I just finished a memoir written by a thirty-something and published in 2016. The memoir was well written and it was easy reading. It was such easy reading that I finished the book (about 70,000 words) in a few hours. All the easy reading words contained a bunch of easy thoughts and when I finished the book and set it aside, I said to the cat, “That was easy, wasn’t it?” And a few hours later I’d forgotten the experience of reading the book—I recalled a few poignant scenes, but not one example of first-rate writing, not one artful sentence or interesting paragraph. It was too easy, the book, too simple. So easy that it became instantly forgettable, the experience of reading, an experience I cherish. Easy come, easy go.
Lonesome Dove came out in 1985 but I read it the summer following, in a pocket paperback edition. Lonesome Dove is a huge novel, and the pocket paperback didn’t fit into my pocket or even a great big fat man’s pocket, but I read it over a week in the summer and didn’t want it to end. I was just a kid and in Lonesome Dove there was a kid named Newt who must’ve seemed like I seemed to myself.
Every ten years or so I reread Lonesome Dove and enjoy it. It’s a good novel, perhaps not great, but it’s a hoot and I doubt any novel–even the great ones that I’ve read and reread–means as much to me as Lonesome Dove.