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The Last Picture Show Paperback – 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1997
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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857998138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857998139
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,268,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: 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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Real literature written in a deceptively simple style. I have never been to America but McMurtry makes you feel that small town, mid west atmosphere and sense of going nowhere fast with his crisp prose style and brooding sense of despair.
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