Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lonesome Dove Read Along: Week 2

It's Wild West Wednesday Week 2 and we are in it to win it now with our cowboys out on Lonesome Dove. This week we read chapters 10 - 20. Amy and I are in the 'lovin' it!' camp and Melissa is on the fence. How are you all feeling about the book so far? I came up with the discussion questions for the reading for the three of us this week. Let us know what you think on your blog or in the comments!

1) Obviously Texas and Mexico border each other and we've learned that Call and Gus used to be Rangers. Their job was to control the borders. Any Mexican caught stealing horses or cattle on the Texas side was hung or shot, yet they are going down to Mexico to gather their horses and cattle for the drive to Mexico. Newt observes this juxtaposition and so do we? Thoughts?


Leah: I thought it was interesting that this lawlessness was not tolerated in Texas by Call and Gus but they deemed it perfectly acceptable to do the very same thing across the border. Granted, they were getting back some horses and cattle stolen from someone else but they were also getting back others that they didn't know where they came from. How can they deem this so unlawful, yet have no qualms doing it themselves? Granted, I don't know the history behind it and I am not trying to pick some sort of chicken and egg battle between Mexico and Texas because there is way more history there than I can even delve into but I just thought it was interesting that this was touched on in this book.


Melissa:  Honestly, I didn’t have any thoughts about this one way or the other while I read it.  But, in modern context, it doesn’t seem much different than our current border relations. We aren’t “hanging” what are now “illegal immigrants” as opposed to “Mexicans,” but we want their services (in the book’s case, horses or Bol, the cook) as long as they serve our needs, but are willing to run them back across the border or hang them if they don’t serve our purpose. Not to mention, I think a border “wall” would really cramp Call & Gus’s horse thieving activities!

Amy:  I think it's the interesting two sides of the same coin that always goes with lawmen and criminals, it's all just a bit more obvious here.  Also, protecting one's own property can be a role in one place but they don't have the responsibility or obligation elsewhere.  It's what makes it the Wild West right? :)

2) Call has to go gather men to work on his cattle drive. We get a glimpse into home life in Texas. Some families are eager to give up their eldest sons to have less mouths to feed and some are doing much better. What did you think of these glimpses?

Leah: There were two homes that we saw, one where the father had died and the family didn't even have shoes and only a dirt floor and the other where they had a ton of children yet bountiful amounts of food. I found these glimpses to be fascinating that in the same land some families could be so successful and others could struggle so hard to survive. Is it luck, sheer force of will, or something else that allowed people to prosper?

Melissa:  What I found poignant about these scenes, is once again, when there the male figure in the house is absent (in this case, dead), the woman is stereotypically destitute.  But at the other household, even though the man is in the home, he is a drunk (not much better than alive!), but this woman is thriving.  What is it about a man, in literature, that determines the viability of a woman/family?  The first family (sorry, I can’t remember their name and my book is in the car!), she has a brood of kids – and two grown boys that she is willing to send off with Gus and Call – couldn’t they be filling the proverbial shoes the missing father?  But it also speaks to life on the frontier where families are miles and miles apart; land and it’s productive value is vastly different; and the inability to look after “one another’s neighbor.”

Amy:  Fascinating observations!  I didn't really think much about these scenes to be honest as I was reading, but I was amused by the line when the mom looked at the boys as if wondering why she'd born them.  I also thought it curious they'd be eager to be rid of the older boys when it seemed they could do more work.  But I guess by going off on the drive they are.

3) Lorena will do anything to get out of Lonesome Dove, even if means being the sole woman on the cattle drive to Montana. Would you have done the same? Thoughts on what might be up ahead for Lorena?

Leah: Bold move, Lorena that's what first comes to mind. I mean, no matter where and when, a bunch of dudes out in the middle of nowhere, things get rough and smelly. You overhear things you should never here, I don't care if you are a whore but yeah, I don't blame her. She's never seen Montana but trust me, I'd rather live there than the way Lonesome Dove sounds. Besides, she's stuck regardless so at least this way, she's doing something about her situation. You gotta respect that.

Melissa:  Before I get to Lorena, I must say, all this “guy talk” of “pokes, roots, grunts” whatever adjectives McMurtry uses to designate sex it getting tiring. It’s what we call in our family “potty talk.”  I’m just weary of it.  At one point, he used the word “poke” 3-4 times on a page! Ugh!  And the scene where Jake “pokes” Lorena after cutting horses, and the description of how dirty he is and the dirt/sand in the sheets – it grossed me out so I wanted to take a shower!

Now, to the question:  I would do whatever it took to get out of the situation I was in.  Period. And traveling with this group, isn’t that far off from the tales of Gen. Hooker’s band of women that followed him and his troops during the Civil War. I’m just wondering if she has to give services to all of her customers? Jake? Gus? Dish?

A final thought…although I am liking the book, it is much more of a chore to read than I thought it would be.  I thought I would be swept away with the “grandeur” of it, but McMurtry, to this point, seems to write the same scenes over and over again. I used the word weary earlier, and that’s how I feel, weary.

Amy:  I think Lorena is ready for her situation to change.  She's been courageous throughout.  She was already the only whore in town so she's a bit used to it.  I find the sections about Lorena the most interesting, perhaps because she is the lone female character, and the way men feel about her interesting as well, like when Jake compares her to a mountain.  

I'm actually enjoying the book much more than I thought I would.  Admittedly, I was surprised we read another ten chapters with little action but it's much more amusing that I thought it would be and I'm hoping this careful characterization (such as that long section on how Deets likes the moon) will pay off.

4 comments:

  1. Great questions this week Leah! Here are my thoughts.

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  2. The situation with the stealing of horses just seemed pretty typical of mankind in general, and especially in their time and place, with an "every man for himself" philosophy to survive, it's just more comfortable to think you are right and the other guy is wrong. I'm glad Newt picks up on it.
    I have a hard time reading about Lorena's "sporting" life and it makes me angry that all the men see in her is what she can do for them. It's not very logical, but I was even angry when Jake didn't pay her. I mean, pay up, dude! What makes your carrot so much better than any other guys? Anyway...
    I agree with Melissa, the animal/vegetable-like sex terms are getting old. I hope Lorena's circumstances change and she is able to take charge of her own life.

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  3. LOL--I wonder if I could just re-watch the 6 hour mini-series and join in with you guys. :P

    Actually--I wish I could have joined, but time isn't good. BUT, what I did want to say is I really like the way that you guys have formatted your readalong. I've done a couple this year and it seems we all read a section and just write our own thoughts without actually discussing. I appreciate what you guys are doing and might try it in the future!

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  4. Emmegail - thanks!

    Shelley - Good point about human nature. I am really liking the way Newt is developing as a character too! Ha, yes I agree the flippant way in which they discuss sex can get a little old sometimes :)

    Trish - We wish you could have joined in too and thanks! We find the conversational discussion questions are a great way to stay engaged throughout as well too!

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