Review: When the Light Goes

Larry McMurtry (2007)

What begins as an entertaining story about a post-middle-aged man contemplating his twilight years degenerates into a full-blown male fantasy about an old guy hooking up with a babe forty years his junior. Duane has sex, or tries to have sex, or talks about having sex a lot.

Duane Moore’s story began in 1966, when he first appeared as a teenager in McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. Since then, his life story has continued with Texasville, Duane’s Depressed (which I enjoyed) and now When the Light Goes, which finds Duane standing at a crossroads. His wife has died, he’s still got a crush on his therapist, and his children are heading into mid-life crises of their own.

Duane’s continues to live in his bachelor shack on the hill and rides a bike to get around in the Texas heat, two quirks that sparked his first life change in the preceding book. Things in the dying town of Thalia, Texas are same as they ever were, except that nobody’s getting any younger. Folks move on, friends die, and Duane suffers a health scare of his own when he learns he’s a walking heart attack waiting to happen.

Enter Annie, a perky-breasted young geologist hired by Duane’s son to work for the family business. The old man’s reputation precedes him and folks immediately assume the two will be sleeping together in no time. Before he can work up the energy, Duane has to gain some confidence. The second half of the story centers on Duane getting his groove back, which includes two all-day sex marathons with his lesbian shrink.

When the Light Goes contains plenty of graphic and impersonal sex, padding this thin story to barely crack the 200 page mark. Characters floating in and out of Duane’s path are fairly two-dimensional despite McMurtry’s fine ear for dialog. Annie, for her supposed brilliance and confidence, becomes more childlike and uninteresting as the story goes on. Other than mutual sex ed, there doesn’t seem to be much connection between Annie and Duane. All-in-all, a disappointing final (?) installment in Duane’s life story.

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