Sunday, March 13, 2016

"America's great cowboy epic consists of a hundred thousand simulacra (cast in forms ranging from novels and movies to model kits and lunch boxes) of an imaginary original. At that primal point where other cultures find their Ramayana or Iliad or Le Morte d'Arthur, we make do with rumors and fabrications, replicas of wanted posters and tintypes of miners' shacks, Owen Wister and Zane Grey, and the deathless ideogram of a man on a horse crossing an empty space. Because of this void, the epic can always be written for the first time, the pieces finally put definitively together, even if only at the bitter end, or, indeed, long past the end. If the western died some time ago, that death was only a way station in this longer cycle of unappeasable striving after the Total Western, whether it materializes as Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, Gilbert Sorrentino's Gold Fools, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, or the HBO series Deadwood."