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Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Larry McMurtry

In a book that serves as a both a sequel toDead Man's Walkand a prequel to the belovedLonesome Dove, McMurtry fills in the missing chapters in the Call and McCrae saga. It is a fantastic read, in many ways the best and gutsiest of the series. We join … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Larry McMurtry
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Pocket
1 review about Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove)

A Story and Maybe Something More

  • Apr 23, 2000
Rating:
+3
What makes fiction fiction? Or at least what makes it serious fiction? A recent article in the New York Times extolled the virtues of the "post-modern" literary milieu in which authors allegedly meld the visceral with the experimental in order to re-combine the purely intellectual approach of those deemed by Philip Rahv (of PARTISAN REVIEW fame) to be literary "pale-faces" with the more earthy renderings of those he called the "red-skins." Story, as such, doesn't count for much in this analysis. And yet this surely gives short shrift to that aspect of fiction, leaving the telling of stories to the lower realm of so-called commercial fiction. An error in my mind since I think that stories, modernism or post-modernism be damned, are what fiction ought to be about. But what constitutes a story? McMurtry is an author who has repeatedly demonstrated his facility for telling tales though he has not surrendered his place in serious literature for that. And yet this one, COMMANCHE MOON, is no story in the ordinary sense at all. Nor is it experimental in any post-modern sense either. And yet it succeeds because it weaves a world of events for us which give us the feeling of being there, that we have seen and felt what its characters have seen and felt once we have turned the final page. Here is a tale of men surviving in a world of unknowable and almost metaphysical violence, of men who are not heroes in any formal sense of that word, men who are often clumsy, thoughtless blunderers who "make it through" by a combination of will and luck rather than heroic achievements. The last tale in the LONESOME DOVE saga, this one may be the strangest yet as it takes the two Texas Rangers, Gus MacCrae and Woodrow Call, through their formative years and into their maturity. Theirs is an odyssey of survival as they set out on numerous expeditions which mostly end in failure or partial success, at best. Although they are apparently successful much of the time (we hear about their capturing and hanging numerous thieves and brigands) it is not their successful forays which interest McMurtry. Rather it is those events which seem to characterize for him the futility of existence itself. Gus and Call repeatedly bang their heads against the harsh west Texas ground as they go after the Commanches (who are dwindling, though ever formidable, in the face of the white onslaught) and the implacably evil Mexican bandit Ahumado (a man, if we may call him that, whom even the Commanches fear, a man who seems to have stepped out of our darkest nightmares). The heroism here is not one of gunplay or gunfighters in bloody face-offs but of survival, as men contend against an implacably unfriendly world, a world in which all are beasts in an unremitting place where only the Law of the Jungle prevails. It is Gus and Call's victory to have survived this world and to have grown competent enough to endure it and, in the end, to have outlasted it as the tides of new settlers sweep over the violent and bloody west Texas plains and wash away the old ways and peoples. There is a terrible violence here which may be McMurtry's vision of the world as it is. And the heroism is nothing less than surviving the worst nightmares men can conjure up for their fellows. Women are brutally raped and slaughtered; men fare no better. All are subject to the vilest of tortures, some literally being skinned alive -- all very distasteful in the end. And yet it's also uplifting in a strange sort of way as our heroes outlast the dark world they have somehow stumbled into. No, there is no story here in the ordinary sense for this is a book of episodic and generally incomplete missions and contests between men who in the end are barely more than beasts (either because they are predatory or because they are reduced to resisting the predations of others). And yet it is a book which absorbs us and gives the sense of being there. In that sense it is certainly a tale. And a level of fiction which I doubt the so-called post-modernists, with all their experimental pretensions, are ever likely to achieve.

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