Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TBC: Lonesome Dove

Forgive the abridged entry today, but tonight is TBC and I had a cool 50 pages of Lonesome Dove to burn through and not finishing the book for book club is akin to putting your saddle on upside down. Lonesome Dove is an epic Western that grabbed the 1985 Pulitzer Prize and inspired a mini-series and a number of sequels. It is deservedly cherished by fans of the genre and generally regarded as the best Western ever written. This being the only Western I've ever read, I would still be inclined to agree.

At 945 pages, the sheer mass of the book is intimidating enough to give one pause. I have read longer books, but never one this massive in scope and depth. The general plot of the novel centers around two aging Rangers in the sleepy Texas town of Lonesome Dove and their final adventure: stealing and driving a huge cattle herd from Mexico up to uncharted Montana. They recruit a diverse and able crew along their journey, but still manage to find more than their fair share of Indians, surging rivers, savage beasts and murderous thieves.

In McMurtry's hands, the book becomes a vivid and captivating portrayal of life on the range, reveling in minor details and fleshing out character so thoroughly that you nearly count them as family. I can't fathom how he managed to squeeze out details that made the book such an immersive experience, but I suppose that's what good authors do. I would never have expected a tough Western to have such heart and to chew on so much philosophy, but it is in these moments where the story shines the brightest. It is probably my favorite TBC book to date, and ranks highly among my all-time favorites.

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