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Think: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana


by Jerome Weeks 17 Jul 2008

A scene from Brokeback Mountain Today on Think, Krys Boyd interviewed author-screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana about their writing and the art of the screenplay. The two are perhaps best known for their Oscar-winning adaptation of Annie Proulx’ short story, “Brokeback Mountain.” But they have also collaborated on the TV programs that have come […]

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A scene from Brokeback Mountain

Today on Think, Krys Boyd interviewed author-screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana about their writing and the art of the screenplay. The two are perhaps best known for their Oscar-winning adaptation of Annie Proulx’ short story, “Brokeback Mountain.” But they have also collaborated on the TV programs that have come from McMurtry’s post-Lonesome Dove series of Western novels, including Streets of Laredo and Dead Man’s Walk. McMurtry’s own Hollywood writing extends all the way back through The Last Picture Show (1971), when he shared an Oscar nomination with director Peter Bogdanovich. Even his first novel, Horseman Pass By, was adapted into Hud (1963).

Tonight, July 17, KERA’s Jerome Weeks moderates a public discussion with McMurtry and Ossana as part of the NasherSalon series. The event is sold out.

You can listen to the radio program here.


http://www.kera.org/audio/files/KERA_Think_7-17-08_mcmurtry.mp3

You can read Jerome Weeks’ review of Larry McMurtry’s new memoir, Books, on the Ars&Seek blog here.

And here is the Dallas Observer blog’s surprisingly even-handed review of the NasherSalon evening.

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  • To come to Krys’ and Diana’s defense: McMurtry can be a crusty character with little patience for being “on display”; in fact, he’s not granted that many public interviews, which is why the Think and NasherSalon visits were rare and welcome. While I was the Morning News’ book columnist, he regularly turned down all of our requests. An interview with him appeared in Entertainment Weekly a few years ago: The reporter had traveled all the way to Archer City, and practically the first thing McMurtry said was that he didn’t remember most of the novels he wrote, so it wasn’t much use asking about them.

    It was rather plain to me during the Think interview that McMurtry wasn’t keen on talking, for whatever reason. So what were Diana and Krys supposed to do? Diana is used to stepping in and talking about things McMurtry won’t — so she did. Otherwise, it was just going to be dead air.

    I was more fortunate with him later the same evening at the NasherSalon. I’d feared that because McMurtry’s 72, he’d be pretty tired by the time I spoke with him, and so in our pre-show meeting, I expressed my sympathy for what must have been a tiring day. “No, just boring,” he grumped. Not an auspicious omen for our chat-to-come.

    But then we stood around and swapped book stories and Texas literature lore and talked about Booked Up, his bookstore, which I’d last visited a year and a half ago. And he warmed up. Even so, early on in our public chat, when the discussion naturally tended toward personal stories and “Lonesome Dove,” he seemed almost dismissive, so I turned to Diana, too, for some answers. I think he has utterly pragmatic attitudes about screenwriting and Hollywood, so he’s not full of the usual excited gossip or advice. And he’s just tired of talking about himself and “Lonesome Dove” and “Brokeback Mountain” and the usual questions about where does he get his inspiration. (When I read aloud an audience member’s question about how hope and redemption clearly must motivate his writing, he replied, no, it was money.)

    But he loves books (other people’s, his own private collection), bookshops, book collecting and history, and onstage, when I asked questions based on his fine essay collections (particularly “Walter Benjamin and the Dairy Queen”), he really started telling stories. Afterwards, McMurtry actually thanked me. And Diana said, You got him talking about books and his bookstore,which he loves. So I got lucky. I heard what happened on Think and tried to steer the conversation in another direction.