I’ve just finished Part II of Larry McMurtry’s autobiography, Literary Life, and found it contained many surprises. One would think the author of Lonesome Dove and 29 other novels, a man who has won the Pulitzer Prize and written dozens of screenplays, including Broke Back Mountain would consider himself a success as a writer. Sadly, success is in the eye of the beholder and like money, apparently, there seems never to be enough of it. The person I discovered between the covers of McMurtry’s book is a man who doubts himself and though loathe to admit it, seeks approval in corners of the literary world he tries to eschew.
In one sense, I think it’s good to continue to strive for something. But he gives us would-be writers and anyone with ambition a stern lesson. Every rung we achieve only provides a better view of a higher one with no end in sight until our last, dying breathe. His is the lesson of Tantalus, a warning that though we aspire, we would be wise to pause where we are, if only for a moment, to enjoy the view.
Should I be bitter about the literary establishment’s long disinterest in me? I shouldn’t, and mostly I’m not, though I do admit to the occasional moment of irritation. Any writer with much self-respect would feel a twinge of annoyance at the inequalities of the critical marketplace. One should always keep a grain, or perhaps a pinch, of salt handy for those moments, while remembering the great axiom of John Maynard Keynes: ‘In the long run we’ll all be dead.’ (Literary Life, A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry, pgs. 103-104)
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