I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, or Lonesome Dove Bites the Dust

I’m a Texan and a reader, and I’ve never read any books by Pulitzer-prize winning author Larry McMurtry. I’ve heard of Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo and Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show. I’ve heard of the movies based on some of these books. But I’ve never read any of them, nor have I ever seen any of the movies. I saw a paperback copy of Lonesome Dove in the used bookstore a week or two ago and figured it was time to remedy my lack of Texas loyalty in reading.

I read a little over two hundred pages of this nine hundred forty-five page book and decided that life is too short to spend my reading time in the company of people I don’t like who are doing things I find repulsive. The book won a Pulitzer Prize; I would imagine there’s something there I just don’t appreciate, but I’ve come to a mid-life crisis in my reading in just the last year or two. I’m not telling how old I am, but I’m probably over halfway through my reading life. I have too many books on my TBR list to spend time reading books I don’t like. And I really didn’t like Lonesome Dove. How did I hate this book? Let me count the ways:

As I hinted before, I didn’t like any of the characters in the book. Gus is a talkative, lazy drunk who thinks he knows something because he can talk a blue streak and knows how to read and write and charm the ladies. Captain Call is a silent, hardworking, sober washed-up ex-Texas Ranger who may have depths of character that I will never fathom because I don’t like him or the company he keeps. Jake is a another lazy charmer who makes promises he doesn’t intend to keep and is so careless that he murders people by mistake. Oh, and they’re all a bunch of horse thieves. And there’s also Lori, the obligatory town prostitute who is suppposed to be idealistic because she dreams of going to San Francisco where I assume she will continue to ply her trade with an ocean view. She is. of course, more sinned against than sinner, hardened by the life she’s forced to lead, but with a heart of gold somewhere beneath her rough exterior. (Yech!)

I grew up in West Texas, a little later than the time in which this book is set (I’m not that old). I don’t know anyone who acts the way the people in this book act, nor anyone who talks the way they talk. The men are all a bunch of losers. They spend a lot of time arguing about nothing and teasing each other about inane subjects. My great-grandparents didn’t live the way these guys live. If this is West Texas or South Texas culture, I’m a monkey’s uncle. “You never knowed much about women,” says one of the characters. I’ve heard bad grammar in West Texas, and I could reproduce it, but “knowed”? And when they curse, they say, “‘I god.” What’s that supposed to be a representation of?

These people are depressing. They live in a (literally) God-forsaken dirt mound, no mention of any god except as a curse word, and they decide to leave and go to Montana, not because they want to better themselves or go somewhere else–just because. Except for Lori who wants to go to San Francisco for some unknown reason, no one really wants to go to Montana. On the other hand no one in the Hat Creek Outfit, the name of the poor excuse for a Texas ranch the characters mostly live on, has the gumption to back out of the trip once the momentum has started in that direction. Did I mention that they’re all a bunch of losers?

This is supposed to be great literature, note the Pulitzer Prize, but I never got to the great literary part. If there’s a theme, I’m guessing that the book says that life is a drag, and death ain’t much better. So, you might as well argue, wh0re, and gamble yourself into the grave, but don’t have any fun doing it. Because life is a drag.

6 thoughts on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, or Lonesome Dove Bites the Dust

  1. I read that book when it came out – like you, I hated it. Unlike you, I read to the bitter end and then wished I hadn’t wasted that chunk of my life!

  2. I listened to it on tape because at that time of my life I was spending many hours in the car, commuting.

    Can’t remember a word of it! Your review didn’t even bring back a memory! If it was that unremarkable, I’d say you made a good call.

  3. I am so glad I read your review. I have almost purchased this book at a few library sales because I’ve heard it was suppose to be a western “classic”. The only reason I didn’t was looking at the length of the book. I have enough large books on my shelf waiting to be read (and most of them Russian). :)

    I won’t waste my $1.00 on it. Like you, I have come to a place where I don’t continue reading if I’ve felt I gave the book a good try.

    Thanks for letting us know the truth behind the hype.

  4. My dad spent his summers working on the family ranch in Wyoming. He used to say that if people had really been as mean and venal and cruel while the West was being settled, The USA would never have made it past the Missouri River.

    I liked Gus, but McMurtry offs him which led to an intense dislike on my part for novels that kill of the main character (Cold Mountain) for no apparent reason.

    I never read another McMurtry book after I finished this one. You are right, life is too short.

    (I do like westerns generally, and I did really like the AMC movie Broken Trail. )

  5. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Sunday Salon: The Pulitzer Project

  6. Pingback: Reading Questions » Semicolon

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