I am not a particular fan of westerns, especially long ones (872 pages), with few exceptions. But I read Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (1985) some time ago. This Pulitzer Prize-winning (1986) epic about more than just a trail drive made quite an impression on me.
Was life any tougher a hundred or so years ago than it is now, or was it just tougher in different ways? It may have been easier to be a rugged individual back then, or not. It certainly had its dangers. The human story doesn’t change all that much over time and place. We switch out scenes and characters, but the plot is essentially the same. There will always be those who climb the mountain because it is there.
The New York Times’ Books section included a review shortly after publication of Lonesome Dove,written by Necholas Lemann. In it Mr. Lemann celebrates the realism of McMurtry’s story. Here is an excerpt:
“All of Mr. McMurtry’s antimythic groundwork -his refusal to glorify the West – works to reinforce the strength of the traditionally mythic parts of ”Lonesome Dove,” by making it far more credible than the old familiar horse operas. These are real people, and they are still larger than life. The aspects of cowboying that we have found stirring for so long are, inevitably, the aspects that are stirring when given full-dress treatment by a first-rate novelist. Toward the end, through a complicated series of plot twists, Mr. McMurtry tries to show how pathetically inadequate the frontier ethos is when confronted with any facet of life but the frontier; but by that time the reader’s emotional response is it does not matter – these men drove cattle to Montana!”