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Reviews Taking Stock: A Larry McMurtry Casebook. Edited by Clay Reynolds. Con­ tributing Editors James Ward Lee, Tom Pilkington, Ernestine P. Sewell, Mark Busby, Robert Flynn, and Don Graham. (Dallas: Southern Methodist Uni­ versity Press, 1989. 447 pages, $26.95/$ 12.95.) This is a smorgasbord, a generous collection of 41 previously published essays on Larry McMurtry, reviewing his fiction, nonfiction and the films made of his books (Hud] Horseman, Pass By, The Last Picture Show, etc.). Pulitzer prize aside, should McMurtry’s literary star shine longer than 50 years, one can picture this volume being mined as a treasure trove of contemporary views of McMurtry’s opus; for the contemporary reader it pulls together an inviting array of essays reflecting on McMurtry’s career in progress. A “casebook” in the sense that it not only gathers together articles from both well-known and obscure publications on diverse aspects of McMurtry’s career, even films adapted from his novels, this volume also provides an extensive bibliography, compiled by Charles Williams, which will be useful to the McMurtry specialist. The diversity of the collection, along with the stature and abilities of many of the contributing essayists, however, will make this volume interesting even to non-professional McMurtry aficionados. Included are articles by such literary lights and/or celebrities as Donald Barthelme, Louise Erdrich, Pauline Kael and Gene Lions. Taking Stock divides the essays into categories covering, respectively, the criticism of McMurtry’s essays and general criticism of McMurtry’s work, the Thalia trilogy (titled “Doing Without” ), the Houston trilogy (“Moving On” ), the Trash trilogy (“Leaving Texas” ), Texasville (“Coming Home”), and films of McMurtry’s novels (“Filming McMurtry”). The introduction by editor Clay Reynolds provides an in-depth overview of the collection, and thus a valuable summary of McMurtry’s work and the body of criticism on it. Reynolds’ volume is, in his own words, “a kind of critical taking stock” of McMurtry’s mixed literary reputation, acknowledging that “almost without exception, those who have followed his career await his next publication with anticipation and not a little dread.” The concluding essay by scholar Hamlin Hill—“Thalia and the Real Texans”—is an original essay for this collection. In it Hill places McMurtry’s themes in the context of western American literature. In particular, Hill is interested in distinguishing Texans and literature about them from Southerners and the better established and better-known literature about them. Texans are distinguished from Southerners, says Hill, chiefly by their restlessness, as McMurtry’s fiction amply demonstrates. Because of this restlessness, Hill makes 66 Western American Literature the case for Texans being “blood kin to modern man” [here we might ask why, in such a recent book, “man” is still allowed to signify men and women alike], “universal” characters facing modern dilemmas. Still, Hill probably right­ fully makes no attempt to comment definitively upon the lasting value of McMurtry’s fiction, and the collection itself honestly acknowledges that the biggest question about McMurtry facing the literary critic is, as editor Reynolds says, “just how seriously to take his novels or his critical pronouncements.” KATE ARNESON Augustana College Strategies of Reticence. Silence and Meaning in the Works of Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, and Joan Didion. By Janis P. Stout. (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1990. 228 pages, $27.50.) The coming of age of any body of criticism would seem to be a condition of flexibility: a time when the apparatus of any critical approach could itself admit others. Janis Stout, in her feminist reading of works of Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, and Joan Didion, advances and applies not only current explorations into the rhetoric of reticence—and the decon­ struction of linguistic effects—but reasonably incorporates into her scheme a history of criticism in interpreting the work of each woman writer. The result is a balanced and open-ended assessment—reassessment—of what Stout calls “consciously or unconsciously chosen strategies for effect.” The juxtaposition of these four women writers is itself interesting and revealing. Stout establishes Austen as the fountainhead of “strategically reticent style” in the novel as we know it. Careful to indicate her selection as both...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 65-66
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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