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The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show

Book - 1994
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The youth of a small town in mid-twentieth-century Texas search for ways to escape boredom and experience life and love.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, [1994]
Copyright Date: ©1994
ISBN: 9780684853864
Branch Call Number: FIC MCMURTR 1994
Characteristics: 280 pages ; 21 cm


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Feb 13, 2021

Great early novel by Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) that was the basis for the excellent early 1970s movie, follows football stars Sonny and Duane and homecoming queen Jacy through their senior year in HS in a small Texas town. This beautifully written study of small town life features many memorable characters, including the slob of a football coach, his mousy wife with whom Sonny has an affair, and Sam the Lion, owner of the picture palace, the diner and the pool hall, where most of the action in Thalia (the town) is found. McMurtry later became a superstar with Lonesome Dove - also a great read - but this smaller scale novel is one not to miss.

May 21, 2020

This is the novel that secured McMurtry's place as one of the great modern American storytellers. Set in 1950's Texas, it follows the lives of Sonny, Jacy and Duane - three pals on the threshold of adulthood - and the people they share the town of Thalia with. The star of the story though, is the movie theater. It's the uncelebrated center of Thalia's social universe and her portal to the rest of the world.

May 13, 2019

This is the story of Duane, Jacy, and Sonny—teenagers longing for love and a more thrilling life—as well as some of the adults in their small town of Thalia, Texas. The teenagers dream of bigger things than the town seems to offer and the adults are drawn to the fresh teenagers like moths to a flame. The adults’ misery with life in Thalia is palpable.

This story is humorous and nostalgic, yet melancholy and dejected. The sadness most of the characters feel about their lives is front and center, and even when the teenagers are thrill-seeking, their bad decisions come back to haunt them in the form of unexpected outcomes. The adults are no better. Even in the last chapter when Ruth rages at Sonny’s ineptitude and inadvertent coldness toward her, she still longs for his youthful touch while she exclaims, “I’m really not smart.”

I’m certain around the time of its original publication, the spotlight on the internal lives of these teenagers’ sex lives must have been illuminating. But reading it now, the revelations are somewhat cliché and groan-inducing, rather than thrilling.

But more importantly, McMurtry’s writing is economical yet sturdy, even poetic at times. And he has a strong ability to develop characters in a natural way. There is one chapter that affected me deeply, the one where Sam the Lion goes to the lake with Duane and Sonny and tells them about a time when he was their age and took a girl to the same spot on the lake. It is a moment of reflection for Sam the Lion that affects him and the reader deeply, revealing his longing for a love and a place in time that is distant yet ever-present in his heart. The teenage boys have a difficult time imagining their elder statesman as a teenager like them, doing the same lusty pining they themselves are guilty of doing. It’s an excellent scene with a lot to contemplate and unpack, and its written beautifully.

Jul 03, 2015

A sleepy, dusty old town filled with warm and wonderful characters. Frustrations of small town living are in every day and still the people move forward.
Of the three main characters, Duane, Jacy & Sonny, I like Sonny the best. But the lives of all of these characters is poignant and warm as they find their way through their last year of high school and into the world.
I look forward to continuing their stories in Texasville one day soon.

diesellibrarian Jan 15, 2014

A dusty, slightly hopeless journey through the barrenness of coming of age in west Texas, where everyone hits their peak in high school, and it's all downhill from there. Fans of Keith Maillard will appreciate the author's unflinching gaze and southern gothic sensibility.


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May 21, 2020

Thalia is a small town in Texas, with small dreams begging for bigger. With conversations that center around the most recent movie shown at the local movie theater, it's a dagger to the heart of civic life when the theater announces its final screening before closing the doors for good. The story orbits around three high school friends on the verge of adulthood, each armed with their own dreams, none that include Thalia. McMurtry has expertly captured the essence of small town west Texas life in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Dell, .75), placing it atop the American canon of classic literature.

Mar 18, 2018

see review in Goodreads


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May 21, 2020

McMurtry has expertly captured the essence of small town west Texas life in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW . . . placing it atop the American canon of classic literature.


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