Saturday, June 09, 2012

LARRY McMURTRY ~ Gemini Sun - Son of the West

Larry McMurtry, born 3 June 1936, Wichita Falls, Texas, celebrated his 76th birthday this month.

Lonesome Dove is the work I know best by this author. I read the book years ago, watched the TV series, bought VHS tapes and DVDs, watched them countless times until I could almost recite the lines along with the actors. I was enthralled by this tale of the old West, almost as enthralled as I was by James Michener's Centennial. How strange that I should find myself, at a fairly late stage in life, not too far from the settings of these novels.....we've travelled close to both over the past 8 years.

We've visited Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry's home town, several times. we've had a coffee in the famous "Dairy Queen" snack bar there, and shopped in his enormous used book store Booked Up which takes in most of the buildings mid-town. I've read recently though that McMurtry is downsizing his Archer City footprint - from Book Patrol, April 20212

In August a public auction will be held on site to release 350,000 books into the wild. The announcement, which was posted on Booked Up's website, makes it clear that this is less a negative event then an opportunity for many of the books McMurtry has acquired through his long bookselling career to find new homes. Over the years McMurtry has secured the inventory of 26 bookshops and close to 200 personal libraries.
Author and screenwriter, McMurtry has been one of the best and most enlightening chroniclers of a fictional US West in transition. He is credited with reviving the genre and imbuing it with realism laced with satire. He grew up in Archer County, Texas on a cattle ranch established by his grandfather. His literary career began writing for magazines while teaching, later he became a freelance journalist and book reviewer.

McMurtry has written around twentyseven novels, including The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment , Pulitzer prize winning Lonesome Dove , and its sequel Streets of Laredo and prequels Dead Man's Walk and Comanche Moon. Several of his novels have been adapted for TV or movies. His nonfiction works include a biography of Crazy Horse, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Paradise, and Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West.

His life path hasn't been easy. He suffered a heart attack in late 1991 which resulted in quadruple-bypass surgery. Recovery proved difficult after severe depression hit:

From an excellent 1997 article by Mark Horowitz in the New York Times Books section:
"I faded out of my life," he (McMurtry) says. "Suddenly I found myself becoming an outline, and then what was within that outline vanished." He was convinced that the operation itself created a rupture with his past self -- that being on the heart-lung machine for nearly five hours, essentially dead, left an impassable gulf. "Like you're undergoing an internal protest because of an event you can't remember. You feel that your personality has died, or been fragmented, so that it's swirling around and you can only occasionally attach it to your feelings."
He recovered, but slowly, first by writing what was to become Streets of Laredo a brooding sequel to his tour de force frontier novel, Lonesome Dove.

His astrology:

No time of birth is known, the chart is set for 12 noon.

Venus, Mercury, Sun and Mars are all in Gemini at 5, 8, 12 and 14 degrees respectively. What better indication for a literary career than a stellium in Gemini ruled by planet Mercury? Saturn doesn't link easily with those planets though, at 21 Pisces. I often think that Saturn links well into an author's astrological signature providing discipline such a necessary ingredient in the nature of any writer setting out on a lengthy book, whether a novel or non-fiction. Perhaps in McMurtry's case his generational planets Uranus and Neptune, both in Earth signs Taurus and Virgo, lend a certain amount of stability and discipline to his nature.
Or perhaps Capricorn was rising at the time of his birth, or Pisces, putting saturn on the ascendant. Lots of possibilities exist.

Publishing planet Jupiter lies in its sign of rulership at 20 Sagittarius, widely opposing his Gemini cluster. Could the tension of this opposition perhaps be the catalyst which led him from teaching to writing?

His natal Moon, if born before 8:00 PM lay in late Scorpio, if born later it'd have been in early Sagittarius - hard to say which is the more likely, but at the time of his heart attack in late 1991 transiting Pluto, planet of transformation and occasional darkness, was at 21 Scorpio, quite possibly close enough to his natal Moon to be considered conjoined. We can't know this for sure without a time of birth.

Depending on birth time and exact position of Moon, Saturn, Moon and Pluto are likely to form a Grand Trine in Water signs. McMurtry doesn't strike me as a superficially emotional writer, but he does imply deep understanding of emotional matters, often too complex to put into words. The relationship between Gus and Captain Call (Lonesome Dove) is a good example of this. Much later in his career McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, which deals with a very different relationship between two men, but dealt with in similarly insightful and compassionate style. He was able to touch me sufficiently to bring tears in both instances. Perhaps this is his Water Grand Trine at work.

Below: Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones played Captain Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Captain Woodrow F. Call, two ex-Texas Rangers

The late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal played Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, sheep herders in Wyoming:

Larry McMurtry, true "son of the West", with an innate talent for words. He has enabled us to share some of the magic which lies within the history of his (and now my) beloved land. (Yes, I love the land itself, a lot. I do not love its government and systems, it deserves better - much better!)

Ray Bradbury died during the past week. My 2009 post about him and his natal chart can be found HERE.


Wisewebwoman said...

I admire him very much as a writer. I think that deeper writing comes from a broken place within ourselves.

As to the wild and woolly West, what a fiction that was. I prefer reading about it from the aboriginal viewpoint.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ I know what you mean about the Wild West and its stories and legends, WWW. There are stories from both sides to wonder at though. The strength and determination of pioneer settlers - especially the women.
I cannot possibly imagine what they went through.

The wrongs against Native Americans stemmed from the army and The Poweers that Be (or were - or still are!) Causing bloodshed and crielty to the Native people spread to settlers through fear I guess). White hunters killing wonderful herds of buffalo for their skins were another black mark against newcomers, but mostly the settlers were just looking to begin a new life.

When I've seen little graveyards of pioneer settlers in what is, still, the middle of nowhere, I wonder at their courage and strength. I remember one in particular in a wild part of Oklahoma, where an elderly relative had attached a notice to a marker, and locals, maybe distant relatives had kept it readable - it went something along the lines of "....aged 6 years, killed by a wolf".