Why do people like Western stories in books, movies and other media? Here’s an answer from the novelist William Kittredge:
“The Western is a story in which we get to have our cake and eat it. Shane does the killing, then rides into the mythical Tetons, carrying all our guilt away with him. Our problems have been solved quickly, and we are off the hook, guilt free, ready to go on, no blood on our hands.
“The Western is a story as ancient as warfare, about solving problems with violence, the great simple solution …
“It would be pretty to think the American version of this ancient showdown shoot-’em-up story of aggression enshrined has vanished. But it hasn’t.
“The Western mutated and went to the edge of the continent and downtown with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and the cops and detectives (think of Chinatown as the last Western movie). Lately the Western has gone into virtual worlds and outer space, where the same old story is being endlessly reenacted by killer androids.”
William Kittredge in The Portable Western Reader (Penguin, 1997) edited and with an introduction by William Kittredge us.penguingroup.com. The book gathers essays, poems and more, from ancient tribal tales to work of well-known contemporary authors such as Louise Erdrich. Richard Ford, Barry Lopez and Larry McMurtry and Leslie Marmon Silko.
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.