Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Howdy Readers! How’s your Westward Expansion reading experience going this month?

I am working away at reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage which recounts the journey of Lewis and Clark. It has been a bit of a slog so far – interesting but maybe too detailed – but I haven’t gotten to the actual journey yet. Things should pick up then.

If you’re still searching for a book to read be sure to stop by any of the Davenport Library locations and check our displays which have a variety of interesting titles. Or reach for a DVD – we have a wide range to choose from. You can go classic/nostalgic and check out a television Western which used to be so popular – Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza or The Virginian. We also have a huge collection of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns.

If you’d like to look beyond the stereotypes, there are some excellent documentaries that are well worth watching. Lewis and Clark: the Journey of the Corps of Discovery and The West, both produced by Ken Burns, are beautifully done.

For a modern, often violent look at the Old West try There Will Be Blood or The Revenant or the remake of True Grit.

4 thoughts on “Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

  1. There Will Be Blood and the remake of True Grit are two of my all time favorite movies, excellent recommendations! I thought The Revenant was beautifully shot but ultimately more stylistic than substantive. In lieu of that I would recommend No Country For Old Men, which came out the same year as TWBB, was shot in the same location (with similarly gorgeous cinematography), and shares some themes – most notably the love of money’s corrosive effect on the soul.

    Of course, there are just as many differences as similarities, primarily in how the movies sound. TWBB is carried almost entirely by Daniel Day-Lewis in an historic performance, but he gets an assist from the haunting, string-driven score composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. NCFM, on the other hand, has no score at all, with long stretches of silence ratcheting up tension before being punctuated by the Coen brothers’ trademark violence.

    NCFM also features another Coen hallmark, pitch black humor leavening an otherwise bleak thriller. TWBB, on the other hand, is a more straightforwardly dramatic character study (although the discordant shrieking of Greenwood’s strings can at times make it feel more like a horror movie, with Day-Lewis starring as the monster). Ultimately, however, the biggest difference is in how the films wrap up. TWBB certainly lives up to the promise of its title, acting as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unbridled capitalism. Daniel Plainview does horrific things but is still recognizable as a human being. Anton Chigurgh, on the other hand, is basically an embodiment of pure evil, with seemingly no motive for the atrocities he commits. NCFM ends abruptly, seemingly mid-scene, its moral ambiguous if it can be said to have one at all. Despite coming out the same year as TWBB, it feels far more like a product of our post-modern age for this reason; TWBB, on the other hand, brings to mind the passionate imaginings of the Romantic era. Both films, however, are masterpieces that I have no doubt will stand the test of time.

  2. Excellent comments! Thanks for the insightful commentary – I’ll look at these films with new eyes now. Thanks for reading/viewing along!

  3. I read Undaunted Courage for a book club I organized long ago. One of the other book club members had chosen that title and the rest of us thought it would be a difficult, boring read. The club members all gave it positive reviews after finishing it. I actually enjoyed the book so much that I ended up buying a used copy a couple years ago. I think I’ll crack it open again. Thanks for the reminder!

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