Just finished up Streets of Laredo. A reader should probably not mistake black humor – despite its strength and prominence here – for the sole, prevailing sentiment. The humor is tied inextricably to fragility and the fleeting nature of things.
We’ve all heard the writing metaphor, “punctuations of violence.” But too often, violence in books and movies is like an exclamation point: abrupt and loud. McMurtry, on the other hand, cuts deep grooves into the text. He cuts them and then, after only the most cursory pause, he moves on. He is the master of violence as a comma.
We could extrapolate this into, perhaps, a meditation on his philosophy of life, but why bother? It speaks for itself: threads of good will, interwoven with and usually overwhelmed by thick, ragged and inky black threads of ill will. The end result – a sense of reality, a distinctly unrosy feeling – is something we know well, but set in a context that fosters simplicity and still, somehow, seems preferable.
- Nathaniel Miller