Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but excellent!, October 20, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond (Hardcover)
McMurtry has proven himself and his talent time after time in a long career at the very top of his profession. His homey Americana themes are universal, his catchy, light-hearted prose is regionally charming and his lively plotting certainly has more depth than that of John Steinbeck (and I'm a big Steinbeck fan, by the way). McMurtry's latest, "Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen" (subtitled "Reflections at Sixty and Beyond") is the autobiography his legions of fans have been eagerly anticipating for decades. In the summer of 1980, McMurtry sat in a booth at the Dairy Queen on the southern outskirts of Archer City and studied "The Storyteller," Walter Benjamin's classic, in-depth essay on the nature of narrative. With Benjamin's ideas in mind, McMurtry began exploring his own narrative nature. How was it, McMurtry wondered, that a shy young man raised in a desolate, harsh place that had just recently been settled, "...a place where absolutely nothing of any cultural or historical importance had ever happened..." became an accomplished novelist? And a successful one at that? As documented in "Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen," McMurtry's search for answers to this and similar questions over the nearly 20 years since beginning his journey of self-discovery is truly remarkable. Spread generously among the provable academic facts, are some of the most revealing life details of this most private of word masters. For instance, even though he virtually grew up in the saddle, riding herd on a hard-working, dry land cattle ranch, McMurtry never considered himself a cowboy; and never wanted to. Instead, he yearned for nothing more strenuous or complicated than owning good books. In fact, McMurtry took up writing only because of his life-long love of reading. When his cousin went off to WWII, little six-year-old Larry became the delighted recipient of a box of paperback novels. Those nineteen volumes of pulp fiction lit a fire in the country boy's young soul. Almost fifty years later, McMurtry is one of the largest dealers in collectible and out-of-print books in the country, if not the biggest. But it was tough going at first. Through his high school and college years, McMurtry's voracious appetite for books only grew and grew. For a time during his poverty-stricken undergraduate days, he even occupied my literary review desk with the Wichita Falls TIMES and RECORD NEWS because of the steady supply of expensive new books that still come free with the byline. "...all I remember," he writes of those days, "is the thrill of opening the packages of books when they came, seeing what wonders had been cast up on my doorstep. " "Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen" is an unforgettable life's story that's as hard to put aside as it is easy to read. Sprinkled with family photos, anecdotes and lessons learned on his rise to the very pinnacle of the wordsmiths' vocation, this one is an all-too-short treasure trove of first person insight on an American literary giant.
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