The Buddhist cowboy

How did I not know of this book?  I'm talking about a 100-year old classic that I discovered by accident.

Since I browse the e-book section of our public library website by looking at the recent additions, Owen Wister's The Virginian showed up.  It's recently gone out of copyright, being 110 years old. So, there are free e-books of the text aplenty (for example, at Project Gutenberg or at Google).

Sure, it's a Western.  It's apparently the grand-daddy of them all, the book that set the image of the tall, silent cowboy who's quick to the draw.  But the book is a lot more than that. It's sad that the genre that this book spawned ended up so debased. Because The Virginian is a book with a moral code, a philosophy, an outlook on life.

If one didn't know better, one would say that the Virginian's moral code is quite Eastern (and I mean Eastern as in Buddhist or Hindu). He will never start trouble, but once in a battle, he will do his duty even if it involves killing.  As he says about himself, he has never killed for pleasure or for profit. Krishna could have saved himself a thousand verses of the Bhagavadgita if he'd simply used that line.

It's also a quite good love story, and a story of a man's connection to the wild, untamed frontier.  As a bonus,  you'll find references galore to Yellowstone, the Tetons and the Snake river -- places that to this day remain quasi-mythical.

If, like me, you hadn't heard of this book before, do yourself a favor.  Read it.

1 comment:

  1. Lak, this is truly an awesome book and a must read. Was loaned a copy by an ex-boss many years ago, and I could never thank him enough!