Sam Jacobs’s latest on Louis L’Amour who crafted an “enduring mythology of the American West”:
The western is a unique American genre, to use a 50-cent French word. It celebrated toughness and justice in a period when self defense laws rarely posed a problem of intricate legal interpretation such as is now put forward by metaphysicians, toads, fools, girly men, hysterics, knaves, and liars. To say it depicted a white world is an understatement but it nonetheless paid tribute to manly opponents and anyone who bought into the ethos of self reliance, fairness, good humor, and an equality born of courage and hard work. Dirty Harry on a horse if you will.
I don’t remember “Dances with Wolves” that well but Costner’s character struck me as a sick puppy and I wasn’t charmed by the existential doubt about the whole American enterprise that I remember it celebrating. Correction and chastisement cheerfully accepted on any of those points.
Sometime after “Little Big Man” the familiar western dematerialized and even Clint Eastwood indulged in gunfighters with a correspondence school diploma from Yale Divinity School. Ambiguity needed to be introduced and examined. And in due course nothing was left except for buffalo droppings like the acclaimed “Django Unchained” starring some kind of reptile with a suntan and various other turncoats. They would have been road kill anywhere west of St. Louis any time before the Spanish sinking of the Maine but not in the remarkable imagination of Quentin.
Now it’s as much as your life is worth to celebrate the settling of this country by white people so it’s distinctly out of style. Better to have the wracked-by-doubt superhero with a diverse girlfriend. Or worse.
In Karl Marlantes’s foreword to Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel I read about a Canadian fellow who came south to join the USMC. In Vietnam, he, George Jmaeff or “Canada,” got wounded and, when he heard that his comrades were pinned down by a machine gun, he tore the IVs out of his arm and took out the machine gun with an M-16, dying in the process. I doubt he’d now be wearing skinny jeans, shoes without socks, and a sweater knotted around his shoulders. Let’s get back to celebrating the original deal and not this feeble, pussified hell of a country.