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Paradise Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 7, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743215656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743215657
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,865,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The bard of the Texas plains ventures into unfamiliar territory in this slender, entertaining travelogue of the tropical islands of the South Pacific.

McMurtry, a veteran of long car trips along the back roads of the American desert, boards a cruise ship this time around, and not without some foreboding; wandering among the Marquesas with a motley complement of international "island junkies" with whom he finds little in common, this most bookish of writers finds himself running short of reading matter, forced to slow down to the tedious pace of long-distance sea travel, and not entirely content at the turn of events. McMurtry doesn't complain: instead, he passes the time remarking on the national and personal idiosyncrasies of his fellow passengers, mostly in good humor, and reflecting on closeted family skeletons, feelings of marginality and loneliness, mortality, and other matters while observing the passing scene.

A departure in many ways, Paradise finds McMurtry in a contemplative mood. "Nowhere else," he writes, "have I felt so far," and not only geographically. There's enough local color, enough dank glens, misty mountains, and sun-dazzled beaches to satisfy armchair travel buffs, but this is a quiet, thoughtful voyage that reveals that true paradise lies close to the heart. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, memoirist, screenplay writer and bookstore owner McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, etc.) took a 1999 cruise to "paradise" Tahiti and the South Sea Islands "in order to think and write about" his parents, Hazel and Jeff McMurtry. The couple "saw the sea only once" during their 43-year marriage in Archer County, Tex., about which their son writes, "Many people like Archer County, and a few people love it, but no one would be likely to think it an earthly paradise." The lush landscape of Tahiti and neighboring islands contrasts sharply with his parents' hardscrabble North Texas life. Listening "to the gentle slosh of the Pacific" in the lagoon beneath his raised bungalow, he recalls the day in 1954, as he packed to leave for college, when his mother startled him with the revelation that she had previously been married. Aboard the Aranui, he watches his shipmates ("world-class shoppers") while making occasional attempts to phone his dying mother back in Texas. He closely observes his surroundings (the Marquesas has "an end-of-the-world feel," while the Ua Pou flea market provides "a good illustration of the reach of global capitalism and its ability to turn the whole world into a species of mall"). As his odyssey ends, he wants "to turn right around and go back to Nuku Hiva." Readers of this excellent travelogue, abounding with literary references from Henry James to Kerouac, will likely return to the book often to reread their favorite passages of McMurtry's meditative prose. Map. Agent, Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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.

Customer Reviews

This sounded like a stretch at the outset, and still felt like one by the end.
Paul Gilmore
McMurtry notes the lush beautiful island communities remind him of Southwest Indian reservations and the "small towns on the Great Plains."
Carolyn Leonard
Paradise comes across as the work of a very depressed person who is grieving, who won't share his emotions with the reader.
Donald Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey M. Lacio on May 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If Larry McMurtry stops his autobiographical musings with this latest installment, it would be a fitting end of a trilogy: "Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen: Reflections At Sixty And Beyond" (1999), "Roads" (2000), and "Paradise" (2001). Hopefully, there will be an additional volume or two.
It is necessary to mention "Walter Benjamin" and "Roads" before getting to "Paradise". While not strictly an autobiography, "Walter Benjamin" explains something of McMurtry's upbringing, his younger days, his middle-age, and includes some family history (particularly his paternal grandparents and his father). Some of the book recalls portions of his 1968 work "In A Narrow Grave: Essays On Texas" (which contains one of the best pieces ever written about family: "Take My Saddle From The Wall: A Valediction"). "Roads" contains an abundance of opinions and reminiscings from McMurtry's life, and is combined with his 1999 thoughts as he uses America's great interstate highways to traverse the country as the great rivers were once used.
The autobiographical portion of "Paradise" includes the relationship between McMurtry's parents from their marriage in 1934 up through the death of his father (in 1977), and then onward with his mother. Intertwined with this is an early-2000 vacation to Tahiti which focuses on a cargo-cruise tour of the Marquesas Islands. The sly thing about this slight book (it is a quick read) is that one is reading a first-class travel book without even realizing it. As a bonus, the reader gets some interesting views of his fellow travelers (American, French, Belgian, German, and others), as well as some commentary on the Polynesians (past and present).
Once again, the novelist McMurtry succeeds in writing some great essay/non-fiction.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Fans of Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen and Mr. McMurtry's many fine western novels will be very disappointed in this book.
He visits Tahiti and the Marquesa Islands in the few days before his mother dies (which seems like strange timing, since her passing was expected), and sees the area as paradise in a sad way. Obviously affected by his mother's failing health, he pretty much sticks to himself and reads books. Occasionally, he makes an observation about how beautiful tropical islands mainly vary by the extent to which "civilized" amenities have been plunked down in them. He ruminates about why people who lived there fought with one another, or became cannibals. But he doesn't really take the thinking anywhere. He is struck by the fact that the ocean surrounding a South Sea island isolates its inhabitants much like the desert does around Southwestern Indian pueblos. That's about the level of insight here. A high point is when a Polynesian woman gives him some passion fruit as an unexpected gift.
Like in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, he reflects on his parents' marriage. But he doesn't reflect on it very much. Most of that ground is covered in the earlier book.
I only kept reading the book because Mr. McMurtry is normally a fine writer, and often has interesting observations. My reward for doing so was to find out about the logistics of visiting the Marquesas, which I have been thinking about visiting. I graded the book at two for its value as a travelogue. Otherwise, I would have graded it as a one.
Some people might characterize this book as an essay on the subject of paradise. It certainly has ruminations along those lines, especially about Gauguin. But the content isn't organized as an essay.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Horan on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Granted, this is not McMurtry's best work, but if I were sitting beside him, and we were chatting "in a stream of consciousness" way, I would find his thoughts interesting enough, sharing as one tourist to another, in an unhurried, leisurely exchange of views. This is a period in his life when McMurtry was having to face "loss" and the reader needs to include this understanding in his analysis of the book. I feel I learned more about McMurtry as a person, from having read Paradise.
Evelyn Horan - author
Jeannie, A Texas Frontier Girl, Book One
Jeannie, A Texas Frontier Girl, Book Two
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on December 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For those of you who enjoyed "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen" and "Roads", this is a briefer introspective work by the same author. This time he's vacationing in the South Seas while taking a break from the mental anguish of watching his mother slowly pass on. We start with a lot of family history and assume that this will be the theme. Then we go off in a different tangent as the book becomes something of a cynical tourist guide to the Marquesa Islands. Ultimately we find ourselves at a very appropriate ending.
This book, even more so than the other two aforementioned books, is something of a free verse of observations by the author. One comes away wondering why this book was written and I guess my impression that it was more for the author than for us. We are able to follow, somewhat, McMurtry's attempts to resolve some of his inner feelings as he knows his mother is slowly drifting away (albeit several thousand miles away). Yet at the same time, his observations about his trip and fellow travelers confuse us as to the depth of any of his feelings. Perhaps that is the point; a man who is at one of those points in life where life itself is a numbing sensation.
Should you read this book? Probably not unless you, like many of McMurtry's literary aficionados, enjoy getting to know the author a bit better. Otherwise it is just a journal of a trip. And it's a trip that the reader has to feel would have been more enjoyable if we rather than McMurtry were the ones taking it. Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it.
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