In Which Love’s Either Simple or Impossible If You Have To Ask For It That Just Means It’s Impossible

Larry and James McMurtry

Larry McMurtry’s finest work remains his autobiographical novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, which follows the journey of Danny Deck as he meets women, writes a sweet novel and gets a check for it, and journeys around looking for love.

In this excerpt, Danny has met a girl named Jill in L.A. They drive to San Francisco. They sleep together in the same bed but don’t have sex.

from Larry McMurtry’s All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers

When I woke up, still clutching my cheek, Jill was trying to put a pillow behind my head. She looked great. She had only to wash her face to look fresh and intelligent and lovely, and she had washed her face. She had even cleaned up my room, somehow. It was the cleanest it had been since I moved into it.

Jill had on another striped sweater, and pants and sneakers. She was somewhat put out with me.

“You’ve probably already got a crick in your neck,” she said. “You’re already letting me trample you. You could have slept on the bed. I’m not that hung up.”

“I didn’t mean to go to sleep,” I said.

“I’m really compulsively neat,” she said, noticing me looking the room over. “It’s one of the reasons nobody can live with me. I guess it’s all connected with my sexual problems. Everything seems to be.”

Her face had already become dear to me. I liked the little blue shadows under her eyes. She gave me one of her looks, to see if I was going to hate her for having a sexual problem. Meeting Jill’s looks made me wonder why I had ever been fool enough to think Sally was vulnerable. She might be vulnerable to cannonballs, but she wasn’t vulnerable to people. Loving her didn’t make her face change—neither did hitting her. She was not affectable.

“Challengers (live at the Roxy)” — The New Pornographers (mp3)

McMurtry & Diana Ossana

“Come Crash” — A.C. Newman (mp3)

Jill’s face changed constantly. She was always affectable, always vulnerable. The penalty she paid for being honest was that she lived most of her life poised on brinks. They were real brinks too. At first the sight of Jill poised on a brink scared me badly. I had no confidence in my ability to pull her back, and if I said something false or wrong and she went over she would really go over, into some kind of different life. She never poised on phony brinks.

“I don’t mind your being compulsively neat,” I said. “I’m compulsively sloppy. We’ll complement each other.”

She looked so darling that I got up and tried to hug her. She wanted to be hugged, but the hug didn’t really work. We were awkward and unfamiliar with each other, and just nervous. We weren’t used to being in small rooms with each other.

Fortunately we were both hungry. The minute we got on the street we both relaxed. Jill had a blue windbreaker, to go with her blue sneakers. She hooked her arm in mine and we walked several blocks and went in a diner and ate sweet rolls and drank several cups of tea. We talked about things we read in the paper.

“Gee, I’m glad we still like to talk to each other,” Jill said. I put my thirty-six thousand dollar check on the table. Now that I was back in the neighborhood of the Piltdown, that much money was an unreal thing.

“What should I spend it on?” I asked. Jill frowned, considering.

“You could save it for when you grow old,” she said. “I’ve always thought I’d go to India, if I got a sudden windfall. I’ve always wanted to go to Benares.”

I couldn’t think of any place I wanted to go, which surprised her. “You ought to be interested in the world,” she said. I agreed, but I just wasn’t. I was interested in her. My interest made her slightly fidgety. It was a lot more serious than the thirty-six thousand. After breakfast we walked over to California Street and put the check in my bank. Jill said she would talk to her broker and find out what I ought to do with it. In the meantime, I just put it in my checking account. The teller was absolutely flabbergasted.

Larry McMurtry’s novel about his life as a young man can be purchased here.

Sample Cover


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The sequel to AMFAGTBS, Some Can Whistle.

Some Can Whistle

6 thoughts on “In Which Love’s Either Simple or Impossible If You Have To Ask For It That Just Means It’s Impossible

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