Education of a Wandering Man (Louis L'Amour)

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
L’Amour, Louis. Education of a Wandering Man. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

I cut my teeth on Louis L’amour’s “shoot-em ups.” They are good stories and I had read them as such. Only on the second readings did I realize they were far more: they were wisdom literature. L’Amour’s memoir is also a form of wisdom literature. Whenever you read a major writer, you are in contact with his own mind. Reading George RR Martin likely puts you in contact with the mind of a demon. Reading Samuel Johnson puts you in contact with the noblest of humanity. L’Amour falls close to the latter category.

He lived a life as exciting as his stories. He dropped out of school in 10th grade because it was interfering with his education. He worked everything from ocean ships to mining to boxing. He was always reading.

He gives a “writer’s take” on what books he read. None of which is actually forming. He just read when he got the chance. I often get asked how I read so much. Most of my reading, like L’Amour’s, is done waiting on people. He writes, “Often I hear people say they do not have time to read. That’s absolute nonsense. In the one year during which I kept that kind of record, I read twenty-five books while waiting for people” (L’Amour 2).

One can’t really summarize L’Amour’s approach to books in one statement, but perhaps he can get close. Books teach you how to think. Good ones, anyway. L’Amour was always reading the deepest books: Don Quixote, Homer, Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare. However, he only recommends his approach to learning once you can read 50 non-fiction books in one year (85).

And there are some parts of the book that are just fascinating:

1. History is best taught through historical fiction. I agree. That’s all I read growing up.

2. The memory is a fascinating thing, especially in the middle east. Arabic scholars, some of them anyway, could recite their whole library, books and the contents thereof (156). Jews could often recite the Tanakh.


L’Amour teaches the reader--the student of history--to wonder. We know that man has always been restless and searching for the next frontier. Why do we think that the limits of exploration were Spain and India before Columbus? (On a side note: Nestorian Christians had churches from Syria to Japan before 1,000 AD).


I’ve read this memoir several times. It deserves a place on every library shelf.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
It deserves a place on every library shelf.

It's on mine! I read it years ago but still think back on certain parts fairly frequently. I've heard a lot of criticism of L'Amour, particularly from some more "gritty" western writers but you know, sometimes I like to believe that there really were good men out in the West who respected women and stood for justice.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
It's on mine! I read it years ago but still think back on certain parts fairly frequently. I've heard a lot of criticism of L'Amour, particularly from some more "gritty" western writers but you know, sometimes I like to believe that there really were good men out in the West who respected women and stood for justice.

I know the criticisms. Here's my take on them: L'Amour has walked every area he has written about. He lived that life. With that said, most of his heroes are more like classical philosophers than anything else. I'm somewhat skeptical.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I know the criticisms. Here's my take on them: L'Amour has walked every area he has written about. He lived that life. With that said, most of his heroes are more like classical philosophers than anything else. I'm somewhat skeptical.
When I was a young kid, 10 or 11, I read a paperback LL wrote called Hondo. It had been a favorite movie I'd seen when I was even younger. As a teenager I read Shalako, another western. In one or the other (I've read Hondo many times) L'Amour says something like, if there is a waterhole mentioned in the text I've been there and seen it ... he had traversed the terrain he wrote about. He was a very interesting figure, though I never read the autobiography. By then I had lost interest in his genre.
 
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