Larry McMurtry's newest novel, Duane's Depressed, concludes the story begun with The Last Picture Show and continued through Texasville. In this final installment, Duane Moore is 62 and strangely uncomfortable with life, Sonny Crawford is dying, and Jacy Farrow is five years dead, the victim of an Alaskan plane crash.
As the book opens, Duane parks his pickup under the carport, hides the keys in a chipped coffee mug, and begins to walk everywhere he goes. His family and neighbors immediately assume that he's either crazy or depressed. Karla, his wife of 40 years, suspects another woman may be involved in this sudden and unexpected change of lifestyle. She grows more concerned when Duane exhibits a distinct preference for living by himself in an old shack on some acreage outside of town.
Duane develops an overwhelming desire to simplify his life, to stop wading through clutter, to be beyond questions, speculations, marriage, business, all of it. He walks away from the life he has led to see what he can find.
Duane admires an orderly display of tools at a local store, seeing in it a counterpoint to his own cluttered carport, and, indeed, his over-complicated life. The tool display was built by the shopkeeper's daughter, Dr. Honor Carmichael, a psychiatrist in a larger nearby city. Duane begins to see the doctor, and she becomes the vehicle for his growth. Duane pares his life down to essentials. He gardens, walks, and, at the suggestion of Dr. Carmichael, reads Proust's Remembrance of Things Past for a few hours each day. When he finishes the three volumes, he is not sure that he understands the novel. His final visits with Dr. Carmichael reveal her reasons for insisting that he read Proust, as well as her initial diagnosis of the feelings that led him to park his truck and start walking.
As always, McMurtry is excellent with the interplay between men and women. Duane's Depressed is a book in tune not only with the others in this trilogy, but also with Leaving Cheyenne, Terms of Endearment, and Lonesome Dove. Honor Carmichael joins a long line of wonderful McMurtry women.
This final chapter in what McMurtry privately calls the Archer City trilogy proves him to be a mature and reflective artist, at peace with both his characters and himself.
David Sinclair is a former English Literature teacher and reviewer in Wichita Falls, Texas.