The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry made me realize I am much more of a prude than I admitted. I felt uncomfortable during most of the story. The book is described as “a rambunctious coming-of-age story”. That really means it is a book about bored, listless teenagers in a small Texas town wanting to have sex and having sex. The main character, Sonny, has decided he no longer wants to have sex with cows like the other boys do because he is sleeping with the high school football coach’s 40-year-old wife. His best friend, Duane, is in love with the gorgeous, but shallow Jacy Fletcher. All the boys want to have sex with Jacy. One has sex with Jacy’s mother when he doesn’t get to have it with Jacy. There is sex with prostitutes and sex with animals. There are nude swim parties that end in sex. When there is no sex, they masturbate, get drunk, fight or just feel depressed.
I tried to figure out why this book is beloved by so many. The most complex character by far is the coach’s wife, Ruth Popper, who has the affair with Sonny. Her husband is abusive and small-minded. Her loneliness is palpable. I never saw the film, but I do remember that Cloris Leachman won an Academy Award for portraying Ruth. There is another character, Sam the Lion, who takes the boys under his wings and seems to genuinely care about them. A waitress who has a minor role was also kind. I never became invested in any of the other people or the town. The town is bleak, many of the characters are self-obsessed, and there is an overall feeling of hopelessness.
I wasn’t the right audience for this novel. The bestiality was a bit too much for me. My book club has expressed interest in reading this so that’s the only reason I finished it instead of stopping when I got to that scene.