Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen
Reflections at Sixty and Beyond
Using as a springboard an essay by the German literary critic Walter Benjamin that he first read in Archer City's Dairy Queen, McMurtry examines the small-town way of life that big oil and big ranching have nearly destroyed. He praises the virtues of everything from a lime Dr. Pepper to the lost art of oral storytelling, and describes the brutal effect of the sheer vastness and emptiness of the Texas landscape on Texans, the decline of the cowboy, and the reality and the myth of the frontier.
McMurtry writes frankly and with deep feeling about his own experiences as a writer, a parent, and a heart patient, and he deftly lays bare the raw material that helped shape his life's work: the creation of a vast, ambitious, fictional panorama of Texas in the past and the present. Throughout, McMurtry leaves his readers with constant reminders of his all-encompassing, boundless love of literature and books.
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In the summer of 1980, in the Archer City Dairy Queen, while nursing a lime Dr Pepper (a delicacy strictly local, unheard of even in the next Dairy Queen down the road -- Olney's, eighteen miles south -- but easily obtainable by anyone willing to buy a lime and a Dr Pepper), I opened a book called Illuminations and read Walter Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller," nominally a study of or reflection on the stories of Nikolay Leskov, but really (I came to feel, after several rereadings) an examination, and a profound one, of the growing obsolescence of what might be called practical memory and the consequent diminution of the... see more