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Chatting with Larry


by Jerome Weeks 23 Dec 2009

Over on Frontburner, a long-held complaint against writer Larry McMurtry was lodged once again, understandably so, given his NPR interview with Linda Wertheimer this morning. He’s a relucant interview subject at best; at worst, he’s grumpy and borderline insulting. During my tenure as book critic at the Dallas Morning News, I’d heard the stories. And […]

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larry3Over on Frontburner, a long-held complaint against writer Larry McMurtry was lodged once again, understandably so, given his NPR interview with Linda Wertheimer this morning. He’s a relucant interview subject at best; at worst, he’s grumpy and borderline insulting. During my tenure as book critic at the Dallas Morning News, I’d heard the stories. And I was given several terse ‘nos’ to my own occasional request for an interview with McMurtry — in person, over the phone, whatever.

Sure enough, when McMurtry and his partner Diana Ossana appeared on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd last year, he was so silent that Ossana kept leaping in to fill the dead space — leading to a pretty unsatisfying radio interview.

So I wasn’t looking forward to talking to them that same evening for the Nasher Salon series. But it turned out very differently. McMurtry doesn’t care much for Hollywood, so he’s generally tired of all the questions about his movies. He’s pretty ambivalent about a lot of his novels, especially the ones that everyone seems to know and/or love. And as he’s repeatedly indicated in his non-fiction (and what should be clear from his Westerns anyway), you can forget about the subjects of ranching or ‘Old Texas’ and all its myths.

But I was lucky: His memoir about reading, book buying and collecting had just come out, and those, it turns out, are what he loves to talk about. He couldn’t have been happier — during a public interview, at any rate. When receiving an award in LA earlier last year, he’d reminisced about the many antiquarian book shops in LA he’d once loved, stores that no longer exist. He practically broke down.

So that’s my tip for any future interviewer. Get him started on his book collection or his bookstore in Archer City. Those are his passions.

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  • Bill Marvel

    My tip for future interviewers would be, Find someone else to interview. Authors are not movie stars or overpaid athletes. They don’t owe the public a Colgate smile and a heart full of bull. Some of them are gracious in front of microphone, camera or notebook. Others are not. Many of them just want to be left alone to write. Or not write, as the case may be. None of them are under any obligation to make our job as journalists easy. Was B. Traven any less a writer because he successfully dodged the press?