Will Klein's Reviews > Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
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Dec 11, 07


Probably, and justifiably, McMurtry's most beloved novel, Lonesome Dove can be the story of a couple fellas getting old in a changing west- and when I reread (regularly) I admit I usually skip all the non Gus & Call stuff- but it's also an epic painting of the American West itself: almost every aspect of the Classic Western is included, kitchen sink as well, all viewed through the dusty and cracked glass of age. The west is getting old in this book, and there isn't a lot left of it. All of the vignettes the various travelers come across in their journeys are archetypes and leftovers of the Old West, there is little to do with trains and telegraphs in Lonesome Dove, despite it probably taking place in the late 1870s. Instead we get cowboys, outlaws, riverboatmen, buffalo hunters (and, wonderfully, an old hunter collecting the bones to sell), we get the whore with the heart of gold as well as a brief interlude with her opposite: the randy, sanguine whore who only keeps a semi-regular man around to drag out the bodies. Fierce indians, sad indians, sometimes one and the same. The cowboys (of course), gamblers, indian fighters, gunmen, road agents, trappers, and even- towards the end- a strange flashback to the plainsmen of the first half of the century in an creaky and broke-back mountain man named Old Hugh (a Hugh Glass reference?)

McMurtry avoids any appearances (except by mention in conversation) by famous real life westerners in this novel, with the exception of Charlie Goodnight, which is fitting. Goodnight and his partner, Oliver Loving, were probably an inspiration for the characters of Gus and Call, so a cameo is appropriate.

It works as an epic adventure, a character study, and a study of the time and place: it's a damn fine read. The later three novels (two prequels, one sequel) lacked a lot of the pep and energy of this first installation. I love this book anyway, and the warmth I always feel for it when I think of it outweighs my beefs with it, and the lesser novels of the series.
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