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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Town America, 3 Mar 2011
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Back in print and easily available once again is Larry McMurtry's modern classic, this time being issued by Penguin. You may not have read the book, but you have probably seen the film in which Cybil Shepherd made her big screen debut.

Set in a fictional small town, Thalia, Texas (although this is believed to actually be Archer City in Texas in real life). This is a coming of age tale with regards to the more prominent characters, but also this is how you imagine a small sleepy town to be. On the surface you don't expect much to happen, you have a few oddball characters, and that is it. But beneath the surface you soon find that the town is a seething hotbed of sex. The main character is Sonny, who ends up having an affair with the Phys Ed teacher's wife, you also have Jacy, a girl that just wants to get attention and have all the men after her; as well as more characters and situations.

Why this works is that you won't like all the characters, but you can understand them, so it feels more real life and gritty. Thalia seems so real that you feel like you have been there. There is humour in this book, but it is more along the lines of dark comedy, and there is a certain bleakness to the story.

One thing is definite though, long after you finish this it stays fresh in your mind and imagination, it feels like you have really been to the town, and that you intimately know most of the citizens.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Town Gem, 11 Nov 2011
By 
Thomas N. Orchard (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Last Picture Show is a wonderful evocation of 1950's small town life in Thalia, Texas. Larry McMurtry writes powerfully and passionately from both female and male perspectives bringing a host of characters to life. There's Sonny Crawford, the boy who wants Jacy but has to settle for second best, Sam the Lion who runs the town's entertainment venues, mixed up kid Billy, basketball coach Popper who's a sexual invert married to the depressed Ruth, frightening mother and daughter combo Lois and Jacy Farrow and Duane who's a hellraising young stud. And I haven't even mentioned pool wizard Abilene or rich kid Bobby Sheen who drives a Ford Thunderbird - the list is endless.
McMurtry brings all of these characters vividly to life making them all utterly real as well as totally believable. One can identify with Sonny who yearns for Jacy but has to settle for Charlene. You feel for poor old washed up Ruth as she has to put up with her boorish husband's antics. And one can root for the simple kid Billy who has no career prospects and no future outside of his town Thalia, a town he can never leave.
Thalia is the sort of town where nothing much happens so it's a mass of seething gossip about the small things in life. Everyone knows everyone else's business whether it be about work, money, relationships or just having a falling out with a friend. For such people just going to a dance in a nearby town like Wichita is a big deal and the highlight of the week - one they'll talk about for days afterwards. Everyone has a small town mentality in every sense of the phrase.
The story ends in tragedy of course - it just had to. And along the way there's heartache, unrequited love, marriage break up, madness in Mexico and death in the afternoon.
The novel is even better than the film. It's fuller, rawer, more honest, more vivid and far more rude. (The scene where the teenagers try to have sex with a blind heifer is rude beyond belief.) You really feel for Ruth having to put up with her flatulent husband and you always want to turn Billy's hat back to front seconds before Sonny does it. You understand Jacy's histrionics over puppy love and you sympathise with all the kids envying Bobby Sheen with his huge house and absent parents. The novel has a fuller account of the nude swimming pool party at Bobby's house as well as more interplay between Sonny and Ruth and Bobby and Jacy.
One of the great American novels of the twentieth century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Town USA Revealed, 21 July 2013
By 
Mr. Mark H. Gallacher "mh20790" (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
A realistic account of growing up in small town west Texas. Well written and utterly believable characters and plot. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McMurtry's Classic Evocation Of Youth, 26 July 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Larry McMurtry's 1966 novel The Last Picture Show is an outstanding evocation of life in small town America (set in the real life town of Thalia in Texas), focusing on the lives of lifelong friends and high school seniors, Sonny and Duane. Written in a deceptively simple prose style, McMurtry does a remarkable job, in what is a relatively short novel of around 220 pages, of conjuring up a poetic, but very tangible and convincing, vision of the intertwining lives of this 'off the beaten track' community.

The novel's tone engenders a range of emotions in the reader, from anger and despair to sympathy and sadness, as McMurtry's characters struggle to survive in a world where male machismo is the accepted norm (with frequent bouts of drinking and whoring) and where (even hints of) homosexuality will not to be tolerated. However, beneath the surface there lurks a more complex set of human emotions, of misplaced ambition, loneliness, sympathy for the disadvantaged, social divisions and yearning for the past. On the way, McMurtry constructs a brilliantly drawn set of characters, including enigmatic pool hall, cinema and café owner Sam The Lion, bigoted sports Coach Popper, ignored and frustrated wife Ruth Popper, centre of male attention, and girlfriend of both Sonny and Duane, Jacy Farrow, boozy and promiscuous Lois Farrow (mother of Jacy) and simple-minded street sweeper Billy. As Sonny and Duane come to realise that their exuberant days of chasing girls and boozing are coming to an end, so McMurtry's poignant tale also marks the end of an era for this tight-knit community and tragic circumstances lead to the closing of the picture house.

This book comes highly recommended, and, if you like McMurtry's subject matter and writing style I would highly recommend the novels of Richard Russo, in particular, Empire Falls and The Risk Pool (although all his novels are well worth reading).

Of course, McMurtry's novel was also made into an outstanding film, made in 1971, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepherd.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 25 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Paperback)
4.5 stars. I couldn't find the copy of the book I have, which is apparently an original hardback from 1966, but I suppose it doesn't matter regarding the review.
I was really surprised by this book. The only things I had previously read by the author were the whole Lonesome Dove series and Boone's Lick. The way it started made me think it was rather amateurishly (hope that's a word) written, and when I looked at the publishing date I saw that it was indeed one of his earlier books, but that feeling quickly left me and I really got into the story. It's about a small town in Texas, back in the fifties I think, mostly focussed around one high school senior, but there are plenty of (original, well-drawn) characters. There really is not much plot, and it basically just gives a good picture about how life in such a place and time would have been. It seems like a "wholesome" story in the way it's told, but there are plenty of things that aren't quite wholesome in it, including drinking, fighting, "underage" sex, adultery, bestiality, and general "depraved" behaviour. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable story with sympathetic characters and "real" (sorry for all the quotation marks) problems, and it has made me want to eventually read all of the author's books. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic writing from my favorite author, 23 Sep 2001
By A Customer
I,m a great fan of this author and have been ever since reading my favorite book Lonesome dove. Once again his writing is a form of poetry, with such great dialogue and characterisation. He evokes the modern West as well as he did the wild West in the above mentioned novel. Read it you won't be disapointed!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lonely lone star town, 4 July 2014
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Texas in all its emptiness
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: The Last Picture Show (Paperback)
great book in good condition
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great story, 11 Jun 2014
By 
Ron Hills (Havant, England) - See all my reviews
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This is one of the best stories I have read in the last forty years or so. It went on to be a great film as well. I would recommend it to anybody who wants a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I hoped for, 10 Jun 2013
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A slice of Americana from the great McMurtry. From the the first page you're immersed in the atmosphere of nostalgic small town Texas life and somehow care desperately about the characters. Even the exaggerated predilection of everyone for sex just seems feasible. I loved the women who despite their weaknesses seem more powerful than the men. Read this please but Lonesome Dove is his real masterpiece.
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The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Last Picture Show (Penguin Modern Classics) by Larry McMurtry (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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