Sunday, March 28, 2021

Two Giants, and How One Paved the Way for the Other

By Claire Booth

I was scrolling through the news Friday night when I saw one thing. And right below it, another. Beverly Cleary died. Larry McMurtry died.

Two giants in the world of writers, who couldn’t be more different. He wrote tomes as varied as Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment. She wrote almost exclusively for children and young adults. He was mostly identified with Westerns and his “unromantic” (the New York Times’s word) view of that facet of American history. She reveled in the everydayness of being a kid and took on current issues. 

He won a Pulitzer.

She sold 85 million books.

He was 84.

She was 104.

So she came first. And I mean that as more than an observation about their ages.

If you went on to reading someone like McMurtry, you probably started with Henry Huggins, or Ramona the Brave. Especially if you’re from my Gen X cohort. If you fell in love with reading, if you identified with characters in a book, there’s a very good chance it’s because of Cleary. I remember reading the Ramona books and thinking, “This could’ve been written by a kid,” which when you’re a kid, is the highest praise possible.

And if you’ve experienced reading that good—that relatable—of course you’re going to seek out more. I didn’t arrive at McMurtry until adulthood, but his characters are just as universal. Which is the key to great literature. Which was what they both produced, to the benefit of generations of readers—of all ages.


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