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Sunday, June 12th, 2011 05:59 pm
This is not a review, only a brief note. I don't know Westerns except as cliches, and in this case I only knew the names. Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, the gunfight at the OK Corral: I couldn't have told you stories that went with them, indeed wasn't consciously aware they were part of the same story. Which made reading Mary Doria Russell's latest novel an odd experience, at times. Doc is part of the story of John Henry Holliday. From context, I gather the summer of 1878 is one of the parts that is less-told, but at least as Russell tells it, it's the summer when, living in Dodge City, Kansas, Holliday and Earp became friends. A relatively quiet summer; unlike The Sparrow there's no shattering personal tragedy to uncover here, unlike A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day no geopolitical event giving shape to the story. Dodge is a frontier town, but there are precious few gunfights (though Russell does allow herself one "get out of Dodge!"); set pieces are more likely to focus on a party or a poker game, and most of the novel is taken up with the texture of daily existence.

But it's a novel that's aware of and comments on the fame of its protagonists, and the other inhabitants of Dodge City. The cast list is even longer than that of A Thread of Grace, I think (although the only other name I recognised was Bat Masterson), and the narrative voice is as temporally free as that of Dreamers of the Day (though without the fantastic enabling conceit), making reference to the OK Corral even though the novel stops years before the event itself, and considering the later exaggeration and distortion of certain events. The result is a novel very aware of the contingency of life, whose emotional peaks often involve evocation of the "ghost lives" that its characters might have lived if certain events had gone otherwise; usually as grace notes, but in one chapter there is a sustained imaging of an unremarkable alternative life for Holliday, hanging off a turning-point in his relationship with a prostitute, Kate Harony. Such explicit self-commentary did ensure that I wasn't as adrift as I might have been; and made it clear that the novel is in part an intervention into the dialogue of the Western, and the processes by which people have been made into myths; yet also made it clear how much of the detail of that intervention I must be missing.

Perhaps it also played into the fact that Doc took a while to win me over. Russell's writing is always a mix of sentiment and steel, but the balance seemed off in the first half of this novel, too much of the former and too much of the latter. But as more perspectives are brought into the mix -- Jau Dong-Sing, proprietor of the town laundry; Bessie Earp, the madam of a Dodge brothel; Alex von Angensperg, S.J.; Captain Elijah Garrett Grier; I gather some of these were real people, some are invented -- the more Holliday and Earp and Dodge itself are seen from a variety of angles -- the better the balance, and the more Doc drew me in. Unlike Ron Charles I don't hunger for a sequel (in fact I think a sequel would rather miss the point), and by some margin it's not my favourite of Russell's books. But Doc contains some exquisite moments, and taught me some things, and I'm not sorry to have read it.
Sunday, June 12th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
I thoroughly enjoyed Tombstone when I saw it, which covers this time period, and has one of Val Kilmers finest performances.
Sunday, June 12th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Really? No more comments on LJ?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Well I guess it's good you rarely post any more then.
Monday, June 13th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
Could you at least enable the feature that indicates that there are Dreamwidth comments on the LJ mirror?
Monday, June 13th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
What would you like to appear at the bottom of each LJ post?

For instance:

[number] comments(s) | add comment?

would be

%%comment_image%% <a href="%%comment_url%%">comment(s)</a> | <a href="%%reply_url%%">add comment?</a>
Edited 2011-06-13 10:26 pm (UTC)
Monday, June 13th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
Saturday, June 15th, 2013 11:59 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for your comment, Donald. I alwyas enjoy learning from others’ experience and research, and certainly have no desire to argue the impressions you received from meetings with people involved in the movement. As you, no doubt, realized from reading the writings of Adams, he was a very modest man. And I’m sure that it was accurate to say that he was a bit intimidated at his first meeting with Stieglitz, for the man was a pioneer, and had many accomplishments to his credit (crowned by the family of man series). But usually, one becomes more relaxed after first meetings, and the subject matter becomes more forceful than personality. I think that what is really important in the disagreement between Stieglitz, Adams, and Weston, was their differing views on art and the use of technique. But I leave it to the academics to have the last word on the historical significance.
Thursday, June 13th, 2013 08:19 am (UTC)
"Sincerely, no idea. But the lineage as such cnonat be as young as only some 1300 years ago. Even if it has been spread partly by Slavic migrations, it needs to have been common before those in the core Slavic area (Poland?)."That's actually a very good point Maju (never thought about it that way). But assuming that the R-M458 lineage is a 1300 year old Slavic marker, the frequencies supposedly present in Greeks seem a bit incredulous.After looking at the map Polak provided at Polish Genes, I only saw two data points in Greece (one in Attica and one in Crete). The other two Balkan data points appear in south-central Albania and Vardarska (i.e. FYROM).From what I can tell, the only Balkan data point surrounded by a visible color shade frequency of R-M458 is in south-central Albania (there is no data point in Bulgaria even though there is a visible color shade frequency of R-M458).The near absence of a color shade frequency in the Greek data points appears to virtually coincide with the very sparse archaeological evidence involving Slavic settlements in Greece (the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium makes this point abundantly clear despite medieval literary attestations depicting "Slavic tides"). All in all, whatever degree of Slavic admixture occurred in Greece during the Middle Ages was so limited that it was practically nonexistent (I think that in reality, the upper limit for Slavic admixture in the Greek population is much less than 1/10). Of course, I'd avoid putting too much faith in genetic determinism given that genetics is still a young science and you just never know when another team of geneticists decides to "crack" the "R-M458 code" even further to discover that it may be something more than merely a Slavic genetic marker. Always keep an open mind (for what it's worth).
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
I have a feeling that I am going to be migiatrng elsewhere and deleting my LiveJournal. I've stuck with LJ through a lot but this last move shows a truly epic level of bad judgement, and even if they fix the privacy issue of crossposted comments, I fear they will do the something similarly boneheaded in the future... and I don't want any of my old friendslocked entries to become fair game while I'm not looking.Rather sad about it.