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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove (original 1985; edition 1990)

by Larry McMurtry

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5,015132903 (4.56)582
Title:Lonesome Dove
Authors:Larry McMurtry
Info:Pan Books (1990), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 960 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, TBR, Western

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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985)


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Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
The best Western ever written!!! I love Louis L'Amour, I love Ralph Compton, I love Elmer Kelton. However, there is not a more beautiful, more suspenseful, more authentic western than that of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove ( )
  Dodgerdoug | Sep 30, 2015 |
Cowboys, Youth and Whores
Wandering through the Old West
Lots of Violence ( )
  banjo123 | Sep 7, 2015 |
“It's a fine world, though rich in hardships at times.”

Lonesome Dove is a bedraggled little town in southern Texas near the Rio Grande. Call and Gus are retired captains from the Texas Rangers, who capably fought Mexicans and Indians for twenty years. Now they've got a small ranch that Call runs with Gus's lackadaisical help, supported by a group of men who wait for directions. Gus likes to play cards in the local saloon and frolic with Lorena, a young girl whose life has led her to "sporting" (prostitution). Her natural beauty deeply affects several of the main characters. It's the 1870s, and Call gets smitten with the idea of driving cattle all the way to the undeveloped country of Montana, where majestic land can be claimed and make you rich.

A major strength of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel lies in its realism. We get to know a host of believable characters well, and the harsh day to day realities of life, on the drive and in the towns and ranches along the way, are much more powerful than any mythic treatment of America's west. It's a fine world, though rich in hardships. The unexpected must be expected, and when it flares up, it's pulse-pounding for the reader, including gunfights, gun-less fights, hangings, life-threatening escapes, horse theft, grizzlies, a river boiling with snakes, and other potential disasters. There are matters of honor, and characters with no moral limitations whatsoever. The implacable and nightmarish Indian Blue Duck glories in the havoc he creates, and challenges taciturn Call and always-talking Gus in sometimes devastating ways. The land they travel is gorgeous but dangerous, and Montana a prize worth attaining.

Larger issues are a constant backdrop to the vivid life of surviving and taking care of business.

"The sun spread reddish-gold light through the shining bushes, among which a few goats wandered, bleating. Even when the sun rose above the low bluffs to the south, a layer of light lingered for a bit at the level of the chaparral, as if independent of its source. Then the sun lifted clear, like an immense coin. The dew quickly died, and the light that filled the bushes like red dirt dispersed, leaving clear, slightly bluish air.
It was good reading light by then, so Augustus applied himself for a few minutes to the Prophets. He was not overly religious, but he did consider himself a fair prophet and liked to study the styles of his predecessors. They were mostly too long-winded, in his view, and he made no effort to read them verse for verse—he just had a look here and there, while the biscuits were browning.”

The men struggle with their yearning for women, and for many of them, with their clueless inability to understand or talk naturally with them. Gus has been married twice, and entrances Lorena and others with his confident loquaciousness. But he yearns for the brainy and bold Clara, the one who got away, who saw early on that two alphas would make for a bad marriage. Call had one serious relationship that conflicted with his drive to lead men, and he's leery of marriage. “I don't see how being married could be any worse than listening to you talk for twenty years, but that still ain't much of a recommendation for it.” That relationship he had nonetheless has far-reaching consequences.

I'm sure everyone who reads this book has his or her favorite characters. I got a big kick out of Clara, who sees through Gus's spieling to a good man and lifelong friend, and who detests the uncomprehending Call for what others view as heroic. She tells Call, “And I’ll tell you another thing: I’m sorry you and Gus McCrea ever met. All you two did was ruin one another, not to mention those close to you.” But they're heroes. Can she possibly be right?

McMurtry is the son and grandson of cattlemen, and the book reportedly is based on the lives of two cattlemen who created the Goodnight-Loving Trail in the 1860s. Lonesome Dove's realism is compelling, and this is a five star read. ( )
17 vote jnwelch | Aug 27, 2015 |
Some people think that for a book to be "worthy" it has to have a complex narrative, plumb the depths of the universe, ponder existential questions of meaning and purpose, etc. etc. etc. That's all fine and good and occasionally important, but at the end of the day, I want a good story. There is more to Lonesome Dove than just a good story, but if one were to read it only for that, the experience would still be well worth it.

I know I am in good hands when a wide cast of characters is introduced fairly quickly but I have no problem keeping them straight in my head; that tells me that the author has developed a distinct personality for each and conveyed it deftly. From cowboys and lawmen to prostitutes and outlaws, McMurtry gives us the whole panorama of the American western experience in the post-Civil War era. But this is not simply The Good versus The Bad because these characters are complex and don't always act or respond as expected.

McMurtry unfolds his story in parallel narratives, weaving the threads in and out of one another as characters meet and circumstances collide. At times funny and solemn, sweet and brutal, the story of these men and women exploring and opening and holding fast to the frontier is quintessentially American - a combination of courage, foolishness, hope, ambition, disappointment, and arrogance.

If you haven't read it, you should - even if you don't like westerns. It's so much more than that. ( )
4 vote katiekrug | Aug 22, 2015 |
No doubt about it, this is an epic Western. The outline of the story is deceptively simple. Call, a former Ranger who is bored hanging around in Lonesome Dove decides to gather a herd and drive it from Texas to Montana. He assembles a crew, most of them not very experienced, and along the way they pick up some others. A woman, a couple of Irishmen, a Mexican cook. It's a long shot, but the determination of Call carries them a long. I loved the language, the dry wit, the complexity of the characters. I also loved the setting. Being a westerner myself, I could quite literally picture the country they were traveling through and McMurty did a masterful job with the sense of place. The ending wasn't totally satisfactory, but it was realistic. McMurty deals out death to his characters without respect to the feelings of the reader, but with great respect to his characters. Well worth the read.

...on a quiet spring evening in Lonesome Dove, a shot could cause complications.

But once in a while, even if nobody mentioned one, the thought of women entered his head all on its own, and once it came it usually tended to stay for several hours, filling his noggin like a cloud of gnats. Of course, a cloud of gnats was nothing in comparison to a cloud of Gulf coast mosquitoes, so the thought of women was not
that bothersome, but it was a thought Pea would rather not have in his head.

"If I'd have wanted civilization I'd have stayed in Tennessee and wrote poetry for a living." Augustus said. "Me and you done our work too well. We killed off most of the people that made the country interesting to begin with."

"Don't be trying to give back pain for pain," he said. You can't get even measures in business like this..."
( )
  nittnut | Aug 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
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!

added by Stir | editNew York Times, Necholas Lemann (Jun 9, 1985)
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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
For Maureen Orth,
In memory of
the nine McMurtry boys
"Once in the saddle they
Used to go dashing . . ."
First words
When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake—not a very big one.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067168390X, Mass Market Paperback)

Larry McMurtry, in books like The Last Picture Show, has depicted the modern degeneration of the myth of the American West. The subject of Lonesome Dove, cowboys herding cattle on a great trail-drive, seems like the very stuff of that cliched myth, but McMurtry bravely tackles the task of creating meaningful literature out of it. At first the novel seems the kind of anti-mythic, anti-heroic story one might expect: the main protagonists are a drunken and inarticulate pair of former Texas Rangers turned horse rustlers. Yet when the trail begins, the story picks up an energy and a drive that makes heroes of these men. Their mission may be historically insignificant, or pointless--McMurtry is smart enough to address both possibilities--but there is an undoubted valor in their lives. The result is a historically aware, intelligent, romantic novel of the mythic west that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:13 -0400)

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Presents a love story and an epic of the frontier, richly authentic that makes readers laugh, weep, dream and remember

(summary from another edition)

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