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03/08/2015

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I second Stu's recommendation of Lonesome Dove. It's the only McMurtry I've read. More later.

This is really interesting. I'd assumed McMurtry was a bit of a hack, though now that I think on it I'm not sure why I'd assumed it. I suppose I think of most Westerns as being pulp; not the worst thing in the world, but life is short. Maybe I'll take a look at Lonesome Dove.

McMurtry has a wonderful set of buildings in Archer City, Texas (his hometown and the place The Last Picture Show, is set) that houses a fantastic used book selection: http://www.bookedupac.com/.
Running such an establishment adds value to McMurtry, in my opinion.

Agreed, Mary.

Craig, he's definitely not a hack. But I was reading LD while we were having a discussion on one of the previous authors about whether something or other was "genre" or "literary." And I'm really wondering about that in relation to McMurtry. He's certainly not "genre" in any usual sense (though I haven't read Louis L'Amour and people like that, so I don't really know exactly what's normal for the Western genre). But is he fully "literary"? Since that's a hard term to define, it's hard to answer in any case where it isn't immediately obvious. He is popular, for sure, not just in the sense of sales but in the sense of appealing to non-literary people.

Here's one answer: if Tom Wolfe is at all literary, McMurtry is at least as much so. I've only read one of Wolfe's books (Bonfire) and, just to pick characterization as one element, to me there is no character as memorable in Bonfire as almost every one in LD is.

Another answer: Bonfire never really moved me, but LD did. And I'm pretty sure LD is going to stay with me in the way BV hasn't.

Something I want to mention to those who may take up Lonesome Dove as a result of this discussion: I encourage you, but I feel obliged to warn you about something that Stu didn't mention, which is that there is an episode in the book that contains scenes of absolutely horrendous violence. What it depicts is probably all too accurate a reflection of things that really happened during the Indian wars, which doesn't make it any easier to cope with.

Louis L'Amour is the same story over and over again. At least this was true about the 10 or so my family listened to while travelling. Kind of a fun story, but it got a little old.

AMDG

One of these days I want to try an Elmore Leonard Western. Can't imagine him being content with a formula.

Tom Wolfe says he is literary! Not sure what to think about him. Read I Am Charlotte Simmons recently, and also have read BV and A Man in Full. It's all about the zeitgeist, Mac. Timely and sort of "pop-fiction" - whatever that means. :)

Well, it is genre fiction to some degree. The question is, what can you bring to a genre to make it new and memorable? For instance, even in the most maligned genre in movies (for example), the romantic comedy. I can't think of one off the top of my head, but occasionally there will be one (okay, Sleepless in Seattle?) that makes everyone happy and does new and interesting things, right? That's how Lonesome Dove felt to Westerns, I suppose. Or (back to movies) when Clint Eastwood revived the Western movie genre with Unforgiven. Which was certainly not The Searchers, Mac.

The comparison to Tom Wolfe is helpful. I don't consider him literary -- just too sloppy and informal to get over my bar -- but I like his characters and I enjoy his stories. If LD is better than that, it's worth looking at.

Last night I finally finished reading Dostoyevsky's The Adolescent, which I don't think is widely read, though it was his penultimate novel. I had a terrible time with it. At this stage in my life, I need something easier, and maybe McMurtry and Wodehouse are just the thing.

Tastes differ, of course, but I certainly think Lonesome Dove is better than Bonfire of the Vanities. Though the books are different enough that the comparison doesn't mean all that much.

I was going to say about The Searchers: by coincidence I was reading Lonesome Dove when The Searchers made it to the top of my Netflix queue. I might have liked the movie better without that comparison immediately at hand. LD deals with some of the same things that TS does, and does it much more convincingly, imo.

Wolfe definitely seems more pop than McMurtry. I really didn't think of LD as a genre book exactly, although maybe if I'd read more Westerns in the past I would have. I only mentioned the term "genre" because that was what we'd been discussing earlier, in contrast to "literary." A better juxtaposition in this case would be "popular." But I don't have anything I can compare it to there, because I can't offhand think of anything that I'd call popular fiction that I've read at all recently.

I tried to read LD some years ago but found the "hyper" realism off-putting. Love the mini-series though -- one of the best things of its sort ever.

The Adolescent (aka A Raw Youth) is by far the weakest of Dostoevsky's five last "big" novels. It's the only one of the five that I have not/would not re-read. Actually, unless you're a die-hard Dosty reader or completist it probably can be safely skipped.

What do you mean by "hyper"? It's realism in many ways, true enough, though there's a streak of romanticism there, too. I suspect the dialog, though very colorful, is not entirely realistic.

It's been years, but I seem to remember that there was a fair amount of detailed describing of how certain unpleasant things looked, smelled, etc. and also a level of "scatological" information that I thought was unnecessary. Every time someone needs to urinate I don't feel that I have to hear about it. That sort of thing -- I guess I found it, what? -- indecorous, maybe?

Puerile.

I know that The Adolescent doesn't have the high reputation of his other mature novels, but I figured that it couldn't be that bad. And it wasn't; there were some really excellent things in it. But I had such a hard time following all the characters and their shifting relationships. By the time I finished it I was hopelessly muddled. Not a good showing on my part.

I think it'd be puerile, Janet, if it were used for humor, but in this case it was more matter-of-fact, like it is in a lot of modern movies.

I don't know, Craig. I remember coming away from it in a similar fashion -- confused and underwhelmed! I think there's good reason why it's not widely read.

Boy, never even heard of The Adolescent! Am just finishing up Crime and Punishment which I had not read since 10th grade Honors English. I am liking it, but it is not near as good and interesting as The Brothers Karamazov. Also, I do find with C&P that occasionally a character name is mentioned and I am not sure who they are ... did not have that trouble with Karamazov.

I didn't notice any appreciable amount of that scatalogical sort of thing in LD, and I don't like it either. Offhand I can only remember one instance, when someone breaks off a conversation in a tent to "go water the grass." I'm sure that's not the only one, as it's a 950-page book. But I didn't find that sort of thing intrusive at all. You don't get a lot of detail. :-/ There's a certain amount of crude talk, but since the book is about rough men in rough situations, it's appropriate. It isn't used in that puerile way you're talking about.

Which brings me to the related matter of sex. A fair amount of it occurs, because one of the main characters is a prostitute, but it isn't treated explicitly at all.

Which brings me to that character. I was describing the book to my wife, kind of half-recommending it--it's not really her kind of thing, but it's so good I thought she might like it anyway. She said "I guess the only women characters are prostitutes." That's almost true for the first half or so of the book, because the only prominent female character is indeed a prostitute. But she's a richly developed character, not a stereotypical whore-with-a-heart-of-gold, nor crypto-feminist empowered by her sexuality, nor any of the other cliched things you'd expect from Hollywood or a hack novelist. I found her completely convincing as a person, as much so as any of the male characters. Same for another major female character (not a prostitute) who doesn't appear till much later.

Prostitutes were sometimes called "soiled doves" in the Old West. A term filled with pathos, isn't it?

It certainly is.

I can't believe we are already 20% through this. Looking forward to the Hungarian tragic poet. Please forgive typos. I don't. Have my glasses on and am using KF with evil auto correct.

AMDG

Yeah, it is hard to believe. And I'll take this opportunity to mention that the schedule is empty from early April till late September.

I will do one for early April - I will try to do L'Engle. Which week end in April would that be?

The 5th is taken. Could you do the 12th?

Of course it doesn't have to be posted the same weekend you write it, so if you'd have time one week but not the next, you could just do it then and I'd post it the following week.

I'll do L'Engle for the 12 April.

Ok, good, I'll put you down for that.

I'll have to wait until after the beginning of May to do Newman. Probably June or July.

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