HI 93 / LO 63 , heat advisory remains in effect
Before I went to the beach this summer, I spent some time deciding what I would bring for my beach read. It’s a momentous decision. Must be fiction, of course. (I think you’ll get kicked off the sand for reading anything else.) I had planned to read something I’d put in the category of Chick Lit With Unexpected Depth, but I read that one in a day. I needed something long, something engrossing, and something—not to put too fine a point on it—that would change my life. I found it.
“Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Winner of my heart.
Um, Megan, isn’t that a Western?
Why, yes. Yes, it is.
I’ve never read a Western before, probably because I am a lifelong Texan and want to prove that I’m above the stereotypes. But I’ve been lying to myself all these years. Apparently, all I really wanted was a story of friendship and love, most of which takes place along a cattle drive from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada.
After I finished the book, I read the reviews on Amazon. (I prefer to read Amazon reviews after a book, not before.) Here’s part of my favorite one from Jim Mitchell in St. Louis: “Nothing you read afterwards, for years to come, will compare. Lonesome Dove will spoil you and diminish everything else you read, no matter how good it may be.” He also calls it “emotionally devastating,” while admitting that’s not a very good way to sell the book. You know, I thought I knew something about emotional devastation. Then I met Lorie, the love of everyone’s life except the man she truly loved.
I know nothing of the world. Or at least, I didn’t. Not until I read the book. Or as Gus McCrae puts it, “It’s a fine world, though rich in hardship at times.”
As writers, we’ve all heard the mantra, “Show, Don’t Tell.” McMurtry does something I call “Tell, Then Show.” So, he’ll drop a sentence like this one: “Call had destruction in him and would go on killing when there was no need.” And 100 pages later, you see this sentence come true. McMurtry does this over and over again. Like Dickens, he lays the groundwork and rewards you for paying attention.
The book is as long as the cattle drive, 900-ish pages. And as I realized I was nearing the end of the 102 chapters, I slowed down. I didn’t want to miss anything.
I texted my dad, “I am pre-emptively sad. I do not want it to end!” I then referenced chapter 88, “which was one of the more satisfying chapters I’ve ever read.”
Dad texted back, “Maybe the best part of the best story! Love. Dad p.s. I know the feeling!!!”
You don’t have to read it. Most of you won’t. But for those of you who already have, please please please send me an email! I want to talk about Gus and Call and Newt and Lorie and Jake and Clara and Roscoe and Janey and July and Joe and Elmira and Big Zwey and Blue Duck and Po Campo and Bolivar and Pea Eye and Dish and the O’Brien brothers and Deets. I miss them.