Rhino Ranch

Reading Larry McMurtry’s novels is habit more than enjoyment, because every time I finish one, I wonder not only why he’s lauded, but why I spent time chasing his words. More than any other “literary” novelist, he seems to make stories out of nothing at all … the page-turning equivalent of Seinfeld. And of all the characters he’s chronicled, he’s made the most out of the nothing that is Duane Moore, most recently sighted in Rhino Ranch.

Moore is, as previously titled, depressed: his second wife has dumped him for another man, he’s being pursued by a teenaged porn star, and is intrigued by a globe-trotting billionaire with the urge to rescue the endangered black rhinoceros on a dusty Texas preserve. He also uses a lot of phone minutes chatting with his former therapist, Honor Carmichael, who now lives in New England with her latest lover. Duane engages in all sorts of silly behavior – the most egregious being a vasectomy – basically giving McMurtry 278 pages to document his drinking, spending and sexual escapades, as well as fulfilling whatever remains of his contract with Simon & Schuster.

If you need a forgettable book to read on an airplane or sitting by the hospital bedside of a loved one, Rhino Ranch is a good choice. Otherwise, to quote the author himself … horseman, pass by.

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