"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, April 24, 2020

Review and quotes: LONESOME DOVE

Title: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Book Beginnings quote:
When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake--not a very big one.
Friday56 quote:
In an effort to get the coffee going, Bolivar had spilled a small pile of coffee grounds into the grease where the eggs and bacon were frying. It seemed a small enough matter to him, but it enraged Augustus, who liked to achieve and orderly breakfast at least once a week.
Summary: The story, a Western, focuses on the relationship of two old Texas Rangers who, with a cast of likeable and unlikeable characters, find themselves driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. It is set in the dying days of the Old West when most of the Indians were done fighting and most of the American bison (buffalo) were killed. Montana was as of yet to be "conquered" so they decided to be the first cattle ranchers in the territory. The book addresses themes of aging, death, love, friendship, and unacknowledged paternity.

Review: Lonesome Dove was published in 1985 and won the Pulitzer Prize the next year. But back in 1975, author Larry McMurtry sat down and typed out the first line, When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake--not a very big one. McMurtry, in the book's preface, written 25 years after the first publication of the book, said "I wasn't thinking about literary merit when I wrote that first sentence about Augustus McCrae, the blue pigs and the quickly consumed snake. I was just doodling at the typewriter, hoping to find a subject or a character that might hold my interest." That inspiration didn't come until many years and two books later when McMurtry happened to see an old church bus with the sign Lonesome Dove Baptist Church painted on its side. He knew at once he'd found the title to his book, which he started writing that day.

Back in the late 1980s a girlfriend and I spent a day watching the whole mini-series made from the book. In those days before Netflix and Hulu, one had to either rent a video or happen to catch the rerun on cable. I think we did the latter and watched all 6 hours of it at one sitting. I wasn't even aware that Lonesome Dove was a book at the time. Not much of that viewing experience stuck with the possible exception of snakes and dust, lots of both. Now that I've read all 858 pages of the original I am sure the story is going to stick better this time.

Even though I have never even visited Texas and I've only been on a horse two or three times in my life, the Old West seems to live inside me. Could it be that I was raised on a steady diet of Western TV shows: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, the Rifleman, and The Lone Ranger? Or is it something else? The epigraph for this book picks at this thought---
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 dream. ---T.K. Whipple, Study Out the Land
Whatever it is, I suspect that in Lonesome Dove all Americans can find a kernel of their own story.

My daughter was shocked when I told her that Lonesome Dove might be in my top ten books I've ever read. "What? Why?", she asked.

Well, for one thing I pretty much loved 90% of the characters and cared deeply what happened to them. As the story meandered along the characters would come in and out of focus but I was always happy to greet them again when the story circled back around. Several of the characters die and I wept big, wet tears at their passing. Others made decisions that were perplexing but always I cared what happened next.

And what did happen? Well, a whole lot of cattle herding for one. But also gunfights, barroom scenes, interactions with Indians, dust storms, locust invasions, hailstorms, horse wrangling, life on the prairie, whoring, a whole lot about friendship, unrequited love, and unacknowledged paternity. If you've seen it or heard of it from a Western movie or book, it probably happened in Lonesome Dove.

And what about the blue pigs mentioned in the first line? They walked all the way to Montana just to be eaten. "Life ain't for sissies, as Augustus might have said."

I might add that reading this book ain't for sissies either. Weighing in at over 850 pages of small, tight print I began to think I'd never finish it. Add that together with the whole coronavirus pandemic and I found myself unable to concentrate on any one thing for an extended period of time. I would read thirty of so pages a day before setting the book aside. At that rate it took me almost as long to read the book as it did to herd the cattle all the way from Texas to Montana. For me Lonesome Dove will forever be branded in my memory as the book I read during the great pandemic of 2020 which will add greater poignancy and depth to my memory of it.

Lastly, back in January I read an article in BookPage magazine where the editors identified one book they each were committed to reading in 2020. I liked the idea of doing the same thing and picked Lonesome Dove as my 2020 reading goal. Well, I've done it and I am so glad I did. What a book!


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-Anne

27 comments:

  1. I have read and enjoyed other books by the author, but not this one. Maybe I should! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Apparently this is the third book in the series but I'd say it is a standalone.

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  2. This classic is on my "must read someday" list.

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    1. It takes courage to start. It is so long it seems daunting.

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  3. I absolutely loved "Lonesome Dove," both the book and the miniseries. I'm trying to remember which one I did first. It is definitely in my top 20, if not top 10.

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    1. How long ago did you read it? We've never talked about it before.

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    2. I read it a long time ago. Probably a couple decades ago.

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  4. Well done on achieving your goal and great review of the book! Take care and stay safe!

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    1. Thanks. I am pretty proud of myself for tackling it and now I miss it. It has been so much a part of my life for the past seven weeks.

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  5. I love this book. I have recommended it to several people who went on to tell me it is one of their favorites. The miniseries is wonderful, too. I'd run away with Robert Duvall if he asked me.

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    1. I kept thinking about you as I was reading it, knowing how much you love it. I agree. What a fabulous book.

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  6. I read this book many years ago--I remember losing myself in it.

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    1. I'm still lost in it even though I've reached the end of it.

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  7. One day I'll read this. I liked the miniseries. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I never read this one. I don't think I watched the miniseries either but it does look good. I liked westerns.

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  9. I've never really clicked much with Westerns (either on the page or on screen), but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  10. I remember when the mini-series came out. I only caught parts of it but a friend of mine loved it. I haven't read the book but you tempt me with comments like "Well, for one thing I pretty much loved 90% of the characters and cared deeply what happened to them."

    Nice review!

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  11. I never knew much about this book, other than the title. I can’t do that many pages right now, but maybe someday. There is lots of 2020 left! Seems like you need to pick another! 😂

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  12. I remember a movie Lonesome Dove, is it connected?
    Happy weekend, stay safe!

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  13. I'm not usually drawn to westerns, but your review has me so interested in picking this one up. Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a nice weekend! Stay safe! :)

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  14. I haven't read this book, but now I definitely want to pick it up! It sounds like an enjoyable read :)
    Konna @ The Reading Armchair

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  15. I have been wanting to read this one for some time now, and am glad you liked it so much. It isn't a book I normally would gravitate towards but so many people who know my tastes well have spoken highly about it and recommended it. Perhaps one of these days. :-) Have a good weekend. Stay well and safe.

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  16. I adore McMurtry but prefer his contemporary novels to his cowboy ones. Well done for getting through all that small print!

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  17. Super impressive that you finished this one. It isn't my style of book, but my dad enjoys a good western on TV so I'll suggest it to him.

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  18. Oh myyy, that cover is absolutely GORGEOUS! I love it. That book beginning is interesting, and I love the little backstory about when the author wrote it. It's always so interesting how these things come to be, isn't it?

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  19. I've always wanted to read this big novel -- which I've heard so many great things about .... but so far I haven't made time for it .... and I've lived all over the West .... including Texas. How long did it take you to read it?? thanks. Perhaps it'll be this Year!

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    1. I think it took me almost seven weeks of very slow reading. I probably read no more than 30 pages a day tops.

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