Thursday, June 28, 2018

Doc by Mary Doria Russell


I do not read westerns. When I picked up Doc by Mary Doria Russell, I had my doubts that it was my type of book. What I found was a historical fiction title with real characters interacting with made up characters solving a murder and trying their best to make a living in the town of Dodge City, Kansas.

What I thought I knew about Doc Holliday was no more than the typical legends of the OK Corral. This book goes into the story of Doc before the famous gun fight. It tells of the Southern gentleman, the piano player, the dentist, the gambler, the man with tuberculosis and the good friend. During one particularly big fight with his mistress / girlfriend / favorite prostitute, Kate, he explains why he is a dentist in the town of Dodge when it doesn't bring in any money. He says he does it because it makes life better for other people. He takes away some suffering for others by helping them escape pain. Doc spends his days as a dentist in town and his nights gambling. 

This book is seasoned with many colorful characters including the Earp brothers, a number of women who work at the brothel owned by James Earp, and perhaps one of my favorite characters a man who was a prince in Austria but left to become a priest on the prairie, "For the rest of his long and eventful life, Alexander von Angensperg might have topped just about any war story told in a Jesuit residence. He could have listened, and nodded, and acknowledged each man's most colorful adventure, and then achieved an awed, respectful silence with just six words: "I heard confession in Dodge City." 

Dodge City was a rough and tumble place and the team of Masterson and the Earps tried to bring law and order to the town the best they could.  At the end of the book Doc Holliday, the Earps, and their ladies are heading off to Tombstone to see what the newly developed mining town has to offer. 

This was an enjoyable title that once I got into I couldn't wait to see what was next in the adventures of Doc, the Earps and Kate in the city of Dodge. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Things They Carried

The New York Times blurb on the front of the reissued paperback of Tim O'Brien's classic book about the Vietnam War reads, "A marvel of storytelling...a vital, important book--a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well." O'Brien has told his own war story in fictionalized form, in a series of interconnected short pieces. It is brilliant. He says at one point, "If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted ... you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie." Many authors have written of their war experiences, whether it be in WWII, Vietnam, or the more modern battlegrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. Very few of those have the ability to capture the nuances and make you feel the story deeply in the pit of your stomach. O'Brien has that talent. In a tender balancing act, he writes of the beauty of the jungle, the exhilaration of camaraderie, while also recording the brutality of war. O'Brien was not confident that our country should be at war in Vietnam, and when drafted, he toyed with the idea of running for the Canadian border from his home in Minnesota. He struggled deeply, thinking that running would be the bravest thing he could do. Instead, he says what drove him to report for duty as ordered was "hot, stupid shame." He feared exile more than he feared war. The bravest thing, in the end, was observing, participating in, and recording the mundane and the misery of being a soldier in that time and place. Highly recommended.

Kelly Currie