Larry McMurtry lives in Archer City, Texas. His novels include The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove (winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), Folly and Gloryand Rhino Ranch. His nonfiction works include a biography of Crazy Horse, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Paradise, Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West and, most recently, Custer.

What Woody Wrote

Woody Guthrie, circa 1950s
Woody Guthrie’s House of Earth was completed in 1947 but discovered only recently. It is a novel about farming; there aren’t many such. It’s a serious effort to dramatize the struggles of a young couple, Tike and Ella May Hamlin, who try to make a living as farm laborers in the most unforgiving years of an equally unforgiving place: the Texas Panhandle in the 1930s.

The Star Attraction

Geronimo at Canyon de los Embudos (Funnel Canyon), twenty-five miles south of the US–Mexico border, in 1886, the year he surrendered to US authorities
As a war cry, “Geronimo!” has certainly stood the test of time. Paratroopers in World War II yelled it as they hurled themselves into the void, and, more recently, our lethal team of killers were said to have uttered it when they surprised the bin Ladens in their compound in …

A Great Day for Books

Larry McMurtry during the ‘Last Book Sale’ at his bookstore in Archer City, Texas, August 2012
In a summer when the shoreline temperature in the Little Arkansas River reached 98 degrees—bad news for catfish—should I really have attempted to bring a bunch of citified northerners into the heart of the heart of the heat, which peaked locally at 116? Well, yes. It’s just weather, as my …

The Last Book Sale

Larry McMurtry in his bookstore in Archer City, Texas, August 6, 2012

In a summer when the shoreline temperature in the Little Arkansas River reached 98 degrees—bad news for catfish—should I really have attempted to bring a bunch of citified northerners into the heart of the heat, which peaked locally at 116? Well, yes. It’s just weather, as my popular hero Captain Woodrow Call often said if he heard a complaint. So I threw a book sale. Upward of 300,000 books went on sale in Archer City at public auction, which was conducted by the cracker-jack team of Addison and Sarova out of Macon, Georgia, where I gather the heat is wet rather than dry.

A Life for the Star

Elizabeth Taylor, 1954; photograph by Cecil Beaton
If one is attempting to judge the depth and force of a woman’s feminism—the woman, in this case, being the American actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011)—surely the first thing to do is to determine exactly what feminism is. The most succinct opinion I’ve seen is the famous doormat quote from Rebecca …

The Rick Perry Hustle

Texas Governor Rick Perry fires a gun filled with blanks at an event in downtown Fort Worth to kick off a weekend of NASCAR racing at the Texas Motor Speedway, April 15, 2010

What Perry has brought to the Republican muddle thus far is his abundant, if unfocused, energy. He rushes from debate to debate, gives many interviews, gets his picture on the cover of TIME; yet all his politicking is curiously affectless. He makes sounds, but where’s the personality? Hillary Clinton has a personality; so does Sarah Palin. Either of those women could cut Governor Perry off at the knees, and will if given the chance.


Marilyn Monroe in her favorite photograph of herself, taken by Cecil Beaton at the Ambassador Hotel, New York City, 1956
She started as a pin-up, that medium of titillation most popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Marilyn spent hundreds of hours in front of the still camera; such was her appeal that the accomplished photographer Richard Avedon reached for superlatives when he spoke of her: “She gave more to the still camera than any actress—any woman—I’ve ever photographed….She was able to make wonderful photographs with almost any photographer, which is interesting—and rare.”

Talking About ‘True Grit’

Jeff Bridges as Rooster and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie in a scene from True Grit (2010)

When invited by The New York Review to write about the very successful western (if it is a western; about which more follows) and Coen brothers movie adaptation of Charles Portis’s twice-filmed novel True Grit, we watched Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version starring John Wayne and Kim Darby, Joel’s and Ethan’s version, and also read Portis’s much-praised novel, on top of which we breezed through quite a few reviews, as well as portions of the production notes.

American Tragedy

The US flag flies at half-staff outside the US Supreme Court, January 9, 2011, in memory of the victims of the January 8 shootings in Tucson, Arizona

Murderous rampages of the sort that occurred Saturday outside a grocery store here in Tucson may retain some power to shock—twenty people shot down right up the road from where I write—but for me, at least, they have lost all power to surprise. Arizona is after all a state where it’s possible to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and many do.

The Trouble with Arizona

A US Customs and Border Protection agent apprehending an undocumented immigrant after he was spotted entering the country illegally, Nogales, Arizona, June 2, 2010

On April 23, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed into law what is probably the most stringent and least welcoming immigration law in the nation. Its intent is to have all law enforcement agencies in the state—Federal, state, and local—pool their muscle and get illegal immigrants out of the state of Arizona, pronto. Senate Bill 1070 may be cited as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.” Its passage immediately set off a chorus of indignation.

From Amerigo Vespucci to Darryl Zanuck

William Faulkner, St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1954; photograph by Robert Capa
So farewell then to Spiller, Thorp, Johnson, and Canby, whose durable Literary History of the United States has led at least two generations of graduate students through the complexities of The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam and other sometimes less than mesmerizing tales. Why goodbye? Because there’s a new posse in …

Indian Terror on Our New Frontier

‘The Storm—Apache,’ 1906; photograph by Edward S. Curtis
The two action-packed and densely argued histories by Brian DeLay and Karl Jacoby concern themselves with the terror, carnage, and widespread desolation suffered by the citizens of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, mainly in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century. This terror was wrought for the …

The Conquering Indians

Charles Goodnight, the great pioneering Texas cattleman, whose view of his fellow settlers (not to mention the human race) was seldom benign, once remarked that the appearance of a single Comanche could scare all the sorry white people out of ten counties. He himself traveled the vastness of the Comancheria—Comanche …

He Went Against the Peace Pipe

No sooner had I finished reviewing Michael Wallis’s recent biography of Billy the Kid for this journal[^1] than what should come in the next day’s mail but Michael Elliott’s excellent new book Custerology, about that other hardy perennial of western legend, sometime General George Armstrong Custer, who with more than …

Diane Keaton on Photography

My friendship with Diane Keaton began about twenty-eight years ago, when I found her, one morning, sitting in the flower bed outside the Madison Hotel, in Washington, D.C. She was rummaging in a bag big enough to hold a caribou, which contained a camera heavy enough to stun the caribou …

Our Favorite Bandit

Billy the Kid was ambidextrous—according to some. His favorite song—according to some—was “Silver Threads Among the Gold,” though once he discovered dancing, for which he had a flair, “Silver Threads” may have been bumped for “Turkey in the Straw.” According to some, his last (and perhaps only true) girlfriend, Paulita …

The Lives of Gore

In 1904, when Leonard Woolf steamed off eastward to become a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service, he took with him seventy large and well-printed volumes of Voltaire, the edition of 1784, in Baskerville type. In Ceylon his duties were not light—from time to time it became necessary to hang …

Texas: The Death of the Natives

Gary Clayton Anderson, author of this thunderclap of a book, lives in Norman, Oklahoma, which is just a hop, a skip, and a jump from Texas, far too close, I would think, for a scholar who has now suggested that the Texas Rangers—our heroes, our protectors—are pretty much the moral …

Barbara Epstein (1928–2006)

Barbara Epstein, my friend and fellow editor for forty-three years, died on June 16. She did much to create The New York Review and she brought her remarkable intelligence and editorial skill to bear on everything that appeared in these pages. We publish here memoirs by some of the writers …

Angel in America

“I, Nephi…,” the first words of the Book of Mormon—to some twelve million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, a holy book—reminds me of a similarly brisk summons to attention: “Call me Ishmael,” the famous first words of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. In the Book …

On Rereading

In Sowing, the first volume of his autobiography, Leonard Woolf casually records that his widowed mother, Marie Woolf, got herself a copy of Dr. Johnson’s Rasselas, kept it by her bedside, and reread it “dozens of times.” As one who has so far failed to make it through Rasselas even …

The Grand Acquisitors

In his study of “the new logic of money and power in Hollywood,” Edward Jay Epstein offers the reader a goodly array of facts, some of them charming and others of them snooze-making. I can’t easily suppress my indifference to the fact that Sony employed seven thousand people in 2003, …

Back to the O.K. Corral

From time to time during the long settlement wars of the American West, an event would occur which somehow took on a resonance in popular culture that far exceeded its actual historical effect. The defeat of General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (June 26, 1876) …

The Unknown West

A few years ago I grumbled in these pages that until around 1970 historical studies having to do with the American West were mainly the work of semipros: “Country editors, prairie schoolmarms, county historians, retired lawyers, lone professors here and there, and not a few raving eccentrics” who left us …

The Two Lives of General Grant

The grim Apache leader Geronimo, during the long years of his captivity at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, occasionally taunted his captors by reminding them that they had “never caught him shooting”—that is, taken him in battle. General (later President) Ulysses S. Grant, during long years of being photographed—in the field, at …