Moving On: A Novel
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is an early McMurtry novel, a long, rambling story with young Patsy Carpenter at the center of a large cast of characters that includes graduate students, ranchers, rodeo cowboys, a Hollywood writer, Haight-Ashbury hippies, and wealthy Texans - both new and old money. Written in the late 1960s, and published in 1970, "Moving On" is interesting for its attempt to capture the subtly shifting moods of its central characters instead of focusing on action and storyline. As page follows page, McMurtry describes his characters' feelings of self-assurance, annoyance, boredom, frustration, and sexual tension. And often moods degenerate into tears - Patsy's in particular.
There's more than a bit of Henry Miller in much of the novel, as characters attempt to match up their levels of sexual passion, often finding that they are rarely feeling the same thing for each other at the same time. Seduction is often unsuccessful or unsatisfying, a rendezvous full of romantic promise may turn into an argument leaving both parties exhausted. A pass made after several drinks at a party or over a milk shake at a soda fountain may elicit an exchange of bitterness and barbed recriminations. A married couple talks openly of their infidelities. A wife accuses her husband of being neglectful, while she routinely meets a colleague of his for sex.
For readers who like action and narrative development, this book will seem very slow going. For some, the many shifts of mood and ironies of thwarted intentions will make the story seem flat and the central characters unfocused. By contrast, the marginal characters, especially an old widowed rancher, a rodeo clown and his young barrel-racer girlfriend, and a teenage bronc rider spring from the page fully realized. A few scenes are pumped up with melodrama (a professor's wife breaks down in front of the girl her husband has tried to seduce; a champion rodeo cowboy refuses to accept that a ranch-owning woman he's been bedding is growing tired of him; a pregnant young woman is rescued from a drugged existence with a sinister boyfriend). But the most crisply vivid and emotionally honest scenes involve the death and burial of an old man in the nearly treeless prairie northwest of Dallas. They're simple and understated like the country folks who people these pages.
McMurtry says that this novel emerged from an image of a young woman in a car eating a melted chocolate bar. What follows that image is one thing after another, until we reach the end almost 800 pages later, and that same woman, now divorcing her husband, feels a kind of independence that may never surrender itself to another man. Some readers will find this ending worth the trip; others may find themselves, like McMurtry's characters, in a somewhat different mood.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2003
I am in the process of rereading Moving On and just checked Amazon for other readers' comments, which I found intriguing. I originally bought this book for two reasons: 1.)I'm a Larry McMurtry fan and 2.) I was interested in the rodeo aspects of the book. I was initially disappointed when Jim and Patsy left the rodeo circuit for the "desperation of suburban Houston," but I finished the book anyway. When I picked it up again recently, I intended only to reread the rodeo-related passages, and now (deep into the Houston section)I find I can't stop reading. McMurtry's creation of Patsy Carpenter is a grand achievement. Her endless crying aside, she is one of the most completely realized characters in contemporary literature. I can't think of any other novel that chronicles with such convincing precision the moment by moment emotional life of a single character. There are times, certainly, when I find her annoying, but she is also endlessly compelling. The other characters (Pete, Eleanor, Sonny)are a great added treat in the novel, but it is ultimately Patsy who impresses, and it is for the creation of her that we should consider Moving On one of McMurtry's best works. (P.S. to the earlier reviewer who gave the book a "lone star," what you say about the Waggoner ranch is very true. The descriptions are so beautiful that you want to move there (but then it functions as a kind of oasis in the book), and Roger is a touching character whose simple language belies great depth. McMurtry has created him with great affection.)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 1999
To correct and amplify on some of the earlier reviews -- As Wagner's 'Ring' is a prologue followed by a trilogy, Larry McMurtry's Houston books are a trilogy followed by a epilogue -- in chronological order, 'Moving On', 'All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers', 'Terms of Endearment', and 'The Evening Star'. After McMurtry attended Texas Tech University, he went to graduate school in English at Rice University in Houston, where he lived and taught in the late '60s - early '70s. These novels are a perfect historical & sociological mirror of the time & place (I was there, too), but more than that they are stories of memorable, completely developed, fully complex characters lost between an old & mythical Texas of ranches & rodeos and the new urban Texas fueled by big money, real estate & oil. Is there a more memorable character than Patsy Carpenter in contemporary American literature? She cries a lot -- oh, does she cry -- but she cries because she is lost, alone & confused, and McMurtry never backs away from or softens his portrayal of her despair. We intimately know her family & friends, their loves, affairs, betrayals and kindnesses, and they quickly become believable, fully human, and known. This is a long book and, in musical terms, stays mostly between mezzo-piano & mezzo-forte -- short on dramatic plot development and cathartic climaxes. But 'Moving On' is a beautifully developed portrait of a group of almost-real people, and you will remember them for a long, long time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2011
It's hard to describe Moving On. The book was not a success when it was released, sales weren't strong and the reviews were largely bad. And to a certain extent that's understandable, since it's a structural mess, with what might seem like too many stories going on, too many narrative side trips, an unfocused, erratic polt, and at times, honestly, it's boring.

Yet something funny happens as you keep reading. It's not just that McMurtry has an eye and an ear for his characters--some of them eccentrics, some of them ordinary people, and many of them both at the same time--or for the places he puts them in. It's that one has a sense, more than just about any novel from its time, that one is reading about real people with real problems, not characters in an an artificial world created for aesthetic purposes. The story bursts out in all directions because the people are too true, and too interesting, to let go of. Patsy can seem incredibly frustrating. Whatever her husband does, whether he ignores her or adores her, is wrong and alienating to her. It takes her forever to realize what would be obvious from the start to an outsider: they simply shouldn't be married or have gotten married in the first place. She's the central embodiment of the struggle nearly everyone in the novel faces, some with success, some not, trying to make a life work that is essentially unworkable and unsatisfying.

There are so many great characters here, fascinating, funny people most of whom you love, some you don't. There's Pete the rodeo clown and Boots his young wife, the barrel chaser. There Sonny Shanks the cruel alpha-male rodeo star and Eleanor Guthrie, the owner of a large cattle ranch, whom he hurts, uses and probably loves. There is dowdy Emma Horton and her funny, stressed out, horndog husband Flap. They are all people you feel you live with, people you don't want to stop reading about (even Sonny, who's cruel, selfish and dislikable). There's the silly rodeo kid, Pee Wee, and the old rancher Roger. Their victories are important, their losses are heartbreaking. Everything they do feels true. Almost everyone (but Emma and Roger) wants what they can't have and struggles to make the best out of demoralizing situations. Nearly everyone is struggling to make the best of what isn't good enough for them. They are all victims somehow, but there are no villains. They are often fools, bumping their heads against walls when they should have better sense. But that seems a fairly honest depiction of how most of us live. There's an honesty about the way McMurtry looks at these people and presents their lives that simply doesn't allow me to judge or feel superior to any of them. It one of the most humanistic books I've ever read.

But more than anything, in a way I can't describe as accurately as I'd like, the book simply *confronts* me in a way no other book really has. I feel like I am looking at life itself when I read this book, and it somehow forces me to look at myself and my choices in a way no other novel ever has. To call it a "satisfying" book wouldn't be right. It's too pessimistic at times, too sad even when it's funny, to be accurately described as "satisfying." But it feels so real, so true, that it gets to me as no other book I can name does.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 1997
Moving On was one of Larry McMurtry's first, and in my opinion, his best book. Its main character, Patsy, is an excellent portrait of an evolving personality. The incidental characters, both at the rodeo and back in Austin, are all well drawn. McMurtry also excells in capturing the culture, personality and humidity of the southwest.

Despite my love of some of his other books (Horseman, Pass By and The Last Picture Show), Moving On is my favorite
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This big book is replete with McMurtry's usual supporting cast of strong and strange characters (the best is Sonny, the ex-Rodeo Champion of the World and a truly loose man). The main character, Patsy, who is a study in female contradictions and a pleasure to behold on paper, prances fitfully through the '60s and marriage, lust, motherhood, and a Haight-Ashbury family intervention. Joining her are best friend Emma Horton (prequel to "Terms of Endearment")and a comically engaging parade of academics, lovers, rivals, and barrel riders. The novel really captures the confusion and mindful wanderlust of the time and once again paints the reader's mind in the many hues of McMurtry's Texas. Savor it slowly and often while pondering your ideal cast for the Best Movie Which Never Got Made
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1998
The first book (I think) in the trilogy that includes "Terms of Endearment" and "All my friends are going to be strangers". "Moving On" is excellent. McMurtry's description of small everyday tasks and oddball characters are beautiful. I read somewhere that McMurtry's women friends hated the book when it came out (one of whom supplied the title - McMurtry wanted to call it 'Patsy Carpenter') because the main character cries a lot. A LOT. But she is engaging and I wanted the book to go on and on and on.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2000
This is a big, wandering book -- but one whose length is justified by the in-depth exploration of its main character, the unforgettable Patsy Carpenter. Like a lot of McMurtry books, it's sad and funny and imbued with a deep sympathy for people's flaws and foibles and the situations they somehow get themselves into and then can't get out of. If you're in a relationship that's ended, is ending, or that might end soon, you'll find this book to be a bittersweet mirror. It won't help you figure out what to do, but boy will you recognize your own situation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2008
Yes this book is very long, and yes it is worth the read. McMurtry is a wonderful author, he has a way of putting the reader into another life, the descriptions, and characters are so vivid that you forget that you are reading a book.

The characters are very memorable, its been almost 6 months since my reading, but still today all of the characters are still etched in my mind. After finishing the book I felt, and still feel that they are my friends.

The dialog is first class.

If you haven't tried McMurtry I wouldn't hesitate. I will definitely be reading all of LM's work.

Also, if you are in the mood for some wonderful Alternative Country music, check out Larry McMurtry's son James McMurtry. Lets just say the talent runs in the family.

Happy reading, and listening!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2014
This was my first introduction to Larry McMurtry when I bought it from a book club based only on the large number of pages. At that time my reading was too voracious for my budget, so I bought big. As McMurtry proved in his Pulitizer-Award winner, LONESOME DOVE, this earlier work prefaces his voice and its ability to catch multiple characters and make them living people in print. While a spoiled, upset female protagonist cries over the inability to find peace in and out of bed with her husband, he leads her on a highway of rodeos, squalid motels, and graduate school searches. Both characters have lost their way due to money, education, and their abundance of both, but their lack of focus in any. I loved Patsy's friends, and allowed her to cry almost continuously. I assumed these tears allowed her to readjust her life and find a point for the future with or without a husband. It is the secondary characters like Emma and Danny Deck that will reappear in McMurtry's work, and who he will kill or seem to kill again and again. If Patsy cries to excess, be forewarned, McMurtry kills good characters just as randomly as life itself. This is the theme of this book. Life.
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