So, in the head of Rick O. Smith something gets switched to overload and he kills five people in rural Manchester, IL or maybe six, , because one of the victims, the Mommy, was pregnant. For whatever reason he goes into the house and kills Grandma, Mom & Dad and their 2 sons. He also wounds the daughter a six year old. All in he shoots something like 2% of the population of this small town. Before jumping in his car to catch his appointment with “suicide by police” he gathers up this poor child “the girl who lived”, takes her to a neighbor’s and asks them to get her to the hospital.
I really don’t care what went wrong with Rick- there is no “reason” for doing this. There may be causes that got him to that terrible day, but there is no rational decision tree along which he travelled. I’m sure there are readers who are raising their hands because they know the answer; “Toxic Masculinity”.
If there is such a kernel in Men’s Brains then isn’t it possible that there is a competing pith causing them to do good.
What went through Smith’s mind as he contemplated the horror of his recent actions and reacted by carrying the little girl to safety? How closely related was the wiring that had him do this good deed to the impulses of the West Texas firemen who who donned their turnouts aware that they probably wouldn’t be around for breakfast?
How could the evil and the sublime co-exist in Rick O. Smith during the same heartbeat?
Did the sane thought “This Is What You Need to Do” register as it passed through his frantic mind.
As a young teen, in lieu of the “Talk”, my Dad gave me copies of “The Last Picture Show“– “this explains a lot about where I came from” and “The Joy of Sex“– “but I’m sure you’ll find this more interesting”. I have re-read the first, several times. Truth be told: I may have memorized the second on my first reading.
I can’t say I’ve read all that Mr. McMurtry has written, but confidently state I’ve read most of it, in the past month an old friend of ours, Larry and me, turned me on to his blog, Flash & Filligree, which surprised me.
I’m into this sad cycle, with this author, that I go through with what seem like old friends– new finds are becoming rarer and rarer as we both age.
I’m well read, if not educated, all my life and spent 20 some years on commuter trains digesting everything. I have opined for years that lonesome dove is the great American novel. I’m a literalist delighted to discover that “Moby Dick” is based on “The tragedy of the Essex” and that Joseph Conrad actually saw much of the depredations of “The Heart of Darkness” in the Congo. I received some feedback from the author confirming that the story draws from historical events. As this story enfolds, a decade after The Civil War, America is transitioning from what it was to what it will become. I have read “Lonesome Dove” in many moods revolving around change in my life. I picked up a copy to fill the time during my first year of not drinking; I needed an opus and a break from the shambles that was my life. A few years later I chose it to bring on a vacation visit to my parents with the fiancé. I could have taken warning of where the marriage was headed when I was bringing a book big enough to chock a tire. I recall sitting in the sun and laughing aloud at Gus McCrae‘s quips more to the bafflement than bemusement of the soon to be Missus. It seems to me I’ve cribbed a lot of my plain spoken teasing and confrontational language from Gus, or perhaps his character appealed to me because my language was headed there. In later years I have identified with Call; forcing the pace, standing solitary watch, a lonely and misunderstood protector as I considered the dissolution of my marriage. I have a habit of re-reading books to deal with insomnia; this doesn’t work with Lonesome Dove as I always re-engage with the language and characters.
I missed my opportunity to meet Larry McMurtry (and Diana Ossana, his writing partner) when Mary J. and I missed our connection. There is an astronomy of butterfly effects that coulda/woulda/ shoulda been. This universe includes an email exchange about Mr. McMurtry being forwarded to him as a printout and a handwritten note, from him, being forwarded to me. The gist of his note is to haunt bookstores and keep writing.
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