The Lone Star Ranger is too good for its ending

In his father’s day, a gun-fighter worried only about better gunfighters. Since then the Rangers have been organized to bring law and order to Texas.

Buck Duane will be the last of his gun-fighting family.

The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Gray

Project Gutenberg eBook #1027. 1915 bestseller #9. My grade: B-.

After killing a man in a gunfight, Buck flees in the Rio Grande country. He lives among a gang of outlaws long enough to make enemies, then wanders alone for some two years.

Captain MacNelly of the Texas Rangers hears enough good of Buck to offer him a pardon if he’ll work undercover for him.

Buck accepts.

His task is to find and destroy the gang whose mastermind, Cheseldine, no one appears to have ever seen.

In Fairdale, in the heart of cattle rustling country, Buck is captivated by the mayor’s lovely daughter.

Most readers will guess how the plot resolves itself.

Why Buck feels drawn to kill is the story’s real interest. Zane Grey makes Buck’s first gunfight into what we’d call a virtual reality experience today—and we’d seek a label warning it isn’t suitable for all audiences.

Grey suggests some possible answers, but doesn’t come to any conclusion. Instead, he ruins the story by promising Buck will stop killing because of “the faith and love and beauty of [a] noble woman.”

The Lone Star Ranger isn’t a great novel, but it deserves a better ending than that.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Peder Victorious Suffers Fractures

In Peder Victorious, O. E. Rolvaag looks at the second generation of Norwegian pioneers who broke the Dakota prairies to the plow.

Peder Victorious Holm and his siblings think of themselves as Americans. Their mother, Beret Holm, still regards herself as Norwegian. She wishes her children to speak, read, think in Norwegian; have only Norwegian friends; marry within the Norwegian community.

The outcome is never in doubt: the Norwegians will assimilate.

The Norwegians cannot get along among themselves.  Even Beret displays American independence in speaking out in church in defiance of tradition over the matter of the Lutheran congregation split.

Moreover, Norwegians are deeply divided over the question of whether the Dakotas should be admitted to the Union as one state or two.

Against this background, the adolescent Peder is trying to define his identity.

Rolvaag’s plot is pulled in as many directions as Peder is. Rolvaag will focus on Peder, then on Peder’s mother, zoom out to talk about the community, zoom in on a church deacon. The shifting point of view has an unsettling, centrifugal effect.

Eventually Beret’s late husband appears to her in a dream and tells her how to handle Peder.

Too bad he didn’t appear to Rolvagg. The author needed serious help with this fractured plot.

Peder Victorious
By O. E. Rolvaag
Trans. Nora O. Solum &
Harper & Brothers, 1929
350 pages
1929 bestseller #6
My Grade: C-
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni