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The New Wild West

Guest Article by: 
Brian
Article Type: 

I will let those working on doctoral theses at UT or SMU determine whether the Western genre had its renaissance with Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove or Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Those fights are too esoteric for me, and like all academic fights, probably all the more vicious because the stakes are so small.

Until recently, my definition of a Western could pretty much be summed up by the tropes one found in the oft-covered song “Pancho and Lefty.” Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it is about two highwaymen riding the range (check), being chased by Federales (check), with a big shoot-out at the end of the old dusty trail (check). 

In the past year, however,  I have read outstanding pieces of fiction that push the definition of what I would ordinarily consider a Western. (Appropriate that a genre about the American frontier would push boundaries.) Of late, the genre seems open to female-centered stories, like Lisa Sandlin’s The Do-Right, Melissa Lenhardt’s Heresy, or the new novel by Téa Obreht, Inland, which is both a story of a tough frontier woman and of Middle-Eastern immigrants. Historically separated by about 120 years, Presidio and The Sisters Brothers are similar tales of outlaw brothers who battle each other as much as they battle outside forces. And one of the finest books I read last year was the amazingly introspective In the Distance, by Hernan Diaz: also an immigrant’s tale, but about how tall-tales are born, too. And, after all, from Pecos Bill to Captain Call, Westerns are a myth-building genre.

All the Pretty Horses: Border Trilogy (1) (Vintage International) Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780679744399
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Published: Vintage - June 29th, 1993

American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and New Stories Cover Image
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American War: A Novel Cover Image
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The Bird Boys Cover Image
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The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog #3) Cover Image
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The Dime Cover Image
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Heresy Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780316435352
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In the Distance Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781566894883
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Inland: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812992861
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The Iron Orchard Cover Image
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Jackrabbit Smile (Hap and Leonard) Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781439195260
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By Tammy Lynne Stoner, Cassidy Trier (Cover Design by)
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