Jennifer LaSuprema lent me a copy of Larry McMurtry's All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers (1972) and as a huge McMurtry fan, there was no way I could resist.
All My Friends... is McMurtry's sixth book, but it has the easy flowing, autobiographical feel of a younger work. Our hero is Rice student and aspiring author, Danny Deck. On a spur-of-the-moment trip to Austin, Danny wakes up on a floor next to the beautiful (and super tall) Sally, and instantly falls in love with her. He steals her away from her drunken professor lover and takes her back to Houston where they decide they might as well get married. Sally doesn't really like any of Danny's friends, or even Danny, all that much, and the two of them mostly have sex and sit around silently. Things change for Danny when he finds that his first novel is going to be published, and that Hollywood is interested in making a movie version. Flush with cash, the book turns into a road trip when Sally and Danny leave behind Danny's sultry neighbor and motherly friend and head to San Francisco where their relationship falls even further apart at the same rate that Sally's pregnant belly grows. Things go down and up and down again and end up back in Texas. Because how could you not go back?
One thing my summary doesn't capture is how freaking funny this book is. I could name a dozen scenes that had me laughing out loud, and the loose, anything-can-happen structure of the book reminds me of my favorite seventies movies. And if you have lived in Texas for anytime at all, McMurtry's descriptions are going to bowl you over. From drunken, academic Austin to swampy Houston to the dry expanses of West Texas and the contradictions of the Valley, McMurtry knows Texas.
The "young" feeling of this book and its protagonist that give it so much energy and humor sometimes drag it down with a bit of sad isolated artist syndrome. Danny simultaneously envies the warm acceptance in the homey kitchen of his best friend's wife Emma (who he can't mention without describing as chubby), but also feels he is too artistic, different, and special, to ever have that kind of comfort. I think these are the conclusions of a young artist who needs to feel like his successes and romances and life is much different from all the ordinary people he sees around him (the ending scene of the book really backs this up). If I read this book when I was 18 I would have been cheering for Danny the whole way. Reading it as a 35 year old makes some of his artistic antics a little annoying.
Still, if you like Texas, the 70s, a good laugh, or McMurtry, this one is highly recommended. A fun and fascinating look into an artist as a young man. Read it!