This is one of those books that I’d heard of all my life but never read because I assumed that its subject (cowboys, cattle herding, et cetera) had no appeal to me. But I was going on a two-week vacation and I wanted a fat novel, something adventurous and relatively simple for my vacationing brain, and I’d recently discovered that this novel won the Pulitzer in 1986, so I bought a copy and headed for the airport. By the time my first flight lifted off, I was some 70-odd pages in and already knew that I’d soon be reading the other three novels in the series.
LD centers around the long friendship between two very different men, Augustus (Gus) McCrae and Woodrow Call. It’s set during the dusk of their lives, where they’re both getting up there in years but are not too old yet to ride horses and engage in the occasional gunfight. Plotwise, it covers the adventures of Gus and Call and a bunch of other guys as they drive a massive herd of cattle from Texas to Montana at the point in the history of the American West where the “Indians” have been “tamed” but have not yet been completey eradicated, and where women were primarily purveyors of “pokes.”
It’s long and lovely and so hard to put down. I tore through its more than 800 pages as if it were a brief pamphlet.
I recommend it highly, particularly since in our time the weird Republican romanticizing of the American cowboy and general nostalgia for the American West conspire to make us modern readers of postmodern lit shy away from writers like McMurtry and Louis L’amour and others of their ilk. Give it a shot; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.