Tammy Marshall, "Novel Thoughts"

March 25 dealt the literary world a mighty blow. On that day, both Larry McMurtry and Beverly Cleary passed away. He wrote for adults, and she wrote for children.

In 1986, McMurtry won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Lonesome Dove. I’ve read the novel a couple of times, and I’ve seen the well-acted TV miniseries starring two of my favorite actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall, who will forever be the faces of Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae. What I haven’t done, though, is read the sequel and the two prequels that McMurtry wrote for Lonesome Dove.

I don’t have any real excuse for not having read them, either, because I own all of them. Yep, the sequel, Streets of Laredo, as well as the two prequels, Dead Man’s Walk and Comanche Moon, are sitting on one of my many bookshelves just awaiting my time and attention. Apparently, they’ve been made into TV series as well, but I haven’t seen them. Looking them up on IMDB.com (internet movie database), I’m not sure I want to watch them because other actors play the pivotal roles, and Jones and Duvall simply fit the bill too well to be replaced by other faces.

My only real excuse for not having read those three books, though, is that I own so many books that I simply haven’t found the time to read McMurtry’s. At least, I thought I owned a lot of books until I read about McMurtry’s personal collection of books as well as his four-building bookstore in Archer, Texas. My collection numbers between one to two thousand books. His collection numbered at about half a million all together. Half a million books! He certainly never found the time to read all his books either, I’m sure of that, but I do want to get around to reading more of his work, including the books I’ve already mentioned and Terms of Endearment, which was also made into a phenomenal movie.

For a few years, I used Dear Mr. Henshaw by Cleary with my eighth graders because it tells a sweet story and because it’s a great example of an epistolary book. The book won a John Newbery Medal in 1984. This medal is awarded to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” according to the American Library Association.

When I was a child, I enjoyed reading Cleary’s books about Ramona, Beezus, Henry, and Ribsy; but my favorite book by her was The Mouse and the Motorcycle which greatly contributed to my early desire to ride and to own a motorcycle. While I haven’t gotten into the peck of troubles that Ralph S. Mouse did in this and the two following books, I’d like to think that Ralph and I both have had great adventures on our motorcycles.

Cleary died at the age of 104, and she packed a lot of writing into her long life. Any child who ever had the pleasure of reading her books was a lucky child. Fortunately, books live on after their authors are gone, so children now and far into the future can continue to enjoy her works. We adults can keep reading the wealth of great stories left behind by McMurtry, too. He was 84 when he passed away, but his spirit will live on through Lonesome Dove and many other books.

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This month’s reading selection is “Atonement” by Ian McEwan. Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

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