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Midnight Cowboy Paperback – 1970

4.3 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1970
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.; 4th edition (1970)
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,236,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tyler Smith on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's hard to understand why this '60s gem has become a difficult find. The film, a watered-down version saved by a great Dustin Hoffman performance, has certainly not been forgotten. Yet few people seem to have sought out the original work.
This is a shame because the novel is much more satisfying than the one-note film. The background of the guileless main character, Joe Buck (first cousin to "Being There"'s Chance) is brought out in a series of mysterious incidents that put his fateful trip to New York into perspective.
The book also benefits from a narrative voice that ranges from flat objectivity to the wise and knowing tone of a fable teller. This voice also manages to capture the benign anonymity of big-city life. Against this backdrop, we see Joe Buck wander in search of a truth he can not name.
His destiny arrives in the person of a street urchin/criminal, Enrico Salvatore (Ratso) Rizzo. Those who have not read the book but have seen the film will be surprised that Herlihy's character is a boy -- though of course street-hardened beyond his years. This detail hardly detracts from Hoffman's performance in the film. Yet in the book it lends a poignancy to the character and his tragedy that the movie didn't capture.
Post-modernists may be impatient with the streaks of '60s idealism that run through the book. For me, the book strikes just the right tone for our age: violence is juxtaposed with life-affirming ideals in the novel's summation.
A neglected minor classic; highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll admit I was a bit skeptical when I picked up James Leo Herlihy's "Midnight Cowboy." All I knew about it was that it was about a male prostitute and it was made into an X-rated movie (a publicity stunt, really; the movie was initially offered the R rating, and later re-released under the R rating). The back cover copy didn't impress me much: "Here comes Joe Buck, six-foot-one of eager erotic muscle and rarin' for action . . . Midnight cowboy, midnight son of three blonde tarts, white midnight stud. Midnight salesman, selling wares to whores, love to the unlovable, sex to the sexless, eternal youth to the old." I expected a guilty pleasure at best, the sort of thing one simply can't put down as long as it lasts, but which leaves one afterward feeling as if one had been wallowing in a mud pit.

Instead, I found myself wallowing in Herlihy's literary and psychological genius.

Joe Buck is twenty-seven years old when he leaves Houston for New York. His life so far has been nothing special - one abandonment and betrayal after another. Joe has never really felt a sense of connection to anyone, except one of his grandmother's ex-boyfriends, a rancher named Woodsy Niles who imparted to him a fascination with all things Western. The one thing he's got going for him is his body: he's tall, handsome, and great in the sack. In New York, he's been told, most of the men are homosexual, and the women are terribly lonely. They'd pay good money to spend just one night with a real man . . . a man like Joe. Dressed in a swanky cowboy outfit that took him several months to buy on the meager salary from his dishwashing job, Joe gets on the bus, visions of his glamorous future dancing in his head.
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Format: Paperback
Our pop culture offers us numerous, superficial views of lives lived like sit-coms or melodramas, clothed in Gap attire, well-groomed and comfortably normal. Here is a compassionate story of friendship among two fringe dwellers, ugly on the surface, and whom few would deign to look at in passing on the street. Joe Buck is a young, dumb narcissist who believes he can take New York by storm as a stud sought after by rich, lonely high-society women. His backstory comprises the first third of the book, a prosaic telling of an unwanted, unexceptional child whose only caretaker is a preening, whorish beautician who may or not be his mother or grandmother. Loneliness, neglect and some brutal encounters leave Joe to fantasize about finding his place elsewhere. He comes to New York. Once there, his consciousness about the world and his place in it dawn on him with painful awareness; his prized leather jacket becomes stained, his boots begin to smell, he bathes in public toilets and catches glimpses of himself in store windows which shock and depress him. Just as his very survival becomes in doubt he meets a city-bred troll aptly nicknamed, Ratso. Through all Joe's encounters with duplicitous street preachers, suburban molesters and, comically, neurotic New York women, his only bond and loyalty come incongruously to be shared with Ratso, left homeless by the tragedies of his own childhood. The redemption which comes at the end for both of them, is dark, bitter and grim, and yet it comes as a result of the moral choices which these two outcasts make in a world that is otherwise brutally immoral.
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By A Customer on July 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have just re-read Midnight Cowboy after reading it for the first time back in 1969, when the movie came out. I was startled once again by the gritty, desperate telling of Joe Buck's story. Joe is a complete loser, incredibly stupid, and seems to have no dignity. If anything, he becomes even more of an invisible non-person once he hits 42nd St. Things change when he pairs up with Ratso, a crippled swindler who is, perhaps, even more of a loser than Joe is. Together they form a team and a partnership, and for the first time, Joe is happy. Through their unlikely friendship, Joe finally has a center, and gains some limited insight into his true nature. The ending, though sad, somehow left me with a weird hope that Joe manages to make a life for himself after Ratso. I find myself wondering what happened to Joe- did he marry? have children? I look at Jon Voight 30 years after the landmark film, and imagine that he is still Joe Buck- weathered, aged, wiser, and maybe even content.
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