Telegraph Days: Book summary and reviews of Telegraph Days by Larry McMurtry

Telegraph Days

by Larry McMurtry

Telegraph Days by Larry McMurtry
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2006
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A big, brilliant, unputdownable saga of the West - at once a major work of literature and a completely absorbing read, not just great fiction, but fiction on a great scale, encompassing many years, many characters, real and fictional, and the whole vast landscape of place, time, life, and heart, which has served for more than one hundred thirty years as the background for "the Western" in fiction and on the screen.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This rollicking epic is filled with excitement and humor, tinged with sadness and a longing for the past. In his striving to demythologize the West, McMurtry's vision of the reality is compelling." - Booklist.
"This tale is contrived, episodic and lacks cohesion, and its constant comedy is self-conscious. But most readers won't be able to help cracking a smile over McMurtry's 38th book, as purposely over-the-top as an episode of South Park." - PW.
"Though the novel ultimately covers a lot of territory, this isn't a return to the Oscar-winner's epic sweep of Lonesome Dove, but it's an easy, breezy read." - Kirkus.

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Meg

Waiting for something to happen
I was surprised, when I read this book, at how truly boring it was, given the good reviews it had received. I am guessing that the reviewers were reminiscing more on the quality of McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' than on the quality of the writing in this particular novel.

The book began well enough, and the main character of Nellie started off full of mouth and grit. However, there was no character development, the woman's mouth and spunk became annoying over time and the character remained shallow. There were so many places that McMurtry could have taken this character - but as a man writing from a woman's perspective, McMurtry took her to the place where so many men want a woman to be - having promiscuous sexual dalliances and cleaning up men's messes.

There was no recognizable plot, with the narrative appearing simply to be a forum for McMurtry to "name drop" every cowboy or outlaw hero from that period of the west, from Buffalo Bill to Wild Bill. The author overstretched himself in places simply to include a famous character (e.g. Jesse James or Billy the Kid) whose presence did nothing to further develop or improve upon the story.

About 2/3 through the book it becomes abundantly clear that McMurtry has become as sick of the character of Nellie as the reader has, and he ups the pace, skipping years and even decades with the flourish of a pen where initially the pace of the narrative was measured and slow. Characters who could have had some importance to the story are named once and forgotten, and only those with a name worth dropping are discussed further.

I kept waiting for something to happen. It didn't. The ending did nothing to round off the story. The final chapter simply ended like any other chapter - I turned the page, having no indication from the author that this was the end, and there was simply nothing more. I admit to feeling disappointed that I wasted my time reading toward something epic, as the book had initially seemed to promise - and that something even mildly fascinating never came.

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