That needs to be established up front. It’s also my all time favorite screen adaptation of a novel.
I really like Lonesome Dove!
And when Larry McMurtry followed up with well crafted and exciting sequels and prequels; “Commanche Moon”, “Streets of Laredo” and “Dead Man’s Walk”, he succeeded in making Texas Rangers Augustus McCRae and Woodrow F. Call two of the most interesting, compelling and vividly drawn fictional characters in all of modern literature.
In the years since the last of the “Lonesome Dove” series I’ve really wanted Larry McMurtry to at least maintain, if not build on the foundation he had created.
Alas, it hasn’t happened.
I’m currently three quarters of the way through “The Berrybender Narratives”, a four-volume series by McMurtry that I had hoped would revive at least some, if not all of the magic his previous efforts inspired.
To put it bluntly, “The Berrybender Narratives” are terrible!
I read the first installment and was so unimpressed, I told myself to stop there and go no further. But, I was convinced that McMurtry was just whetting my appetite in the way that “Lonesome Dove” itself took a good while to really get rolling and to become the enthralling epic western classic that I came to love!
So, I got the second volume and labored through it only to find that none of the characters became any more interesting, nor did the general plot gain any particular momentum.
Now that I’m almost finished with volume three, I can see that McMurtry tries to succeed … he really does … perhaps too hard. He fills these books with dozens of characters and he labors mightily to provide a cast of heros and villains who might possibly generate the level of entertainment of practically every character big and small, good and evil that seemed to populate the great stories he put out in the late 90s and early 80s.
Sadly, there appears to be a limit to just how far even a talented author can take a storyline and even a genre.
McMurtry seems to have reached his limit.
As I labor through “The Berrybender Narratives”, the feeling is almost palpable that McMurtry is desperately trying to paint heros and villains for us who are as flawed, and yet admirable as Gus and Call were, and as nasty and despicable as Blue Duck and Buffalo Hump were.
He wants to provide us a plucky heroine possessed with the combined qualities of both Clara and Lorena. But while we respected Clara for her self-reliance and steadfast devotion and we felt deeply for Lorena for her sad hopelessness and grief-generated loyalty, in Tasmin Berrybender we get a female who is so irritatingly self-centered and unlikeable that we find ourselves wishing she’d meet with some sort of harm or at least ill-treatment.
I readily admit … I have not finished with “The Berrybender Narratives” and I plan to stick it out in spite of my conviction that it will get worse rather than better. I cannot imagine what could possibly happen in the fourth volume to redeem this story or these characters.
Unlike “Loneome Dove” and any of the followup’s I really do not particular care what happens to any of the Berrybender clan or their entourage. All of the Berrybender’s are obnoxious whiners. All of the frontiersmen are irritating stereotypes. None of the villains are particularly frightening. There is currently a plague of small pox running rampant and it would not bother me greatly if it wiped out the entire group.
Even so, I will finish the series because for some strange reason I am constitutionally unable to give up on a book or a story until I see it to the end.
I’m determined now to finish the entire thing.
In a couple of weeks I would dearly love to have an update that will turn this blog entry on it’s head. I truely hope that in the final of the four volumes everything comes together.
But, I just don’t see it happening.
In fact, I’m not even afraid of someone who has actually finished these books providing a spoiler for me. Go ahead. Tell me how this thing ends! Provide me with hope, or put me out of my misery. Tell me what you think!
It won’t stop me from finishing … but it may mercifully lower my expectations to a level at which I won’t keep turning pages with any particular urgency or anticipation.
I need to be stronger. I need to just cut my losses and quit! But, somehow, I cannot.
Life’s really too short to keep on reading books that stink. I can’t fully explain my inability to put this story down.
More in a couple of weeks …