These are the only two Westerns on my reading list. I never really got into the genre as a kid, but when Michael Chabon recommends books, I sit up and listen. These two recommendations came from Maps and Legends, which I finished recently. (Don’t expect the review any time soon; the old posting buffer has, happily, fattened up for spring.) Strangely enough, they were both published the same year. I’m of the mind that you should try something at least once, so I’ll give Westerns a shot—after all, Chabon can’t lead me too far astray.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the “wild west.” Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
Blood Meridian has been described to me as a horror Western, which sounds quite fine to me. And subverting the urge to romanticize and glorify the old West sounds even better.
Ingrid at the Blue Bookcase found the violence hard to stomach but ultimately worth it. Charley at Bending Bookshelf had much the same reaction; powerful, but brutal. Both reviewers also point out that McCarthy doesn’t believe in punctuation. We’ll see how that goes.
Blood Meridian was published in the February of 1985.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurthy
A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.
When I read the synopsis and discovered that Lonesome Dove was a later installment in a series, I panicked a little—but I relaxed when I discovered it was published first. I might have to whip up a post on reading in order of publication rather than internal chronology soon; it’s an issue when it comes to series. Also, it’s won a Pulitzer, so I feel quite safe picking it up. (Not completely safe, but quite safe.)
Heather at Capricious Reader adored it; unsurprisingly, she’s been familiar with the story since she was little. Jess at Park Benches & Bookends also enjoyed it, but she found the ending to be rushed.
Lonesome Dove was published in the April of 1985.