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The Virginian (Signet Classics) [Paperback]

By Owen Wister (Author)
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Item Number 424141  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   400
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 6.7" Width: 4.1" Height: 1"
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2002
Publisher   Penguin Group USA
ISBN  0451528328  
EAN  9780451528322  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The novel that inspired a century of Westerns... Signet is proud to present a special centennial edition of The Virginian, a novel featuring the first fully realized cowboy hero in American literarture-a near-mythic figure whose idealized image has profoundly influenced our national consciousness.

Buy The Virginian (Signet Classics) by Owen Wister from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780451528322 & 0451528328

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More About Owen Wister

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Owen Wister (1860-1938) was born in Philadelphia and raised in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At age 25, he spent a summer in Wyoming on the advice of his physician. Encouraged by his friend from Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt, he later wrote about his experiences and observations of the American West. His greatest success came in 1902 with the publication ofThe Virginian, which was a bestseller for months and would be dramatized and filmed numerous times.
John Seelyeis a graduate research professor of American literature at the University of Florida. He is the author ofThe True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain at the Movies, Prophetic Writers: The River in Early American Literature, Beautiful Machine: Rivers and the Early Republic, Memory's Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock, andWar Games: Richard Harding Davis and the New Imperialism.He is also the consulting editor for Penguin Classics in American literature."

Owen Wister was born in 1860 and died in 1938.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Disappointing  Dec 16, 2009
The seller assumed that the buyer would know that "Anais 9000" is a computer program that "can read" the text. I can't fathom an individual who would enjoy spending $30 to listen to this great masterpieced completely destroyed. It was bad enough that the computer couldn't handle the punctuation in the narrative... but, considering the dialect... the computer could not "compute".

I am an English teacher who was looking for an audo version of the book I'm teaching. If I had known this was what I was going to get, I would have passed on the purchase.

I am disappointed that the seller did not make clear the description of the product. I will not buy from this seller again.
the cow-boy as god -- and sex-god  Oct 3, 2009
This review is based on the Penguin edition, which includes an excellent introduction by John Seelye, plus the deleted "Hank's Woman" episode and footnotes explaining archaic language. My comments might offend some readers.

When reading a novel, do you mentally cast the movie version? In appearance, speech, and manner, Randolph Scott * or a young Sam Elliott are obvious choices for The Virginian. But Cary Grant (!!!) also crossed my mind, and this observation from the 7/31/2009 "New York Times" offers confirmation: "Watching [Grant] is to be reminded of a time when intelligence, grace and self-containment were their own rewards."

Intelligence, grace, and self-containment are major consituents of the Virginian's personality and character, and major reasons for the continued popularity of this novel. But they are not the whole story.

"The Virginian" was the first modern "Western" novel -- the ur-bach (primal stream), in fact -- which set the standard, not only for the plotting of such works, but for the way we view cowboys -- the "strong, silent" type, the stranger of impeccable character who wanders into town, cleans things up, and then -- depending on the writer's taste -- either wanders off into the sunset ("Who /was/ that masked man?") or marries the schoolmarm. **

This characterization and plot have become so clichéd that one might expect "The Virginian" to be not only a bad novel, but a shallow one. It is neither. Unlikely as it might seem, it's about the morality of violence, and the nature of male sexuality.

People commonly misread "The Virginian" as a paean to the "fundamental decency" of the cowboy, even going so far as to project "Christian" virtues on their behavior, but this is more a creation of Hollywood and cheap novels, than any reflection of reality. The Virginian is relatively restrained in his behavior, compared to the average cow-boy, but he's no church-goin' Boy Scout, not by a long shot.

The unnamed hero appears to be based on a guide, George West, whom Owen Wister was likely infatuated with. There's no question that the narrator is sexually attracted to The Virginian from the first, and bluntly praises his animal good looks: "For he now climbed down with the undulations of a tiger, smooth and easy, as if his muscles flowed beneath his skin." And later: "[he] looked at [Mollie] with such a smile, that, had I been a woman, it would have made me his to do what he pleased..." Though people a century ago might have interpreted Wister's praise of The Virginian's catlike body as amusing asexual hyperbole, it seems hard to believe the author's willingness to -- shall we say -- be mounted by another man went by without notice. But it did.

Though The Virginian intends to settle down when the right woman comes along, he has no intention of remaining celibate beforehand. He has a one-night stand with the blond "biscuit cutter" at the restaurant (which, we are told, she thoroughly enjoyed), and explains to the author (in the deleted "Hank's Woman" episode) that he (and most men he knows) aren't sexually attracted to "good" women. And he sings dirty songs (one of which has 79 unprintable verses).

Wister says The Virginian talked with him about sex uninhibitedly: "...he fell into the elemental talk of sex, such talk as would be an elk's or tiger's; and spoken so by him, simply and naturally, as we speak of the seasons, or of death, of of any actuality, it was without offence. But it would be offence should I repeat it." Perhaps most significantly, The Virginian talks of having "sprees" with his friend Steve, and that they "most always hunted in couples back in them gamesome years", implying that they sometimes shared the same women. This can be interpreted as an indirect form of same-sex intercourse.

The schoolmarm's (Mollie Wood's) reaction to The Virginian is hardly less physical than the author's. "She did not dare to trust herself face to face again with her potent, indomitable lover." And her relatives are least as much attracted to his studly good looks: "Is the fellow as handsome as that, my dear?" her aunt asks, and later muses "She is like us all. She wants a man that is a man." Though she is concerned with his character, sex is not far from her mind.

The Virginian's ethics include the principle that "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do", and its complement, that every man has to work out his own problems. If you don't, you're not a man, and one does not come to the assistance of another man except under extreme circumstances. And a real man is obliged to set a high standard for others to emulate.

The Virginian is violent only when there's no other choice. He's quick-witted, with a dry sense of humor, able to resolve (or postpone) most conflicts (including personal insults) with the right choice of words. It takes a novel's worth of Trampas's insults and worse nastiness before The Virginian is finally forced to shoot him down, when Trampas challenges him to a gunfight the quiet Easterner can't back out of.

This bothers him, because, though the world is better off without Trampas, *** there should have been no need for him to have killed the man. That it was wholly Trampas's fault is not much justification -- or excuse. But The Virginian's deepest moral dilemma occurs when learns that his best buddy, Steve, has been rustling cattle for some time. ****

The Virginian feels that Steve should be hung, pronto, without a trial, especially as Steve betrayed his best friend's trust. But he agonizes over it, wondering, in particular, whether he'd failed to help Steve overcome temptation. And though the school marm says she'll leave him if he does it, he nevertheless strings up Steve. (The hanging of Jake Spoon in "Lonesome Dove" is obviously inspired by this part of the story.)

The Virginian's reaction to what seems the unavoidable need to put a man to death is believable. Up to this point, we've seen that he is a restrained, intelligent, thoughtful person who rarely does anything on impulse (the "child-swapping" episode being the principal exception), and that he is deeply concerned with what is right and what is wrong. So when he goes into an agony over killing Steve (though a restrained, cowpoke sort of agony), we agonize with him.

The Virginian's mixture of the Dyonisian (animal grace, love of sex, intense association with the natural world) and the Apollonian (intellect, self-awareness, rationality) is likely intentional. He is portrayed as an ideal, quasi-godlike human male -- though fundamentally pagan/Classical, not Christian. In one famous episode, he maliciously humiliates a pompous, self-righteous minister.

There are other significant characters besides the ones mentioned. Shorty is a kind-hearted but naïve cowpoke who also comes to a terrible end. It's worth noting that, though The Virginian vigorously encourages Shorty to "do the right thing", he does not "intervene" (as a protective parent might) to physically stop him from associating with bad people. Shorty is left to make his own choices, even though they lead to his destruction.

And then there's the rancher Mr. Balaam, a monster in human form. What he does to Shorty's beloved horse goes beyond anything you might read in a horror novel. It's not for the squeamish.

If I have any complaint about "The Virginian", it's that it's sometimes a hard read. Wister was a good writer (no J F Cooper, he), but his prose is occasionally dense or complex. This isn't helped by his (apparently) accurate rendition of the way Western folk spoke circa 1875. Some passages (such as the famous one about "moistness") verge on the incomprehensible -- Wister is /not/ an omniscient narrator who explains what each character is thinking, or why he acts the way he does. Given the remoteness of the era (in both time and space), there is a loss of context that would help the reader better understand what's going on.

Regardless, if you like Westerns, "The Virginian" is a must-read. Even if you don't, "The Virginian" is a significant cultural milestone, and is worth reading for that reason alone.

* Randolph Scott was of the same "Virginia elite" as The Virginian. He was born to play the part.

** Stan Freberg adroitly skewers the stereotype in "Bang Gunnleigh, US Marshal Field".

*** For those who have seen only the TV series, which bears almost no relation to the novel, Trampas ain't Doug McClure. Not no way, not no how.

**** We see almost nothing of Steve. This is mostly because the story is told mostly from Wister's perspective, and The Virginian is rarely with Wister and Steve at the same time. One wonders whether Wister was sexually jealous of their friendship. (!!!)
An inspiring story  Oct 18, 2008
The Virginian was the inspiration for The Shopkeeper. The inspiration didn't come from the main character of the novel, but from the life of Owen Wister, the author of this classic. Originally published in 1902, Wister visited the Old West in the late nineteenth century and wrote from personal experience.

Although the Virginian can be a somewhat difficult read today, I liked it because Wister wrote from the personal experiences he recorded in his journal. I've never seen the journal, but I've read editor's excerpts that refer to incidents in the book, like the baby-swapping episode. I also read that his editors made him revise the final gunfight because it might offend the squeamish. Too bad. For someone reared on Louis L'Amour, the ending comes across as anticlimactic.

Most people are unaware that The Virginian was a runaway bestseller in its day. The book not only set the parameters for the Western genre, it's still considered a literary work that shows that tales of the Old West can be art.

If you'd like a great companion book, try Mark Twain's Roughing It (Mark Twain Library). If you want to get a feel for the comraderiship and ethos of the Old West, these books will not disappoint you.

The Shut Mouth Society
Momma of 4  Sep 15, 2008
I read this book recently and liked it so much I wanted to have it on audio so my husband could hear it also (while driving to work.) It only took him a few weeks to get through the whole thing and he absolutely loved it. From the few tapes I listened to myself, I found the narrator did a great job of capturing the character's personalities and pulling the listener into the story. The tapes were used from a library, but they were in great condition. I think we will listen to them again and again, and they were a great buy! If you like Western's at all, "The Virginian" is a must. I wouldn't say I'm a Western Fan (I'm more of a Jane Austen buff) but after this story, I would have to say I think I am! I laughed out loud, and the cow puncher hero known as The Viginian totally enchanted me as much as any Mr. Darcy.
The Gentleman in Medicine Bow  Aug 1, 2008
"The Virginian" is a masterpiece. While it is a novel, based largely on Wister's conception of the cowboy, the Virginian had a face to him; and it's story line is firmly based in fact. Some of the original sites, such as the "Goose Egg" ranch (the dance and switching of the babies) are actual historical spots - parts of the the old stone ranch house were still standing in the 1960's and perhaps some remnants of it remain today, although it is all on private property now along Bessemer Bend along the Platte River. The Occidental Hotel, in Buffalo, a well-made ancient brick building, is still standing in remarkable condition and still in use today, and was the scene of the shoot-out between the Virginian and Trampas. The little town of Medicine Bow still holds physical remnants of the Virginian's story in historical significance to be seen and felt. As is the song "High Noon", sung by Tex Ritter, a reminder of this unforgettable story that crosses from literature into song and legend.

"The Virginian", like the legendary movie "Shane" has much of it's subtle nuances revolving around the nefarious Johnson County Cattle War. (Buffalo, Wyoming) This was during a wild, untamed era when the range was unfenced, big cattle empires, some of whom were English Lords rather than Americans (Frewen's Castle is a prime example of another historical Wyoming ruin near Buffalo - owned by an Englishman and now also on private property) ran huge herds of cattle on free grass and fattened their wallets as much as they fattened the cattle; somehow, these big cattlemen decided they owned the entire state without benefit of deed or law. When the Homestead Act brought in settlers to this vast land, the end of the free grass became quite apparent to these individuals, who had laid claim to the land without benefit of deed. They decided that the fastest way to deal with the problem was to "eliminate it" and hired guns from Texas and Oklahoma were brought in with the blessing of the governor of the state of Wyoming at that time, Gov. Barber.

There was, indeed, as there always is, two sides to the story, and the settlers did rustle some cattle, no doubt. The subtle references to this problem appear during Judge Henry's dialogue in the Virginian. The Virginian's dearest friend, Steve, comrade of his youth, was caught up in it; and was caught with stolen horses. The chapter that dealt with this is especially poignant and emotional; the hanging and the scene of the Virginian's torment of the night before; the grim foreboding sight of "the cottonwood" looming in the shadows, where vigilante justice is to be served up in the morning; and Steve's stilted, cowhand's way of sending the Virginian his farewell - is very moving.

It is also a tale of lost individuals attaching themselves to predators because they need someone to guide them and there is no one else in their fragmented lives; the character of "Shorty" is one of these - the boy/man who is ill-equipped to make his way in the world of men, hence is an easy mark for Trampas - yet is always good to his horse.

There is much to this book, both as a novel based in fact and history, and as a literary accomplishment. Wister dresses up his narration a bit, of course, but essentially, the picture of life out here is fairly close to being accurate at that time. Unlike "Shane", whose splendid film treatment will go down in it's own history as being one of a kind, "The Virginian" has never had a worthy movie made of it, in my view.

I recommend this to anyone wishing to read an old book that is still vastly worthwhile, even though it's subjects are long gone and only their shadows remain. Look deep into it's pages because there's a lot stirring there that takes a second look.

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