All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers
by Larry McMurtry
1972 / 304 pages
This is one of McMurtry’s earlier and lesser novels and it shows. His really good ones came later, Terms of Endearment, 1975; Lonesome Dove, 1985; The Berrybender Chronicles, 2002; Sacajawea’s Nickname (nonfiction), 2001). I loved Lonesome Dove and it stood up quite well when I reread it in the early 2000’s some time. The Berrybender Chronicles are definite favorites, and I’ve read a lot more. This one? – Meh. But that may be due in part to the changing times -it feels dated. It feels very 1970s with all the sex, drugs and San Francisco – it’s not anywhere near good enough to be classic stuff on its own – McMurtry’s name from his greats will carry it.
I’ve read quite a few of McMurtry’s novels starting with The Last Picture Show (1966) and a few of its sequels, Lonesome Dove (I read no sequels) the entire Berrybender series and several stand-alones. I even read one of his nonfictions, Sacajawea’s Nickname (excellent). A reader never knows quite what to expect from McMurtry, but he is very good with a western setting.
But this is neither a “Western” in the normal sense of the genre, nor historical. Part of it takes place in Texas circa 1970. San Francisco of the same era is another setting and the hippie-sex-artist scene is included on a general level. It’s almost history now – the stuff of classics.
Our hero, Danny Deck, is a Texas-based budding writer with his first novel very recently accepted for publication. He gets involved Sally, a woman who is sexually involved with an acquaintance. Sally wants desperately to get out of the relationship so Danny takes her, marries her and they move to San Francisco. What Sally really wants to do is get pregnant and the minute she is she ignores Danny and wants out of the marriage.
Danny is desolate but his novel is being published and then he meets Jill, a wonderful woman although she’s depressed and still in love with a prior man. They split and Danny moves back to Texas.
I might have enjoyed this book had I read it in 1975, but in 2016 it really feels a bit dated. The style is interesting though – really detached. “Cool?” and it gets quite vulgar towards the end. It’s got some really funny scenes.
For what it’s worth, McMurtry was raised in Texas and I’m sure he saw San Francisco for a bit in the days prior to writing All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. For many years he’s lived and owned a bookstore near where he was raised.
Very insterestng piece about McMurtry’s own later depression: https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/12/07/home/article2.html
And a review from the NY Times: