Thursday, December 20, 2012

Aimless Reading: Part 29 (Owen Wister)

The Virginian
Wister, Owen
The Virginian

Purchased at the SUNY Buffalo bookstore for a course, oft-mentioned on this blog, called fiction and film, or something along those lines. This book served as the exemplar of the western genre, as it is considered the first novel of its kind. It has been adapted to the screen no fewer than six times, not including a nine-year run as a TV series in the 1960s.

I remember the lecture about the book more than I remember the book itself. The professor laid out what he considered to be the essential plot elements of a western -- the outsider, the lawless town, the virtuous woman at the hearth for whom the outsider must establish the rule of law by violent means, etc. He then showed us a film he thought broke the mold for the genre, in this case, The Gunfighter, starring Gregory Peck.

Although I did find the lecture useful to a point, I always found this formulaic way of approaching film and books to be pretty tedious.

I've never really gotten interested in the western as a literary genre, but I love western films. Lori and must have watched a hundred of them a couple of years back. It's too bad they are no longer popular, as they are one of the richest genres in film, at least as rich, IMHO, as film noir.

I meant to get back to Ecuador today. I guess it will have to wait till tomorrow.

from The Virginian

"God bless you, my dears," she told them. "And when you come next time, I'll have the nursery ready."

And so it happened that before she left this world, the great-aunt was able to hold in her arms the first of their many children.

Judge Henry at Sunk Creek had his wedding present ready. His growing affairs in Wyoming needed his presence in many places distant from his ranch, and he made the Virginian his partner. When the thieves prevailed at length, as they did, forcing cattle owners to leave the country or be ruined, the Virginian had forestalled this crash. The herds were driven away to Montana. Then, in 1889, came the cattle war, when, after putting their men in office, and coming to own some of the newspapers, the thieves brought ruin on themselves as well. For in a broken country there is nothing left to steal.

But the railroad came, and built a branch to that land of the Virginian's where the coal was. By that time he was an important man, with a strong grip on many various enterprises, and able to give his wife all and more than she asked or desired.

Sometimes she missed the Bear Creek days, when she and he had ridden together, and sometimes she declared that his work would kill him. But it does not seem to have done so. Their eldest boy rides the horse Monte; and, strictly between ourselves, I think his father is going to live a long while.

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