Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lonesome Dove

    There was a group that I palled around and did some singing with when I was in college; we were a fairly talented bunch and even got to tour around a little bit; mostly playing small churches and high schools. Lots of times we'd crash at someone's house, but occasionally there was the money for a cheap hotel. We always stayed at the Best Western. And every time we did (mostly because my buddy, Rob, thought it was funny and I liked to make Rob laugh), I'd walk up to the counter at checkout time and say, "You know, this hotel isn't half bad, but I think True Grit is the best western." 
    The truth is, I lied to all those checkout folks. Because Lonesome Dove may be the best western ever written, and is certainly my personal favorite. So, it was a joy to have my friend Hoyt assign it to me as one of the five What Should Kester Read? picks for March. It is the longest of the books he assigned me, but that isn't the only reason that it's taken me the longest time to read. The fact is, I like to take my time with books that I love, and Lonesome Dove is one I savor.
    What is it we want from a western? We want action; gunfights, fist fights, barroom brawls. We want romance; destined, doomed, and otherwise. We want sweeping scenery and epic adventures. We want some humor and some sadness, both tragedy and comedy. We want loyalty and fidelity and friendship. Lonesome Dove has it all and then some. The fights are memorable, the romance has depth, the landscape is long and wide. The humor is consistent, often to take the edge off the sadness. The sadness is as deep as the romance and as wide as the landscape. As my tough old grandpa once said, "Only two stories ever made me cry; Old Yeller and Lonesome Dove." Well, Old Yeller never made me cry, but Lonesome Dove made me bawl like a baby.
    Before the novel even begins, Larry McMurtry provides this passage from T.K. Whipple's Study Out The Land:
        All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us.
        Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they
        created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we 
    'Nuff said.

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