June 22, 2011

BEST OF ALL...:

Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) by Zane Grey (Marianne Wiggins, Summer 2011, BookForum)

Even if you haven’t read the book, I bet you think you know what it’s about: solitary masculinity on a colossal stage of raw geology, right? (Framed by Ford and featuring the Duke.)

Wrong.

Riders of the Purple Sage is a love story (several love stories, actually), bursting with pre-Freudian eroticism of the later drugstore-novel type. No wonder it sold like hotcakes. (My bet is, to impressionable boys and dissatisfied women.) It has all the standard western elements—horse thieving, cattle rustling, battles over water rights, discovery of gold—plus the carry-over nineteenth-century crowd-pleasing plot device of female abduction, this time by Mormons, not Apaches. (O those crazy Mormons!) (O pioneers!) But at its center are Jane Withersteen (a pre-universal-suffrage Mormon woman of independent mien and means) and the enigmatic, gunslinging Jim Lassiter (our conquering hero).

Today it is almost laughably unreadable. (“Lassiter, I’ll ride away with you. Hide me till danger is past—till we are forgotten—then take me where you will. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God!”) But in 1912, it must have been thrilling, sexy, even daring.


...it has the insight that Gilligan's Island lacks.




Posted by at June 22, 2011 5:36 AM
  

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