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Larry McMurtry, in books like The Last Picture Show, has depicted the modern degeneration of the myth of the American West. The subject of Lonesome Dove, cowboys herding cattle on a great trail-drive, seems like the very stuff of that cliched myth, but McMurtry bravely tackles the task of creating meaningful literature out of it. At first the novel seems the kind of anti-mythic, anti-heroic story one might expect: the main protagonists are a drunken and inarticulate pair of former Texas Rangers turned horse rustlers. Yet when the trail begins, the story picks up an energy and a drive that makes heroes of these men. Their mission may be historically insignificant, or pointless--McMurtry is smart enough to address both possibilities--but there is an undoubted valor in their lives. The result is a historically aware, intelligent, romantic novel of the mythic west that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
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USA Today If you only read one western novel in your life, read Lonesome Dove. -- Review
Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.
I have never been a fan of the literary western genre and confess that I read this book solely because I watched the movie based upon this book. Incredibly, the book supercedes the movie and McMurtry's characterization of Woodrow and Gus are truly stunning. It's the characters that turn this book into a compelling classic, rarely does the reader encounter such deftly-drawn and intriguing men as McCall and McCrae. You feel as if you are in Lonesome Dove with these men, and with them every step of the way from Texas to Montana. It's a magnificent journey and McMurtry is a superlative writer. Even if you've never read a western book in your life, this is a literary masterpiece, the Shakespeare of the range, so to speak.
A handful of entertainment works (books, movies, music, TV shows) have connected with me in ways that I can barely describe. They move me emotionally, they provoke my imagination, and they make me want to experience them over and over again. They describe people and situations to which I can completely relate. Bruce Springsteen's music does that for me. Star Wars used to do that until the prequels came about. The TV show St. Elsewhere used to do it (haven't seen it in years, but I assume it holds up). And Lonesome Dove continues to do so. There are so many positive reviews here that it's hard not to be redunant. I agree with it all: believable characters that you feel like you know, not long enough even at 900 pages, brutal but realistic violence. This is simply the best book I have ever read, and the emotional impact still rings true after nearly 16 years. I haven't reread it in several years, but I'm certain that I remember nearly every scene and much of the dialogue. Several warnings: 1) Nothing you read afterwards, for years to come, will compare. Lonesome Dove will spoil you and diminish everything else you read, no matter how good it may be. 2) It really is not long enough even at it's sizable bulk. You will not want this to end. It starts slowly, but like the cattle drive it depicts, it builds momentum. 3) You will have a difficult time convincing anyone else to read this fine book. You'll hear several standard excuses, especially "I don't like Westerns" and "It's too long" (refer people who say this to my #2 warning above). I know few people who have ever read the book, but those of us who have share the same feelings. It's frustrating to read something so wonderful yet have so few people with whom to share it. 4) McMurtry's sequel and prequels are inferior.Read more ›
Stay with me here. I'm serious. I think Lonesome Dove can standcomparison to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Of course, I've only read Tolstoy in translation, so chances are I've missed alot, but there is no question that McMurtry creates something here very close to that impossible dream: The Great American Novel. I dont know that any other American writer has ever suceeded on this scale, which is why I go to Tolstoy. McMurtry uses the Western as a starting point, but there is a little of everything here. Surely there has never been another American Western with so many varied characters, both men and and women. McMurtry juggles many different points of view, but manages to give each of his characters a unique voice. Most remarkable of all, I think, are the women in the book, who manage to escape the usual stereotypes of madonna or whore, even though many of them are, quite literally, prostitutes. Lonesome Dove is written in a deceptively simple, unpretentious style. I've just finished reading it for the second time. Despite its length it is really a fast read, since it is one of those books that demands to be taken with you where ever you go until you are done.
Lonesome Dove is a modern classic. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the popularity of this book, the acclaim it has received and the cult status it has achieved with readers has tended to overshadow some of Larry McMurtry's other work and the attention to this one book has even become tiresome to the curmudgeonly Texas author. However, as a frequent reader of the prolific writer's fiction, I can attest to the fact that it is McMurtry's finest book and the one that gave readers his most memorable characters - the talkative, colorful Gus McCrae and the taciturn, deliberate Woodrow Call - aging former Texas Rangers who run a down-at-the-heels ranch near the Mexican border that they subsidize with cattle stolen on nocturnal raids across the border. The novel is about an epic cattle drive all the way from southern Texas to Montana. This famous "long drive" was actually a rare occurrence in the historic west as the expansion of the railroad system made long cattle drives unnecessary. While most cowboys who lived in the era of the cattle drives - which were driven by economic necessity in the years following the Civil War when there was a large market for beef in the north than could only be filled by the millions of head of cattle that had been left to breed on Texas pastures during the long years of conflict - went on a drive or two from Texas to Kansas as a rite of passage, a drive from the southern border of the country to its northern extreme would have been truly epic. In Lonesome Dove the drovers experience and overcome rainstorms and stampedes, treacherous crossings of swollen rivers, disloyal comrades, raiding Indians and a deviant, sadistic half-breed killer who stalks the cowboys and their retinue.Read more ›