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Authors: Larry McMurtry

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Moving On

BOOK: Moving On
13.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for Larry McMurtry and
Moving On

“A Texas-sized book . . . Mr. McMurtry is blessed with an absolutely solid sense of place. His backgrounds and scenic descriptions are inherent parts of his story, contributing as much to the novel as does the completely natural dialogue.”

Saturday Review

“A marvelous book, funny, tough, filled with sensual good nature and nerviness.”

—Herbert Gold

“Moving On
is filled with memorable cameos.… McMurtry writes with intellect, compassion, and considerable skill.”

Library Journal

“McMurtry can transform ordinary words into highly lyrical, poetic passages.… He presents human drama with a sympathy and compassion that make us care about his characters in a way that most novelists can’t.”

Los Angeles Times

“Larry McMurtry is among the most imaginative writers working today.”

San Francisco Chronicle

By Larry McMurtry

Telegraph Days

Oh What a Slaughter

The Colonel and Little Missie

Loop Group

Folly and Glory

By Sorrows River

The Wandering Hill

Sin Killer

Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West


Boone’s Lick

Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond

Duane’s Depressed

Comanche Moon

Dead Man’s Walk

The Late Child

Streets of Laredo

The Evening Star

Buffalo Girls

Some Can Whistle

Anything for Billy

Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood


Lonesome Dove

The Desert Rose

Cadillac Jack

Somebody’s Darling

Terms of Endearment

All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers

Moving On

The Last Picture Show

In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas

Leaving Cheyenne

Horseman, Pass By

By Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana

Pretty Boy Floyd

Zeke and Ned

By Larry McMurtry, Annie Proulx, and Diana Ossana

Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay


a novel by

Larry McMurtry

With a New Preface

Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
New York   London   Toronto   Sydney

Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events
or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1970 by Larry McMurtry
Preface copyright © 1987 by Larry McMurtry

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.

This Simon & Schuster paperback edition 2006
& S
and colophon are
registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,
please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at
1-800-456-6798 or [email protected]

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Touchstone edition
as follows:
McMurtry, Larry.
Moving on.
(A Touchstone Book)
I. Title.
PS3563.A319M6 1987
813′.54 86-31587
ISBN-13: 978-0-671-20604-8
ISBN-10: 0-671-20604-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-684-85388-8 (Pbk)
ISBN-10: 0-684-85388-4 (Pbk)
eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-2892-3

The verse quoted on page 7 is from “Old Showboat,”
by Marijohn Wilkin and Fred Burch, copyright © 1962 by
Cedarwood Publishing Co., a division of Musiplex Group, Inc.
Used with permission.

For the woman with whom I found
the unemptiable Horn

Oh I rode into Dallas,
Feeling kinda low;
Thought I’d pick me up some change
At the ro-dee-o . . .

I fumbled with in
Moving On
is whether its heroine, Patsy Carpenter, cries too much.

I might say that I had not even the haziest consciousness of this problem while I was writing the book. Then it was published, and I immediately started finding myself locked into arguments with women, all of whom resented Patsy’s tears.

Though the women I was arguing with were often on the verge of tears themselves, and occasionally brimmed over with them, they one and all contended that no woman worthy of respect would cry so much.

Some of these arguments flowed and ebbed for months and even years, in some cases swelling back to flood stage just when I thought they had finally ebbed for good. I gradually came to feel that the question was not so much aesthetic as political. I had inadvertently left a copiously tearful young woman exposed on a lonely beach, just as the tsunami of feminism was about to crash ashore.

The fact that most women didn’t much like Patsy was a profound shock to me. I liked her a lot—enough to devote much of an eight-hundred-page novel to her—and I fully expected women to like her as much as I did.

The book was written in the late sixties, and set less than a decade earlier. As arguments over Patsy’s tears persisted, I gradually came to regard it as essentially a historical novel, one which attempted to describe a way of life—mainly, the graduate school way of life—in a vanished era. The era had only vanished a few years earlier, but it was definitively gone.

In that simpler era—as I explained to many sceptics—virtually all women had cried virtually all the time. The ones I knew were rarely dry-eyed, so it seemed to me that I was only obeying the severe tenets of realism in having Patsy sob through chapter after chapter.

My editor, Michael Korda, was evidently one of the few people alive in the late sixties whose memory for social and domestic history was as precise as mine. He too remembered a time not so long ago when virtually all women cried virtually all the time. I believe he was as shocked as I was when half the human beings in the Western world treated the book with scorn. And it cannot have helped that the other half of the human beings—i.e., the males—ignored it completely.

In the seventeen years since its publication, it’s fair to say that a few enclaves of enthusiasm have formed. A number of women from Arkansas have written to tell me how much they like the book, and none have complained about Patsy’s tears. It may be that in Arkansas virtually all women still cry virtually all the time, as they did throughout America in the late fifties.

A rather puzzling thing to me, as I look through the book today, is that it contains so many rodeo scenes. Few novels, then or ever, have attempted to merge the radically incongruent worlds of graduate school and rodeo. I am now completely at a loss to explain why I wished to attempt this. Apparently I deceived myself for several years with the belief that I wanted to write something about rodeo. A publisher once went so far as to option a non-fiction book about rodeo which I proposed to write. The option provided me with an excuse to drive around the West for seven thousand miles, but I handily avoided all the rodeos along my route.

I grew up in the land of the rodeo, saw a great many as a youth, and cannot recall ever being particularly interested in them. Why I felt the need to graft a rodeo plot onto something I
interested in writing about—i.e., graduate school—is a mystery I don’t expect to solve, though I do know why I wanted to write about graduate school. In the late fifties, with no war on, the romance of journalism tarnished, the romance of investment banking yet to flower, graduate school was where many of the liveliest people chose to tarry while deciding what to do next.

The same milieu caught the eye of Philip Roth, who probed its textures in
Letting Go
, another long novel with a participial title. No rodeo cowboys strayed into his book.

My strongest memory of
Moving On
—aside from how much I liked Patsy and her dowdy friend Emma Horton—involved the struggle to title it. In almost all cases I have started with a title, and then tried to find a book I can fit to it. The title helps prepare me for the book I’m going to write; ideally it should also help prepare the reader for the book he or she is about to read.

In this case the ideal did not prevail. I started with no more than an image of a young woman eating a Hershey bar, at evening in a car. At the time I was calling the book
The Water and the Blood

This title soon found its way into my entry in
Contemporary Authors
. A college president for whom I was making a speech misread the entry and introduced me to a comatose audience as the author of a forthcoming book called
The Water and the Bloop

No one rose to ask me what a bloop was, but I soon abandoned that title anyway.

Then I batted out four drafts of a book called
The Country of the Horn
. Patsy wept like the Sabine women, and there was all the rodeo anyone could want.

A year or so later I figured out that the book was really about marriage, rather than bull riding. The first four drafts were swept down a manhole and a long, titleless book began to evolve. Once I realized how long it was going to be I stopped trying to title it, in the belief that it would grow out from under whatever title I chose.

I finished it in November 1969, expecting that it would be published the following fall. I planned to spend several happy weeks with poetry anthologies, seeking a glowing phrase that would resonantly describe the book I had just written.

To my horror, Simon and Schuster informed me that they were jumping the novel to their spring list, which was weak that year in fiction dealing with graduate students who follow the rodeo circuit. Catalog copy was due in three days. I immediately read several thousand lines of
Paradise Lost
. I found many glowing phrases, but they had already been used to title other books. Then I ransacked such likely sources as ballad collections and hymn books, adopting and discarding dozens of titles.

Eventually I grew numb, and suggested simply calling the book
Patsy Carpenter
, rattling off a few historical precedents in support of this approach. I think I mentioned
Emma, Jennie Gerhardt
, and
Geraldine Bradshaw
as fine examples of books named after their heroines. Simon and Schuster remained unimpressed.

Finally, my editor’s then-wife suggested calling it
Moving On
, I was too numb either to love it or hate it, and in my numbness I conceded, foolishly, I now believe. Except for one reader in England who loved Patsy’s husband Jim—a man who would now be called a wimp—Patsy Carpenter, sobbing tirelessly, was the character everyone noticed, whether they liked her or not. I thought then and think now that her name would have done fine as a title.

—Larry McMurtry

August 1986  

The Beginning
of the Evening

at the beginning of the evening, eating a melted Hershey bar. She had been reading
but remembered the Hershey and fished it out of the glove compartment, where it had been all day. It was too melted to be neatly handleable, so she laid the paperback on the car seat and avidly swiped the chocolate off the candy paper with two fingers. When the candy was gone, she dropped the sticky wrappers out the window and licked what was left of the chocolate off her fingers before picking up the book again.

BOOK: Moving On
13.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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