Midnight Cowboy Part 1

Thoughts    Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy, Simon&Schuster 1965, 254 pages  [Part 2 will be my thoughts on the movie, but it may be awhile before I rent it.]

FIRST SENTENCE:    “In his new boots, Joe Buck was six-foot-one and life was different.”

MOTIVATION FOR READING:    Blame this on the LitFlicks Challenge.    I am combining my wish to see all the Oscar Best Picture Award Winners* by reading the books first then renting from Netflix.     I had ZERO.ZILCH idea what this book/film was about but had an inkling that Jon Voight was in it.    That’s it.    Before my time.    I didn’t even realize that Dustin Hoffman was in it!

Once I started reading, I kept imagining this guy for the main character:     If you watch football, you will recognize Joe Buck, Football Sportscaster.   

I’m sure he’d be thrilled (read with sarcasm) but not the first time he’s had to put up with a comparison.

The Joe Buck in this book is extremely naive.   and dumb.

I’m not going to tell you in this mostly spoiler-free review what this book contains but it may offend some sensibilities.      And.., I’m always amazed that books and movies that are almost half a century old were so shocking!  and yet still critically appraised.   Don’t we often assume that the old days were safe and unoffensive, at least in the mainstream?

I really liked the set up of this novel.   We are first introduced to Joe as he decides to head to NYC to chase his destiny.      I love the “H tel” in this explanation;  he refers to it often in the opening section.

When he arrived at the H tel, a hotel that not only had no name but had lost its O as well, he felt the absurdity of anyone so rich and hard and juicy as himself ever staying in such a no name, no-account place.

Then we skip back in time to how Joe grew up and what happened to him before he decides to take that bus to the big city.

At a certain point, which happened to be on the day of an exceptionally still and white sky, he was delivered to a fourth blonde in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and from then on and forever he was never to see the other three again.  When he would think of them, he would think also of that special white sky and imagine those yellow-haired women to be hiding somewhere behind it.

And then, well.     Surviving the cold streets of NYC is not pretty.

I enjoyed Herlihy’s descriptive style and creativity.     I was very curious about the characters and totally convinced on the moods, settings, crazyiness!   For example, we meet the lady who owned a whorehouse in Houston:

Squatting Buddha-like on the center cushion of a couch on the far side of the room was a small, middle-aged hag in a red satin kimono.  Her enormous watery eyes were pale blue, rimmed with feverish red and sleepless black.  These eyes seemed a monstrous liability to the rest of her organism:    rapacious, incessantly active, they seemed not to belong to any small woman, but to some great nightmare foe.  Across her mouth was a quick deadly slash of purple paint, and jutting from it a cigarette butt with a hot red coal on the end of it.

And here’s a teaser of what Joe hopes to accomplish in New York City;  it’s a scene he can’t get out of his head as he prepares to leave Houston:

A long white convertible was stopped for a red light.  The woman in the driver’s seat was looking at a tall, handsome young man in Western clothes standing at the curb.  Her motor died under her.  But she kept on looking at the young man.  After a moment she said, “I can’t get it started without help.”  And the young man said, “I’ll bet you can’t, honey.”

I liked this book and it was definitely not my usual reading fare.   Having looked up what epicine means, I must say it applies not only to our hero but to the entire story as well.      FOUR PIE SLICES

epicene – (p77) – bisexual: having an ambiguous sexual identity

Midnight Cowboy WON the 1970 Academy Award OSCAR for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing – Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and was nominated for Best Actors (Hoffman and Voight), Best Supporting Actress Sylvia Myles (who?) and Best Film Editing.

The lovely Jessica of The Bluestocking Society has hosted a Lit Flicks Challenge in the past;  I LOVE the book to movie concept!   So if she hosts another one, I’m IN.


16 thoughts on “Midnight Cowboy Part 1

  1. I think it just means that some things were openly talked-about less than they may be today. I really need to see this and I love that you’ve set a challenge to see all the Best Picture winners. I should do that too- I don’t know how I can call myself a cinephile otherwise! 🙂 (Maybe I should start a new blog- Cambridge Cinephile to go with Boston Bibliophile?)

    1. I love the idea! or just have a weekly feature? I don’t see nearly as many movies as I’d like to. I used to have a job in downtown KC (well, the Plaza) and it was so easy to catch the early flick right after work – and always someone to see it with. Now, it’s like pulling teeth and the theaters aren’t as nice as in Kansas City.

  2. I don’t guess I knew this was a book. Boy, do I remember when that movie came out – it was so controversial because it was rated X. My parents went to see it, so I thought they were pretty hip. I bet it would seem pretty tame by today’s standards.

    1. BermudaOnion, I didn’t realize it was X. and it won the Oscar? wow. Considering all the hype that Brokeback Mtn got, I guess I had no idea that these big time actors from the 70s had such ‘interesting’ parts in their early careers.

  3. I’m always shocked that Gone With the Wind (the movie) was rated G. There’s a murder, whore houses, lots of implied sex, attempted rape scene, etc. And that’s ignoring the elephant in the room of all the racism. I think racism and sexism should be included in our rating system, don’t you?

    1. Eva, I don’t think I’ve ever really paid attention to ratings – since I don’t have kids? and consider myself intelligent enough to choose my own definition of offensive. THAT SAID, I do believe that an R rating is likely to be offensive on EVERY front anyway. All the -isms tend to travel together these days. Golly, real life needs an R rating.

  4. Once again a movie that I didn’t know was a book first. The movie was “X” rated originally, before they switched to the different rating system. But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the whole movie so I’m not sure that it would live up to that kind of a rating today.

    1. Lisa, I used to be obsessed with watching all movies nom’d for an Oscar and would try to see them before the big show; so I was busy-bizzy. I think it was LOTR-to-screen that got me started with the idea to ADD reading the books first so I got a little nuts. It was pre-blogging days when I didn’t really have a tbr… NOW, whenever I hear about a good movie, I check to see if based on a book. The Best Screenplay Oscar is one of my favorites for this reason, too.

      Also, to change the subject back to ratings… This book is more suggestive than explicit. I look forward to seeing the movie and what is actually portrayed.

  5. I’m in on the next challenge, too! I’m really getting into the book/film thing….last night I watched the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon which is just wrong, so wrong without Bogart, but it was fun seeing some of that pre-Code handling of the material.

    Joe Buck LOL. His father was the voice of the Cardinals for a long time & Joe casts Cardinal games pretty often. Put some buckskin fringe on that boy!

    I was intrigued by Midnight Cowboy (the movie) but don’t know how I’d feel about the book.

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