Mar 24, 2023 - Politics

Texas state representative suggests banning "Lonesome Dove"

If your copy isn't nearly worn through, you're not doing it right. Photo: Courtesy of Malcolm Hughey

State Rep. Jared Patterson, a Republican from Frisco, suggested during a debate this week over his proposed school libraries legislation that schools "might need to ban 'Lonesome Dove.'"

Why it matters: "Lonesome Dove," the Pulitzer-winning novel by the late author Larry McMurtry, might be the most beloved book in Texas history.

The big picture: The book about two retired Texas Rangers on an epic cattle drive during the last days of the West includes scenes of sexual assault and characters who are prostitutes.

Driving the news: Patterson's READER Act would require vendors to rate books with sexual content before selling them to school districts. Patterson has argued the legislation is an attempt to rid school libraries of books inappropriate for children.

  • Texas already bans more books than any other state, according to a 2022 PEN America report.

Yes, but: "Lonesome Dove" — which Patterson said he hadn't read — is one of the great unifiers among rugged, individualistic-minded conservatives and literature-loving liberals. Even conservatives in McMurtry's hometown of Archer City who despise some of his other work appreciate "Lonesome Dove."

  • Patterson's allies and enemies both think that suggesting "Lonesome Dove" should be banned was a mistake, per Texas Monthly.

What happened next: Christin Bentley, a Republican from Smith County, tweeted that she downloaded the book and searched the text for words including "vagina" and "sex." Finding nothing, she determined the book is "not sexually explicit."

  • Patterson didn't reply to requests for comment.

The intrigue: Though the book contains quite a bit of sexually explicit content, there was no discussion about whether the proposed legislation would also ban the Bible, which has already been challenged in one district.

What we're watching: The bill was left pending in committee.

💭 Our thought bubble: "Lonesome Dove" should be required reading — with quizzes and comprehension tests — for anyone who wants to run for office in this state.

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