Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book Review: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

Today, as I was halfway into my aerobics tape and sweating like a pizza that didn't make it in 30 minutes, I decided that this site should feature book reviews. Therefore let it be written that whenever I finish a book, it will get reviewed. Here is the first one.

I began reading Lonesome Dove (sorry to all you punctuation sticklers, I still haven't figured out how to underline or italicize) in the first place out of curiosity, because it is actually loosely based on an ancestor of mine, Oliver Loving, who was a cattle driver in the mid 19th century. This turned out to be somewhat unfair to me, because I then knew exactly what was going to happen. Gus was going to get shot in the leg by an arrow during a creekside seige, the wound would turn gangrenous, and he would die at the hands of a drunkard doctor, but not before insisting upon being buried in Texas. I knew this because it actually happened to Oliver Loving, though not in Montana. It happened in New Mexico. But I digress.
Not being an avid reader of westerns myself, I can't say that I went into the book with an open mind, but the best books seem to always change it. I was impressed by its wholeness until the very end, when I felt a bit unsatisfied, but only because I wanted more. The characters themselves were so concretely and sensitively written that they became almost predictable, but not because they were flat. You knew their minds on a level you couldn't have achieved from a decade of friendship. This was coupled with an almost spiritual foreshadowing of almost every major event in the book. By the time I got halfway through, it was reading like a bodice-ripper. With unwashed cowboys, and without the bodices getting ripped. My fingers were black from the ink of all the pages I had turned, but I couldn't make myself get up to wash my hands. It was tempting to sit in bed with a bedpan, because walking to the toilet unsteadied the book and I could lose my line.
The story revolves around Augustus McRae and Woodrow Call, two Texas Rangers turned cattlemen who undertake an epic cattle drive to Montana with all their ranch hands, an infallible scout, a piano player, a gambler, Call's illegitimate son, and a whore. Their paths cross an Arkansas sherriff, an Indian psycho serial killer, an old flame with a comatose husband, a Milton-reading cattleman named Wilbarger, and many more. Their yin-yang relationship reminded me of the nucleus of an atom, or something like that. You know, something magicky. (How does Spider-Man climb walls? He just does.) Nothing tangible or even sensible was holding them together, but one could not exist fully without the other. I, like all the cowboys, stood in awe. I don't think I could have turned a single page without the two of them leading me on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't read westerns either, but I did talk to the widow of Louis L'amour once on the phone.

Also, I think in the first spiderman they showed that he had spines on his fingers--I noticed this because I had always wondered myself.

I'm at work, and bored.