Buffalo Girls (Magill Book Reviews)
BUFFALO GIRLS is another fine novel that expresses McMurtry’s love for the American West. He has been equally successful in rendering the West as it was and the West as it has become. McMurtry is a wonderful storyteller, and the West has many wonderful stories that cry out to be told. The mythic certainly plays an important role in how the West—and the characters who inhabited it—should be viewed. In BUFFALO GIRLS, McMurtry takes the opportunity to present Calamity Jane and a curious assortment of character types who always seem to show up in McMurtry’s novels. Although he makes use of historical figures, McMurtry’s vision is large and generous rather than pedantically correct—as large as the West in all of its mythic proportions.
Mountain men, Indians, prostitutes, and legends such as Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody race across the pages of BUFFALO GIRLS. They all must come to terms with the end of an era—an era in which they could live and love with childlike abandon. The West is growing up, but not necessarily for the better. The “Wild” of the Wild West is rapidly disappearing. Each of the characters must struggle to adjust to what is happening to the land they love.
The buffalo herds have been decimated. Beaver no longer swim in great numbers in the rivers. The Indians have been rendered helpless, and the gunfighters are all either dead or neutralized. Jane and her friends attempt to hang on to their world by...
(The entire section is 451 words.)
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Buffalo Girls (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
The fourteenth of Larry McMurtry’s novels is the third to investigate the Old West. Like its predecessor, Anything for Billy (1988), Buffalo Girls is an ironic and often humorous depiction of the lives of legendary Western heroes and heroines. Unlike McMurtry’s first venture into this territory, Lonesome Dove (1985), Anything for Billy and the new novel combine historical figures and fictional creations. Neither of these two more recent efforts has the epic scope or the powerful characterizations of Lonesome Dove, but Buffalo Girls is a clear improvement on McMurtry’s version of the life of Billy the Kid.
Calamity Jane is at the center of the action of Buffalo Girls. She is a puzzling character; even to her closest friends, the fictional creations Jim Ragg and Bartle Bone, and her Indian protector, No Ears. She has survived the rough and tumble of the frontier, despite a temper that frequently gets her into trouble and an inability to shoot accurately with pistol or rifle, which makes her vulnerable to those she offends. She drinks heavily, and when she drinks she does foolish things, battling the London police when the Wild West show goes to England, insulting her friends as well as her enemies, and wandering off into blizzards on the prairies. Ragg and Bone sometimes puzzle over whether she is in fact a woman.
The third-person narrative, which reports from the viewpoints of...
(The entire section is 2041 words.)