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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
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Lonesome Dove (original 1985; edition 1990)

by Larry McMurtry

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,171149866 (4.56)621
Member:gaskella
Title:Lonesome Dove
Authors:Larry McMurtry
Info:Pan Books (1990), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 960 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Fiction, TBR, Western

Work details

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985)

  1. 10
    The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy (paulkid)
    paulkid: Epic Westerns set in Texas and Mexico, McMurtry is more somber, McCarthy more dark.
  2. 32
    Shane by Jack Schaefer (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 21
    Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Western
  4. 10
    All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (sturlington)
  5. 11
    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both have a wonderful, authentic flavor of the old west.
  6. 00
    The New Mexico Trilogy by John Nichols (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Much more enjoyable!
  7. 12
    The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker (shesinplainview)
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» See also 621 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
I finished [Lonesome Dove] by Larry McMurtry several weeks ago, and yes, I'm still savoring the juicy parts. A look at the reviews posted here at LT pretty much confirms my impressions of the book (the wisdom of crowds, so to speak). It is loved by most, a highly regarded novel.

In addition to reading selected reviews by LTers, I googled the book and the mini-series and the author. Interesting facts turned up, things I didn't see in anyone's reviews. So rather than repeat the encomiums of 140+ enthusiastically positive reviews, I thought my report would focus on some history and background I found.

This may be the biggest surprise might be what McMurtry told an interviewer in 2013:

I don’t think about Lonesome Dove very much or very often. It only affected what I chose to write afterwards in terms of the other three books in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy. I would have written the rest of my books, whether or not I’d written Lonesome Dove. I’ve never re-read Lonesome Dove, or given it any real thought.

Asked in the same interview about the television miniseries, he said:

I have only seen portions of it, so I don’t really have a comprehensive opinion about it. Duvall and Tommy Lee made an appealing pair. I’ve heard it’s been seen by about 120 million people, so I guess it’s pretty popular.

Here’s the thing. McMurtry set out to debunk the myth of the Old West. But many readers--perhaps most--missed the author’s point. McMurtry told the New York Times in 1988:

Some people read Lonesome Dove as a reinforcement of the myth. People cherish a certain vision because it fulfills psychological needs. People need to believe that cowboys are simple, strong and free, and not twisted, fascistic and dumb…They want to believe that these are very good men...I don't think these myths do justice to the richness of human possibility. The idea that men are men and women are women and horses are best of all is not a myth that makes for the best sort of domestic life, the best sort of cultural life. It's very exclusionary. It is a code that for all practical purposes excludes women.

It’s ironic that the glamorization of the Old West in countless dime novels, the conception of The Myth, occurred as the wide open West was closing down. Barbed wire cross-crossed the plains, making those epic cattle drives impossible. The drives, as depicted in Lonesome Dove, only happened during a roughly ten-year period. The Hat Creek Cattle Co. drive from the Rio Grande to northern Montana would have been the valedictory.

Lonesome Dove initially was intended to be a movie. McMurtry had established himself with five published novels. The first three had been adapted to film.

1961: [Horseman, Pass By]; adapted for film as Hud
1963: [Leaving Cheyenne]; adapted for film as Lovin' Molly
1966: [The Last Picture Show]; adapted for film with the same title
1970: [Moving On]
1972: [All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers]

While collaborating with director Peter Bogdanovich on a script for The Last Picture Show in 1972 (their script would earn them nominations for the "best adapted screenplay" Oscar), McMurtry talked about an idea he had for a western. At the director's behest, he wrote a 75-page "treatment" of the Lonesome Dove story (though he called it Streets of Laredo at the time). Bogdanovich planned to cast John Wayne as Woodrow Call, Jimmy Stewart as Gus McCrae, and Henry Fonda as Jake Spoon. When Wayne (on the advice of director John Ford) declined to sign on, Stewart backed out. There the project stalled. In the early 1980s, McMurtry bought back the rights to the story.

In the interim, McMurtry had created four more novels, one of which was adapted for the screen.

1975: [Terms of Endearment]; adapted for film with the same title
1978: [Somebody's Darling]
1982: [Cadillac Jack]
1983: [The Desert Rose]

By 1985, McMurtry had expanded his treatment into an 850-page doorstop, retitled [Lonesome Dove]. It won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize. After two attempts to mount adaptations of it to The Big Screen failed, it was made instead into a four-part, six-hour-long miniseries for TV. The adaption featured a stellar cast, and its length allowed the full story to be presented.
1 vote weird_O | May 19, 2016 |
We have a dog named after Gus. I just love him! ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Captain Augustus "Gus" McCrae (Robert Duvall) and Captain Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), two famous ex-Texas Rangers, run a livery called the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium in the small dusty Texas border town of Lonesome Dove. Smooth, charming and easy going, Gus loves women and women return the sentiments, but he's twice a widower and he never marries the love of his life, Clara (Angelica Huston). Although he had proposed many a time, she had rejected him every time because, in her words, Gus is "a rambler," and she despises Call because she feels jealous of the years Gus spent with him instead of her. She needed to settle down and have a family and a good life; he was brave and a dead aim, but was lazy and prone to wandering away for another adventure.

While McCrae is warm, good natured, and understanding of people, Captain Call, Gus's best friend and partner, is the opposite: a workaholic taskmaster who hides in his work, emotionally cut off. He is afraid "to admit he's human," according to McCrae. He only loved one woman, a whore named Maggie, who gave birth to his only son, Newt. Though he knows he is his bastard son's father, he refuses to admit it and give Newt his name. He is hypercompetent at his work to compensate for his complete failure at human relationships. He is cold and driven by pride and honor, not love. Even when he drags the body of the only human who ever understood him and loved him anyway over 2000 miles across the Great Plains, suffering ridicule and hardship, he claims he is doing it for duty, not friendship. He is the Western version of Captain Ahab whose reckless stubbornness ends in tragedy.

Working with them are Joshua Deets (Danny Glover), a black man who is an excellent tracker and scout from their Ranger days, Pea Eye Parker (Timothy Scott), another former Ranger who works hard but isn't all too bright, and Bolivar (León Singer), a retired Mexican bandit who is their cook. Also living with them is the boy Newt Dobbs (Rick Schroder), a seventeen-year-old whose mother was a prostitute named Maggie and whose father may be Call.

The story begins in the small town of Lonesome Dove, as Jake Spoon (Robert Urich), a former comrade of Call's and McCrae's, shows up after an absence of more than ten years. He is a man on the run, having accidentally shot the dentist of Fort Smith in Arkansas. The dentist's brother happens to be the sheriff, July Johnson (Chris Cooper). Reunited with Gus and Call, Jake's breath-taking description of Montana inspires Call to gather a herd of cattle and drive them there, to begin the first cattle ranch in the frontier territory. Call is attracted to the romantic notion of settling pristine country. Gus is less enthusiastic, pointing out that they are getting old and that they are Rangers and traders, not cowboys. But he changes his mind when Jake reminds him that Gus' old sweetheart, Clara, lives on the Platte, 20 miles from Ogallala, which is on their route to Montana. Captain Call prevails. They make preparations for their adventure north, including stealing horses in Mexico and recruiting almost all the male citizens of Lonesome Dove.

Ironically, Jake Spoon decides not to go after all, being selfish and undependable and because he promises the town's only prostitute, Lorena Wood, known as Lorie (Diane Lane), he'll take her to San Francisco.

Ogallala also happens to be the destination of Elmira, the wife of Sheriff Johnson, as she runs away to meet up with her true love, Dee Boot. So the three groups head north. They encounter horse thieves, murderers, hostile Indians, inclement weather and a few inner demons.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Best Western bar none. Also, a great movie.[br/][br/]jerry-book ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 150 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Maureen Orth,
and
In memory of
the nine McMurtry boys
(1878-1983)
"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.
Fictions - in my case, novels only, to the tune of about thirty - starts in tactile motion; pecking out a few sentences on a typewriter; sentences that might encourage me and perhaps a few potential readers to press on. (Preface)
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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)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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