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 an 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 LandWhatever 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!