The Last Book
Archer City’s favorite son and Texas icon Larry McMurtry died March 25, 2021.
But paraphrasing Gus McCrae, one of McMurtry’s most memorable characters, this note is not about dying. It’s about living.
McMurtry won both a Pulitzer Prize, for Lonesome Dove, and an Academy Award, as screenwriter for Brokeback Mountain. Those two accomplishments alone constitute a lot of living.
McMurtry was a great storyteller and gifted writer.
He was also a bookseller. Almost single handedly, he turned Archer City into America’s version of Wales’ Hay-on-Wye, the town of books. Bottom line: he loved books.
His life and writing career can be followed in the signature he signed onto who knows how many books for who knows how many fans.
Early on, his signature was neat and legible. Through the years, it became something more akin to a mark made by an illiterate as opposed to the man of letters he was.
Perhaps his success and corresponding demands on his time explain his signature changes? He wrote almost every day. It is logical he had progressively less time to devote to each signature because there were progressively more books to sign. Perhaps a better explanation: each moment spent doing something as simple as signing his name left less time to live.
As each of us age, we must deal with difficulties. Gus McCrae said it well: “It’s a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.” Likely, life’s hardships contributed to making McMurtry’s signature the scrawl it became.
It is not the clarity of McMurtry’s signature that makes a book signed by him special. It is the fact he signed it at all.
Writing a book is not easy. It is a given McMurtry had innate God given abilities as a writer. But he took nothing for granted. He worked hard and constantly honed his craft. He spent a large part of his life capturing the right thought, finding the right word, and penning the right phrase. He poured a bit of himself into every sentence of every book he wrote.
The Oscar and the Pulitzer attest to the fact he wrote extraordinarily well. He invested himself into his writing and his books. Perhaps he simply emptied himself and his signature showed it? At the end of the day, who cares? Whatever his signature looked like, it was his. There will be no more. He has signed his last book.