May 29, 2005

"What, exactly, do you think cowboys represent, other than the triumph of alpha males?"

I liked the very cranky interview Larry McMurtry gave to the NYT Magazine's Deborah Solomon, who asked that question. He answers:
Cowboys are a symbol of a freer time, when people could go all the way from Canada to Mexico without seeing a fence. They stand for good ol' American values, like self-reliance.

Solomon: Maybe some American values, but you can't say that cowboys were ever interested in spreading democracy.

McMurtry: No, they were interested in spreading fascism.
I've never read a Larry McMurtry book. I've never even watched the DVD of "The Last Picture Show" that I bought years ago, after long before that missing the movie when it played in theaters. But he seems like an awfully funny guy.

9 comments:

Joan said...

Thanks for linking this interview, it was fantastic! "Very cranky," indeed. I particularly liked how he told off the interviewer at the end.

twwren said...

Ann:

Read "Lonesome Dove", a masterpiece and a better answer to the two questions you cited.

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Ann,

More than 50 years ago a teacher rejected a book report that I submitted because it was about a novel by Zane Gray. She said that that kind of book was, in effect, pulp fiction and not acceptable. This taught me more about snobbery than literature.

I suspect that many educated people have never read McMurtry because he writes "westerns". That is a subject worthy of an essay/rant but I will simply say that it is their profound loss.

McMurtry is the heir of John Steinbeck. Like Steinbeck he tells his stories with dialog rather than narrative. His characters, even the most minor, are real. He does this with an economy that few authors can match.

Lonesome Dove is an epic, over 500 pages as I recall, spanning two generations. Even so a character that hasn't appeared for 200 pages springs instantly to mind when they are mentioned.

Pick up any of his work. Marvel at a rare genious.

Regards,
Roy

Ann Althouse said...

Roy: That's the kind of experience that sticks with you! I have a few similar things like that from school that I've never forgotten and am still rather pissed about.

Joan: Yeah, I love the end of the interview. Solomon was trying to go for a gotcha and McMurtry was more like see this is why I don't like to talk to you people.

Twwren: I think I'll do that!

Bruce Hayden said...

What has always been interesting to me is that what we think of as "cowboys" is not how most cowboys were.

Sure, you had a couple of years, when you had immense cattle drives driving cattle up to the trains so they could be taken to market. But that didn't last all that long. Except for, example, in Wyoming, this all ended fairly quickly, when the "west" (actually, from my point of view, the mid-west, i.e. Kansas, Nebraska, etc.) was fenced.

No, most of the time most cowboys worked for little pay doing back breaking work on "ranches" and farms. In real life, it wasn't a very romantic existance. Very lonely, and very hard.

Bruce Hayden said...

But I do find the author's ideas interesting. I am sitting about 2,500 feet below where Buffalo Bill is buried. Ever the showman, even in the end. His funeral procession apparently extended all the way up the Lariot Trail from Golden to the top of Lookout Mtn, at a time when cars were still rare.

And then, for the next decade or two, Colo. and Wyo. fought over his remains. At one point Colo. put a tank over his grave to keep the Wyomians from stealing his body. Only ended when we put a couple of tons of concrete over it.

Bruce Hayden said...

But I do find the author's ideas interesting. I am sitting about 2,500 feet below where Buffalo Bill is buried. Ever the showman, even in the end. His funeral procession apparently extended all the way up the Lariot Trail from Golden to the top of Lookout Mtn, at a time when cars were still rare.

And then, for the next decade or two, Colo. and Wyo. fought over his remains. At one point Colo. put a tank over his grave to keep the Wyomians from stealing his body. Only ended when we put a couple of tons of concrete over it.

Judith said...

"most of the time most cowboys worked for little pay doing back breaking work on "ranches" and farms. In real life, it wasn't a very romantic existance. Very lonely, and very hard."

I think "The Virginian" - although somewhat romanticized - is an excellent novel about the real life of cowboys. Those with more expertise in American history please comment.

Judith said...

It would be hard to be interviewed by Deborah Solomon without getting cranky. She specializes in being dumb and provocative at the same time.