Larry McMurtry -- Writer of Great Novels
Larry McMurtry — Writer of Great Novels

Here’s something I find kind of sad.

I just finished reading a memoir by Larry McMurtry called “Books.” Although McMurtry is an Academy Award winning screenwriter (Brokeback Mountain, with Diana Ossana), the author of 28 novels (including Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove), he is also the owner and operator of a used bookstore, and has been for about thirty years.

“Books” is about this alternative career.

That’s not what I find sad.

What I find sad is McMurtry’s admission that he never wrote a “great” novel. Here’s what he has to say about his novels:

“Most were good, three or four were indifferent to bad, and two or three were really good. None, to my regret, were great, although my long Western Lonesome Dove was very popular… popularity, of course, is not the same as greatness.”

Lonesome Dove is one of my favourite novels. Maybe McMurtry is right… it’s not great. It’s sublime. If my novel were even one thousandth as good as Lonesome Dove I would be ecstatic.


I don’t think that McMurtry is being modest. He’s been surrounded by books for so long that he has too many to compare his to. He’s comparing his books to the likes of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. It’s apples and oranges. Principia is great for one reason, and Lonesome Dove is great for another.

It may be that the quality of your work is inversely proportional to how good you think it is.

I think my novel is coming along quite well.