- Hardcover: 204 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (November 5, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684854961
- ISBN-13: 978-0684854960
- Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond Hardcover – November 5, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Do you really want to listen to a cranky old man ramble on about his childhood, his heart surgery, his hobbies, his son, and the way things, in general, aren't what they used to be? It turns out you do. In Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Larry McMurtry comes the old pardner, and the result is a powerful elegy for the lost spaces in American life. He takes as his starting point an afternoon he spent at the Dairy Queen in Archer City, Texas, reading the pensées of early 20th-century German philosopher Walter Benjamin. At the time Benjamin was writing, McMurtry's grandparents were settling dusty reaches of west Texas, and McMurtry crosscuts neatly between Benjamin's spent, smoky Europe and his own grandparents' America: "While my grandparents were dealing with almost absolute emptiness, both social and cultural, Europe was approaching an absolute (and perhaps intolerable) density." McMurtry demonstrates a confidence almost bordering on naiveté in the way he appropriates the great thinking of Europe and applies it to his own history. He apologizes neither to the highfalutin Europeans nor to the down-home Americans, but makes them lie down together any way he sees fit. This brio makes Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen a thrilling read.
McMurtry's book-length essay loops outward from Archer City to encompass a polemic against computers, a foray into the world of book collecting, a family biography, an account of his soul-loss after heart surgery, and finally an elegy for the cowboy. This last lament casts a shadow back over what we've read. Not just over this book, but over McMurtry's whole body of work. A man who's lived his whole life in print gives us a glimpse of what has fed him, and, strangely, it's loss. "Because of when and where I grew up, on the Great Plains just as the herding tradition was beginning to lose its vitality, I have been interested all my life in vanishing breeds." The master of storytelling is finally revealed as a master of melancholy. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
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 developAit'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 familyAa 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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Browse award-winning titles. See more