my opinion, he abused his readership just because he had a successful novel in Lonesome Dove. Read more
Published on February 6, 2009 by Lynn E. Waters
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate and Fun Record of Texas of the l960's
So it's dated history now, but written when Larry McMurtry was a young man beginning his publishing career. Read more
Published on May 30, 2003 by Evelyn Horan
4.0 out of 5 stars Narrow Graves & Wide Open Spaces
Larry McMurtry knows Texas, and in 1968 put together a book of his observations about all things Texas called In a Narrow Grave. Read more
Published on April 30, 2002 by allan bachman
2.0 out of 5 stars A collection of essays about Texas and Texans.
In this collection of essays, McMurtry treats various aspects of Texas life from bestiality to the loss of the frontier, but in the end he is only moderately successful in... Read more
Published on June 5, 2000 by Jerry Clyde Phillips
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More About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

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