Zach's Reviews > Hondo

Hondo by Louis L'Amour
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's review
Jul 18, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: read-for-class, genre-fiction, western, kindle
Recommended for: Cowboy fetishists, stoic broad-shouldered frontiersmen, Al Bundy
Read from July 18 to 21, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

What is there to say about Louis L'Amour that hasn't already been said? He's certainly an "economical" writer; "Hondo" reads not like Hemingway so much as a racier, more violent "Fun with Dick and Jane." And for a guy with a reputation for writing potboilers, some of L'Amour's prose is surprisingly tough to get through due to its repetitiveness; if you've ever pondered over how many ways one man can express how unique and monumental his protagonist is, this is the book for you. But hey, not all pulp writing can be Jim Thompson or Dashiell Hammett, and there are some relatively thrilling moments in "Hondo" if you're willing to slog through the dire Harlequin Romance bits.

Personally, I was most intrigued by the way L'Amour seems to strain against the more white-supremacist aspects of the Western: he seems to have a real desire to portray Native Americans as human beings with motivation (the frontier ubermensch Hondo is "part Indian" and lived among the Apache for five years; Chief Vittoro, while little more than a combination of the "fierce warrior" and "noble savage" stereotypes, is at least not merely one or the other), but the conventions of the genre also dictate a climactic shootout in which the cavalry wins. "Hondo" pulls off this balancing act, disappointingly, by shifting the conflict from a social one between white settlers and Apache to a personal one between Hondo and the ultimate "bad Indian," Silva; meanwhile, the ongoing discussion about heredity and "bloodlines" advances a classically colonialist/parasitic view of race, in which whites are encouraged to appropriate the "positive" cultural traits of racial others while ensuring that their children remain racially "pure" (you can admire and even emulate the Indians all you want, but as female protagonist Angie Lowe states, "an Apache woman for an Apache man, a white woman for a white man"). It's interesting enough from a historical perspective, especially when one considers that debates over miscegenation were still very much a part of the public discourse in 1953. But for casual reading in 2012, I guess I feel like life is too short (and there are too many other, better books) for Louis L'Amour to retain much value.

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Reading Progress

13.0% "The professor teaching my Western class described this book as reading like a "Harlequin Romance of Westerns." It actually reads more like a straight-up Harlequin Romance!"
16.0% "Nothing like a book where the heroine spends the first few chapters worrying the hero is going to rape her!"
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