Staff Pick

Larry McMurtry has always been ambivalent about the success of the fiction in which he portrays the cowboy myth and the rugged Texas machismo that comes with it, but as you read the three novels collected in Thalia: A Texas Trilogy (Liveright, $29.95) you won’t be of two minds. Actually, upon learning that McMurtry wrote all these books in his twenties and that they were the very first three he wrote, you’ll be burning with envy. In Horseman, Pass By, McMurtry sets Lonnie Bannon with his love of his Granddad’s ranch and way of life against Hud, his step-brother, who is endlessly crude and cruel. At the center of Leaving Cheyenne are Gid, Johnny, and Molly, a rancher, his cowboy hand, and the woman they both love. They each take a turn telling the story of their unconventional lives in small-town Texas. Finally, there’s The Last Picture Show, in which we see Thalia as a dead-end place. Of the three, this is perhaps the most darkly comic, as nearly every character engages in self-deception in order to eke out an existence in a town where every day is the same. Amid the fantastic and perhaps unbelievably melodramatic events, McMurtry finds a bottomless well of compassion for his characters. This is one time capsule was worth re-opening.

Thalia: A Texas Trilogy Cover Image
$29.95
ISBN: 9781631493751
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright - September 19th, 2017

Staff Pick

Described as an “illustrated novella,” and looking like a quirky coffee table book, A Field Guide to the North American Family (Knopf, $22), by Garth Risk Hallberg, is neither. This work, which Hallberg wrote before his 2015 New York epic, City on Fire, is an ingenious maze of a narrative based on the concept of the North American Family. Reminiscent of Lydia Davis’ seemingly quotidian pieces of pointed brilliance, Hallberg’s work is multi-layered, surprising, and deft. At one level the book uses a series of flash-fictions to recount the story of two families. At another, it’s an index of terms that readers can reference while reading the main plot—or savor for the wisdom they offer on their own. Then there are the photos. Each episode comes not only with its keywords but with a visual image. These are sometimes directly related to the text, like conventional illustrations, but often their relationship to the narrative is more elusive. Some pages look as if they’ve been torn from one scrapbook and pasted into this one, others look fresh and new. Grab this emotional map of North American family life and get ready to wander – it’s sure to be a warm, nostalgic trip.

A Field Guide to the North American Family: An Illustrated Novella Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9781101874950
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - October 31st, 2017

Staff Pick

In Paul La Farge’s The Night Ocean (Penguin, $27), Marina Willett’s husband, a famous-turned-infamous literary historian, has disappeared, seemingly a suicide case but maybe that’s just what he wants people to think. From this hook, the book’s tentacles spread into a kaleidoscopic series of investigations, as Marina double-checks her spouse’s leads to get to the bottom of a mysterious bit of H. P. Lovecraft apocrypha called “The Erotonomicon.” Cameos extend from Lovecraft to William Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, and more, becoming something like “The Savage Detectives of American weird fiction.” To follow this book’s incredible story, you don’t need to like, or even know, these figures, which are all fictionalized creations anyway, despite the author’s deep knowledge of their histories. La Farge critiques and parodies but does not romanticize these writers. He’s deeply attuned to how our human sympathies toward icons we learn about from afar can morph into blind obsession despite our best intentions. His narrative is a seamless combination of trickster humor and utter heartbreak, plumbing the depths to which people will go to forgive, embody, and take revenge upon their former idols, all while preserving their own reputation. The best writing lives inside you —even possesses you. The Night Ocean does just that.

The Night Ocean Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101981085
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Penguin Press - March 7th, 2017

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