Friday, June 08, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 51 -- Riders of the Purple Sage

by Zane Grey

Started: June 5
Finished: June 11

Notes: While I have long been a fan of Old West film and historical studies, I've never been drawn to fictional literature about the period. Something about the bravado of the times doesn't work well for me in the written word, though I'm enjoyed some McMurtry, Twain and a little L'Amour over the years. That being said, my recent historical reading has given me a push to try some Old West fiction once again, so I thought I'd start with one of the classic authors of the genre and one of his best-known works, a novel which has had a major influence over the Old West genre since its original publishing in 1912.

Mini review: A dandy of a story, and I can see how it has influenced Western literature and film over the years because there are a number of characters that have become quite "stock" with the genre. The author here spends a lot of time describing the landscape, mainly the rugged lands of Utah in the early 1870s, and this is a double-edged sword; it's good because the description are done quite well, but it's also bad because it stops the story cold for a while. If famed Western director John Ford was not influenced by these landscape descriptions, I would be surprised, because Ford's Western made grand use of the deserts and plains and crags of the West as setting, making setting a character in and of itself, which Grey did with this novel. Apparently there's a sequel to this story, and I will be searching it out.

2 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I read this a couple of years back finally, on my kindle. It was pretty easy read and entertaining, though it definitely seemed rough in places compared to L'Amour's work. Unlike you, I'm a huge fan of the western genre. Always been a mainstay of my reading.

Ty Johnston said...

Charles, I wish I could say I like such literature more than I do. I really, really want to like fictional tales of the Old West, but it rarely seems to work for me. I never feel like I'm reading about tough men dealing out justice, but with teenage boys wailing away with guns because they see no other way out of their problems. I'm not suggesting that is a fault of the literature, but one that lies within myself.

But with Western film, I don't suffer this. In a good Western film, I feel as if such men are gods walking the Earth among mere mortals. I wish I had that feeling about Western literature.