Tag Archives: Lonesome Dove

Reading the book after watching the movie. [UPDATED]

I still remember watching the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries on TV in the mid-1980s. My parents let me stay up past my bed time to watch a couple of episodes, although when it got violent I was no longer allowed to watch. I saw enough to be moved emotionally and in my imagination. I was hooked on that story. “Lonesome Dove” follows the story of a handful of old Texas Rangers who decide to drive several thousand head of cattle and horses from south Texas up to Montana, as yet unsettled.

I’ve watched the series a number of times since, having bought it on VHS in university (and since then the DVD version and recently a remastered wide-screen version). About two weeks ago, I picked up the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry on which the miniseries was based. I’ve owned the book for years, but at more than 900 pages, it’s quite intimidating to start. This time I was immediately hooked and managed to read through the whole thing in less than two weeks. It’s a wonderful novel, with well-rounded characters. A great tale of the trials and tribulation of this motley cattle crew. 

What struck me was that the miniseries—at least, as it exists in my memory, since it has been about a decade since I watched it last—was incredibly faithful to the book. So much so, in fact, that right from the beginning, in my mind the characters in the book looked and sounded liked depicted by their respective actors (Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones in particular). In some cases, a book is spoiled by watching the film version first, but I can think of a number of cases where I’ve read the book after its film version and thoroughly enjoyed the book. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if the film was one I particularly enjoyed, my experience of the book is enhanced by the viewing.

Lonesome Dove. As I read I began to realize that both Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones played their roles perfectly, but I don’t know if I can say that retrospectively. I might think this simply because I’m reading their performances into the novel.
– Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know if I would have read this one if I hadn’t seen the A&E miniseries (the Colin Firth one) first.
A Prairie Home Companion. There is no novel version. But there is a screenplay published in book form. I read it after watching the movie and loved it.
True Grit. I’m about a third of the way through this one. The recent Coen Brothers’ version is what’s in my mind as I read (in fact, my copy of the book is the movie tie-in version). I’ve read that the Coen Brothers’ version is more faithful to the book than the 1969 John Wayne version.
– No Country for Old Men. Another Coen Brothers film, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. Also a very faithful adaptation.

I used to insist that it was better to read the book before watching the film version. But looking at the above examples, I’m inclined to say that reading a book after watching its movie version is a much better experience than watching the movie version after reading the book.

The Lord of the Rings films were good adaptations of the books, though as the years pass I think less and less of the performances (with the exception of Saruman and Denethor). That’s because they don’t live up to my mental vision of those characters. The Hobbit films are terrible adaptations of a childhood favourite, but are otherwise well done and for the most part entertaining (although I can’t stand all the battles). The Da Vinci Code is a unique instance of me being neutral on the film vs. book question. I could say that the film wins by a hair because the writing in the book is terrible. But then the book was an incredible page-turner, which the movie didn’t match with engagement/tension.

And then there’s Simon Birch, the atrocious “adaptation” of John Irving’s wonderful A Prayer for Owen Meany. (Although, reading up on the film a bit more now, I realize that the film doesn’t bear the title of the book because Irving thought it was too unfaithful an adaptation, but because Irving didn’t think the book could be successfully adapted to the screen and therefore sold the rights with conditions about the name. In which case, perhaps I should take it a little easier on the film.)

UPDATE: As it turns out, reading the book has in a small way ruined the “Lonesome Dove” TV miniseries. In an unexpected turn of events, my fond memories of the miniseries which were revived and relived through the reading of the book took some of the “magic” away from the miniseries.

The paper.

Hey Mom, I find it interesting that you refer to the Weekly World News as, “The paper.” The paper contains facts.

This paper contains facts. And this paper has the eighth highest circulation in the whole wide world. Right? Plenty of facts. “Pregnant man gives birth.” That’s a fact.

Name that movie.

* * *

Well that was more painful than it needed to be.  I’ve written longer blog posts in less than an hour.  But the paper is done and submitted.

Am I happy with the paper?  Not entirely (not sure I’ve ever been completely happy with a paper).  But that’s mostly because it’s the first paper at the seminary and I have no idea what their expectations will be.  After a while as student gets to know where the rules can be bent and where professors are flexible, so the requirements of assignments become less of a concern.  But for the first paper there are so many unknowns that it’s nearly impossible not to feel uneasy about the outcome.  I think I felt this way about many of my university assignments, but I did quite well in the end anyway.

I’m beginning to think, too, that if I’m serious about a seminary education, full time study might be on the horizon.  We’ll see how the next couple of months go, but if they’re anything like the last month has been…well, the idea of being in such a state constantly for, say, the next 9 years (the time limit to complete an MDiv at Briercrest) of distance learning doesn’t really appeal to me.

And 9 years is a long time.  Dixie and I went out for supper tonight and in the moments between yawning and resting our heads on the table and seat backs, I said to her: “I’m almost 31.  I’ll be ordained by the time I’m 40.”  So we’ll see what happens in the next little while.

At this point, I need to sit down and really plan out the next 7 months of schoolwork.  I have no deadlines from now until June, when all the course requirements need to be completed.  I need to get in touch with the library at Briercrest and request some books just to learn how the system works and to see how fast that process of shipping books is.

Tonight was the first night in a long time that I wasn’t stressing about assignments or reading.  Dixie and I watched the first episode of Lonesome Dove, nothing else.  I need to reply to some emails and post some posts and, more than anything, get some rest.