Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lonesome Dove Readalong Discussion 1: Chapters 1-10

Welcome to our first discussion of Lonesome Dove! I'm so excited to be reading this epic story with you. I have quite a few disjointed thoughts on the first section, but here are the first questions we will consider and then the Melissa, Leah, and my answers. Please feel free to either post your answers on your own blog and leave a link in comments or just discuss in comments!

Have you read Lonesome Dove before or watched the movie? If so, why are you interested in revisiting the story? If not, why read it now?

The beginning feels like a strong set-up of character. Are you particularly drawn to any of the characters and their story?

What do you like best or feel is strong in the story so far?

Here's what we thought:

Leah: This is actually in my top five favorite novels of all time so when Melissa first mentioned it me as a possible read along this summer I jumped at the chance as a way to honor it's 25th anniversary. I am not a big re-reader of books. I am not a big keeper of books after I've read them. Yet, I read this book on a camping trip in Idaho in highschool (fitting, no?) and on my shelves this book remained so it was with some excitement that I picked this book up. There are some personal reasons that this book calls out to me this year more than other years but I just loved the story of the Wild West and I think McMurty brings some humor to it like other authors can't. I wanted to see what I thought about it and if my tastes have changed 10 years later.

Melissa: I haven’t read or watched Lonesome Dove before. I picked it up a year or so ago at the my local used bookstore after reading a blog post (yay for book bloggers!) that raved about the book. Earlier this year, when Leah and I finished our Wolf Hall read along, we batted around a few titles to chose for another read along, but none of them really excited us. I had read in Entertainment Weekly how this was celebrating the 25th anniversary of its publishing, and when the buzz this summer was all about To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary, it seemed appropriate to give Lonesome Dove some recognition too. The only real “epic” I’ve ever read is Gone With The Wind, and as truly American as that book is, this book is equally so, but telling a different side of our history – that of the American west.

Amy: This is my first encounter with Lonesome Dove! It's funny because I read Gone with the Wind earlier this year and so loved getting lost in a huge epic chunkster that I wanted to do another readalong and experience it all again and that's how I thought of Lonesome Dove. A few of my blogging friends had mentioned how good it was.

The beginning feels like a strong set-up of character. Are you particularly drawn to any of the characters and their story?

Leah: It's hard not to be drawn into the story, at least I think so, because all of these cowboys kind of bring a smile to your face. For me, particularly the interplay between Call and Gus. Gus is so talkative and Call is so quiet. You can just see those two living out in the middle of nowhere in Texas, driving each other crazy. You also want to root for Newt. The youngest of the cowboys, Newt is now orphaned and taken in by the Hat Creek outfit and wants nothing more than to me treated like an equal. Even his name makes you think he's tiny!

Melissa: I think the beginning of an epic is the hardest to get under your belt, because there are SO many characters that are introduced. Fortunately, Mr. McMurtry has given us a manageable assortment to identify with. Honestly, Call and Gus remind me of an old married couple. And in reality, they’ve been together much longer than most couples! And the rest of the gang is like a sorority house – they are like a group of chatty, gossipy, women. Of course, it’s hard not to empathize with Lorena. Dang it if doesn’t aggravate me to read that the only option for a woman during that time is that of a whore. In many ways, it’s too predictable and clich├ęd. But I’m hoping the author has a course for Lorena that I’m not expecting. I’m also really curious about Jake Spoon – the mysterious, long-forgotten friend, who appears on horseback with Deets. I also like the side story about his brush with the law in Ft. Smith Arkansas after accidentally shooting the dentist – since I am a transplanted Arkansan, after all. J Oh, and the Clara/Gus/Call love triangle – can’t wait to see what happens!

Amy: I thought the same thing about Gus and Call being like an old married couple and was also frustrated that our lone female character is a whore! I do feel affection for all the characters so far, I am naturally quite interested in Lorena's story but also Newt, being the boy needing to prove himself!

What do you like best or feel is strong in the story so far?

There are a couple of aspects I'm enjoying. For a Western, the dialogue is really making me smile. All of the men out there in the West, you wouldn't think it would be particularly funny, but it really is. Particularly the chapter about Gus making the sign for their business. McMurty is also building the sense of the sweeping adventure they will be going on, driving their cattle to Montana. You can tell it's going to be a life altering journey and I am excited to go on the ride with them.

Melissa: I have to echo Leah – I loved the sign writing scene! I really wasn’t expecting humor from this book. Did any of you look up the Latin phrase???
And now that I realize this Quixote-like quest for Montana is what will keep us entertained and engaged for the rest of the book – I’m eager to jump on my horse and follow!

Amy: I completely agree about how delightful the writing is! It's funny and perceptive and I've already found myself jotting down several quotes or adding them to my tumblr account! :) I have do admit I didn't expect that and was kind of worried about how the book would be...I even fell asleep and dreamed about these characters!

I am so excited to hear what everyone else thinks! Discuss away! Next week we'll be discussing chapters 11-20. I suspect the action is about to really pick up!


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