Duane's Depressed is the third and final installment in the series known as the Thalia Trilogy by Larry McMurtry.
We first met Duane back in 1954. He was a senior in high school back them with his girlfriend, Jacy Farrow, and his best friend, Sonny Crawford.
Theirs was a coming of age story told in The Last Picture Show. As the book ends, Jacy goes off to college, Duane joins the military and Sonny stays in Thalia to run his own business. Fast-forward over thirty years to find the story of Texasville. The early 80's oil boom has come and gone. We are re-introduced to Duane, who is married with four kids and 12 million dollars in debt.
As a matter of fact, the whole town seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Yet the townsfolk remain in blissful denial as they plan the county's centennial celebration.
This leads to the final installment in the Thalia trilogy, Duane's Depressed. One day, Duane Moore parks his pickup in his carport and hides his keys in a cup in the pantry. At sixty-two years of age, he has decided to give up driving and start walking.
Since he lives in rural Texas, this choice of transportation proves slightly difficult. Each destination is several miles away, but that doesn't bother Duane.
It does bother his wife, Karla, however. In forty years of marriage, she's never seen Duane do anything so strange. Karla is convinced that this odd behavior means that Duane is going to divorce her.
The townsfolk are also intrigued by Duane's sudden need to be a pedestrian. Some folks stop to offer him a ride, but when they see his walking by choice, they leave him alone. Word travels fast around Thalia that Duane's finally flipped.
Duane himself wonders if he's flipped. He finds he enjoys the solitude more than being with his family. He leaves his wife, children, grandchildren and 12,000 square foot mansion for a rustic one-room cabin six miles from home.
The title of the book pretty much explains the situation. Duane is depressed. He spends the majority of the story in a self-imposed solitary confinement. Such behavior suits him just fine. He sees Thalia from a whole new perspective and even begins to analyze his life.
The analysis of Duane Moore is the subject of the story. It may not sound very exciting in this review. However, once you read the novel, you'll see why Larry McMurtry is an award-winning author. His keen observations of human behavior, detailed descriptions of the vast Texas landscape, and generous amounts of low-key humor almost always make for a good story.
As I said in a previous review, I loved The Last Picture Show. I thought it read like poetry. When I reached the end of the story, I wanted to know how Sonny, Duane and Jacy turned out. I thought I'd find the answer in Texasville but I was dismayed. The poetry I found in The Last Picture Show was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Texasville was a movie script. It was all dialogue, poking fun at the characters and the very town that was so interesting 30 years earlier. It was a definite switch of gears with which I was not comfortable. I got the feeling McMurtry was selling out, writing a screenplay instead of a novel.
Enter Duane's Depressed. I wanted to read the book in the hope of finding some closure with Duane and the gang. Oh, I got closure all right, just not the type I was expecting.
First of all, Jacy Farrow is not in the story at all. She is mentioned a few times, but is not physically there. Sonny Crawford plays a small role as well. He has one key scene, and that's about it. The rest of the time, it's all about Duane, which is kind of surprising, since The Last Picture Show focused more on Sonny and Jacy. Thankfully, Duane's Depressed does not have that screenplay look and feel that its predecessor had. McMurtry returns to the literary talent that earned him the 1986 Pulitzer Prize (for Lonesome Dove) in the first place. There's a lot less dialogue and a lot more character introspection in a language only McMurtry can speak. It works. That being said, I still recommend Duane's Depressed, but only as part of the trilogy. Without reading The Last Picture Show and Texasville, you will not care or understand Duane's Depressed. The Thalia trilogy is a lot of reading to consume, I know, but it's worth it. Enjoy!