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Lonesome Dove Mass Market Paperback – December 15, 1988
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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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.
Weaves a dense web of subplots involving secondary characters and out-of-the-way places, with the idea of using the form of a long old-fashioned realistic novel to create an accurate picture of life on the American frontier. . . . The Great Cowboy Novel. -- New York Times Book Review, Nicholas Lemann
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This book is a masterpiece. It's captivating and, frankly, quite remarkable. It's more than a western. It's more than a novel. It's a wonderfully thought-out story about America in an almost mythical time with so much depth and so many layers that reward readers over and over again. The story, in fact, has so much depth and so many layers, that it would be easy for a reader to miss the one consistent, central theme of the story. Thus the reader must work attentively through it just as the cowboys must, lest they find themselves lost looking for the Powder River in a mighty dust storm. The story is powerful both because it is wonderfully fantastic and because it is frighteningly real. The essence of much of our world can be related or explained by the narrative in an enduring way.
McMurtry does a wonderful time with all of his characters. Main characters, supporting characters, passing throw-away extras -- all of them. He doesn't waste time (yours or his) with any conversation or internal monologue that doesn't give insight through forming or developing that character as the story evolves. You'll see every situation from multiple points of view. You'll be shown honesty and delusion, naivety and wisdom, love and dependence, hate and despair. It can be heart-breaking. At times, I'm certain, it's supposed to be (if you're paying attention). You will both know and be bewildered by these characters, just like the people in your life.
The book is not the typical western. It at no point has the processed and canned feel of a writer following a formula.
So, to those who don't think they'll like it because they didn't like other westerns: Don't worry. It's different. Read it.
And to those who like westerns: Don't worry. This is better than probably any you've read. Read it.
“Lonesome Dove” is long and majestic, more than just an oater. It’s full of characters that struggle through the trouble in their lives, always with the prospect of betrayal in one form or another. They survive in a hot and dusty climate with intermittent episodes of stormy weather, driving rain, frigid cold, and inundating mud, all the while suffocating in poverty.
They live in ramshackle towns or thrown-together shacks that are filthy and filled with squalor. They are surrounded by people with bad intentions and miserable drunks who spend most of their time vomiting off second-story balconies. The baddies are despicable, the respectables aren’t much better, and the author carefully portrays them all with so much skill and realism that the reader can literally smell their rankness (and that includes the ladies). Stereotypes abound, but the author reduces their triteness with a lyricism that resonates off the page.
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow McCall, the two reprobates I mentioned earlier, ex-Texas Rangers who are restless in their dust-filled lives, decide to embark on a cattle drive to the markets of Montana, each with his own agenda and determination. It’s an odyssey as full of adventure as any I’ve ever read. Every one of the large cast of characters is searching for something; a warm, dry place to sleep, a runaway wife, a poke on a floozy’s bed, a card game, some horses or cattle to steal, a crazy Indian to kill, a husband who never comes home, a faraway place to find peace, someone to yip at, and on and on.
The vast array of characters has sameness in their makeup. Wranglers, ex-lawmen, women with checkered pasts, renegade Indians, belabored housewives, inexperienced but robust kids, plucky Mexican laborers, and stumbling drunks: They are all tough and all have stories, told in a vernacular that’s handled perfectly by the author who deals with stubbornness, determination, grit, and even manifestations of love. Lives are full of broken promises, bitter separation, and disappointment. The ending in itself is literary genius.
This is probably one of my favorite books. I thought it was wonderful in the 1980s when I first read it and its allure has recaptured me every time I’ve read it since. If you haven’t read it (most people either have or have seen the screen version), you really should. It’s a rare exhibit of a great writer’s skill.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
Books to me are friends. And Lonesome Dove is one of my oldest friends that I return to again and again. Along with Les Miserables, and Gates of Fire, just to give you an idea what I consider to be a fine novel worthy of the title "Old Friend". I highly recommend Lonesome Dove to you who have not read it. And for those that have already as well.
Most recent customer reviews
He's right. I normally don't read fiction, but this is a very good book.Read more