What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2010.

July 29, 2010

When Lonesome Doves Cry

My personal soundtrack to "Lonesome Dove"

Last Wednesday I finished "Lonesome Dove," which I haven't been able to write about because all of my free time has been devoted to lessening the nine-book lead Kerry suddenly holds. But after she left several voice messages and texts that I can only describe as "abusive," I decided to finally put finger to keyboard and sum up the experience.

First of all, Larry McMurtry pretty much pulls off a master class in storytelling. The first 400 pages* he causally envelops you into the tale, introducing you to a disparate group of characters he draws with broad but precise strokes. Then he spends the next 500** pages walloping you with emotional suckerpunch after suckerpunch. It's a cliché, but you do fall in love with the characters.*** I found myself bartering with a higher power over the fates of my favorites, promising to clean my apartment/volunteer/donate to the Gulf if only they survived the Indian attack/found true love/admitted their paternity. I was worn out by the end, and can now understand the need for forgettable fiction where you aren't invested in the character's lives.

For me, one of the great joys in reading a book set before 1900 is trying to figure out when I would have died in that time period. I have a delicate immune system and no discernible manual skills, so I'd be pretty easy pickin' for all predators, human and viral. And McMurtry proves time and time again that I don't have the mettle to last long in the open West. Would I have gotten crushed in a cattle stampede? Besieged by water snakes during a river crossing? Casually shot down by horse thieves? The answer is probably a combination of all three. I found myself emphasizing with Roscoe Brown, the hapless deputy who sets out to find his sheriff only to be continually told by everyone he meets that he should turn around and find work as a clerk. I don't want to ruin anything by telling what happens to him, but I am grateful to live in a time with Mapquest and GPS.

*400? I know what you're saying, but trust me, you get lulled into the gentle rhythm and they go by fast.

**500?!? But it's a fast 500.

***Except for Ellie.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy you don't have to lug LD to Scotland. Congratulations.