The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996

Book Reviews

flipping back and forth will find Wooster's comments too compelling to ignore,
but the exercise too maddening to enjoy fully this otherwise engaging little
book.
East Texas State University TY CASHION
Larry McMurtry and the West: An Ambivalent Relationship. By Mark Busby. (Denton:
University of North Texas Press, 1995. Pp. 344. ISBN 0-929398-34-3.
$19.95.)
Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times. By Janice P. Stout. (Charlottesville: Uni-
versity Press of Virginia, 1995. Pp. xviii+381. Bibliography, index. ISBN o-
81391-568-6. $35.00.)
In two new books the careers of Texas's two most important writers of fiction
are explored in rich detail. Mark Busby's Larry McMurtry and the West, the latest
offering in the impressive Texas Writers Series from the University of North
Texas Press, offers an extremely helpful overview of McMurtry's oeuvre. In the
same manner as Texas novelists whom McMurtry has criticized for being too sin-
glemindedly focused on a vanished agrarian world, many Texas critics and read-
ers long for the McMurtry of old, the wunderkind who produced in rapid
succession the "Thalia" trilogy within the space of five years. These readers, who
want McMurtry located in J. Frank Dobie country riding the mythic range, were
made happy again when he published the best-selling cattle-drive saga Lonesome
Dove. But there is another McMurtry, Busby reminds us, the author of self-refer-
ential novels who is in dialogue with himself. Busby takes the later (perhaps we
should say the postmodern) McMurtry quite seriously in a spate of sequels and
prequels to his earlier work, in novels such as Texasville and Some Can Whistle and
Streets of Laredo.
Busby makes good use of the limited archival material, letters, and juvenilia
presently available and provides starting points for those who seek to define Mc-
Murtry's vision and revision of the myths of the American West. Busby's biblio-
graphical portrait of McMurtry, disseminated throughout the study, is extremely
insightful. Busby finds ambivalence informing all areas of McMurtry's prolific
body of work: "ambivalence toward Texas and the West, toward the values of the
past and the mythic world of the cowboy god he grew up paying homage to, and
toward writing and artistic production."
Katherine Anne Porter studies are, of course, at a different juncture than
scholarship on Larry McMurtry. A considerable body of criticism exists, includ-
ing a biography, a volume of letters, several books devoted to aspects of the
fiction, and rich archives at the University of Maryland. Janice Stout's Katherine
Anne Porter builds upon this previous work and presents itself accurately as an
"intellectual biography." Tracking Porter, an inconsistent thinker who had opin-
ions about everything, is not easy, but Stout does a good job of sorting out what
she calls "a tangle of contradictions" that constituted Porter's long self-educa-
tion. Porter's sense of identity, for example, was rooted in a fabrication, a per-
sonal myth of a grand post-bellum plantation background so effectively

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/. Accessed July 28, 2015.