Monday, March 16, 2009

The (Current) Age-Old Question

Is the Western really dead?

I hear this more and more. The pundits and those who claim to know all say that the Western is indeed dead.

And yet I see evidence of it everywhere. In successful movies and TV miniseries. In books on the shelves. In advertising.

So the Western isn't dead to Madison Avenue, meaning it's not dead to the consumer. So why is it said that it's dead? Why is it so hard to get a book set in the Old West sold? Why are the Western TV shows and movies now so few and far between? (Aside from the fact that horses are costly beasts. :-D)

Now, there's the school of thought that says it isn't dead and gone -- it's just packaged in a spaceship (Star Wars or Serenity), or it's wearing a suit and carrying a badge and a gun as well as a squad car (pick almost any cop show), or it's been updated (No Country for Old Men or Deadwood). And I agree that this is so, and good as well. Nothing wrong with taking the feeling of an indelible time and using it elsewhere, or turning the conventions on their ears.

But the idea of the conventional Western -- where there may be bad guys, but a good guy or gal or group is gonna come along and save the day in the end, while riding horses and being true to their pards and wanting their freedom while, at the same time, having a yearning for 'something' -- that I keep hearing is dead and gone.

And I don't believe it.

Maybe because I don't want to (I write in this genre, after all), but maybe more because, to me, the heart of a Western is tied up in my nation's image and history, so much so that it's almost genetic. You're an American (or, so my Aussie friends tell me, an Australian) and the rough and tumble that helped forge your homeland is in the bone, whether or not you were born here or immigrated.

Maybe it's simply that I don't believe the Western is dead because I don't believe the spirit that built this country is dead. Or I'm a stubborn old fool. Or, as my spouse says, probably both.

A.E. Stanton

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Another Day, Another Dollar Spent on a Research Tome

I have a confession. My name is A.E. Stanton and I'm a research addict.

Oh, sure, I know, there are a lot of us out there. And we can say that our addiction doesn't hurt anyone. And that's probably true.

However, I think my little problem might be going nova. I'm running out of bookshelf space.

I already have cases in the garage dedicated to books on history, biographies, interesting tomes that I refer to now and then, boring books that contain key nuggets, and so forth. And not all of them are on the Old West, either, I feel forced to add. (A lot are, to be sure, but not all.) But everything's full to bursting, and most are stacked at least two, sometimes three deep, and my spouse suggests that I should somehow either get rid of some of these books (the horror of the idea!) or stop buying new and old ones alike.

I'd love to do that, but I just can't. It goes against my grain. A book is with you for life. And a book can influence your life forever.

Nope. I can't part with any of them. Why, I'd sooner part with my motorcycle. And dear? That's not happening any time soon.

A.E. Stanton

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