Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Virginian - by Owen Wister

The full title is apparently The Virginian, a Horseman of the Plains but I have read it several times and only know it as The Virginian.  (£1.45 UK edition) (EUR 1,90 Deutsch edition)
What a good book this is!  It is one of the better Westerns and just a very absorbing, entertaining novel.  It was written in 1902, when we were not that far removed from what is termed "the old West."
It was now the Virginian's turn to bet, or leave the game, and he did not speak at once. Therefore Trampas spoke. "Your bet, you son-of-a—."
The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: "When you call me that, SMILE." And he looked at Trampas across the table.
Yes, the voice was gentle. But in my ears it seemed as if somewhere the bell of death was ringing; and silence, like a stroke, fell on the large room. All men present, as if by some magnetic current, had become aware of this crisis. In my ignorance, and the total stoppage of my thoughts, I stood stock-still, and noticed various people crouching, or shifting their positions.

Now some people say this narrator - a greenhorn who is friends with the eponymous protagonist -  mars the book.  Sometimes his presence is forced and perhaps he is annoying at times, but I can't say he interferes with my enjoyment of the novel.
It is deservedly well known as an iconic Western that was made into movies and a television show.  But, as a teenager I was delighted with the love story and I enjoyed re-reading it as an adult for the romance.  Which does not mean I don't enjoy a good throw down over cards!

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