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Larry McMurtry To Receive National Humanities Medal
by Jerome Weeks 3 Sep 2015
OssanaMcMurtryCrop-400

Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry

President Barack Obama will present author Larry McMurtry the National Humanities Medal at the White House on September 10. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter joins Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri and food writer-activist Alice Waters among this year’s recipients. Previous fiction writers who’ve received the medal — which was inaugurated in 1997 — include Philip Roth, Joan Didion, Marilynne Robinson and poet John Ashberry. The writer and bookseller, who lives in Archer City, Texas, is being honored for his contributions to American literature — including such well-known books as Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show as well as the film (with Diana Ossana) Brokeback Mountain. McMurtry’s most recent novel, The Last Kind Words Saloon –– about Wyatt Earp was a national bestseller.

The full release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 3, 2015

LARRY MCMURTRY TO BE AWARDED NATIONAL HUMANITIES MEDAL

In a White House ceremony on Thursday, September 10, Larry McMurtry—the acclaimed Pulitzer-prize winning author of Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show, as well as the Oscar-winning screenplay (with Diana Ossana) of Brokeback Mountain—will be acknowledged by President Barack Obama for his contributions to American literature.

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.

McMurtry—whose most recent novel, The Last Kind Words Saloon (Liveright, 2014), was a national bestseller—has had a long and celebrated career as novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and bookseller, largely from his home in Archer City, Texas.

Robert Weil, McMurtry’s editor at Liveright spoke of being “ecstatic about this tribute. Coming himself from a family of old Texas ranchers, Larry McMurtry through his now timeless novels and screenplays has shaped our vision of the history of the American West more than any other American over the last two generations. In my eyes, he is truly America’s Tolstoy.”

Born in Wichita Falls on June 3, 1936 and raised in Archer City, Texas, McMurtry found his calling as a writer not long after a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University (alongside classmates such as future novelists Christopher Koch and Ken Kesey), when he published his first novel, Horseman, Pass By. Since 1961 he has authored fifty books consisting of novels (several of which have been made into feature films or TV mini-series, including Hud, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, and Lonesome Dove), biographies, and collections of essays. He has also been a major presence in Hollywood over the last several decades, writing the Academy-Award nominated script for The Last Picture Show with Peter Bogdanovich, as well as the Oscar-winning screenplay adaptation of Brokeback Mountain with Diana Ossana. Since 1992, Larry McMurtry has collaborated with Diana Ossana on multiple writing projects and film and TV productions, and continues to develop screenplays and pilot scripts for television.

Dividing his time between Texas and Arizona, McMurtry also continues to run a rare and used bookstore out of Archer City, Booked Up, which houses nearly 250,000 volumes.

In 2014, Liveright published The Last Kind Words Saloon, a fictional retelling of Wyatt Earp and dentist-turned-gunfighter Doc Holliday’s remarkable friendship. It marked a triumphant return for Larry McMurtry and a heartfelt tribute to a bygone era of the American West. Reflecting on that recent publication, Weil commented: “Separating fact from fiction, adding irony and humor to a West that was totally mythologized in Hollywood films of yore, Larry has actually recreated an Old West that could have really happened, while at the same time depicting an entirely new portrait of a contemporary West, as in The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, The Desert Rose, through the lives of its modern-day descendants. McMurtry has created a body of work that becomes American literature at its highest level.”

Liveright Publishing Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of W.W. Norton & Company. Founded in 1917 (originally as Boni & Liveright), it quickly established itself as one of the most important publishers of the early twentieth century. Under the editorial guidance of Horace Liveright the firm captured the flowering literature of the 1920s and 1930s, publishing some of the most celebrated American writers of the period, including William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, Anita Loos, and Theodore Dreiser.