Midnight Cowboy : A novel by James Leo Herlihy
New York : Simon and Schuster, 1965. Book Club Edition. Hardcover. 254 pages ; 21 cm. A sound copy with clean and unmarked pages.
THIS IS the stunningly vivid novel from which the spectacular film success was made. Written in a fresh and wholly modern idiom—racy, wild, tough, inexpressibly moving—it plunges the reader into a life that at first seems altogether alien: the world of rootless wanderers and hustlers on the dark underside of America from Texas to Times Square.
The protagonist is Joe Buck, a young man alone, inarticulate, simple-hearted, a kind of misplaced American folk hero, wandering in isolation through the city crowd, a transistor radio to his ear. Yesterday he was a dishwasher in a two-bit Houston eatery. Before that he was an orphan with no one to talk to. No one has raised him, loved him, disliked him, led or misled him, taught him anything. He understands only one thing: his body. Buying a dazzling cowboy outfit, he has come hopefully to New York where there are no great-looking cowboys and where rich beautiful women will surely pay to sleep with him.
This is the man who, through the force of James Leo Herlihy's understanding, becomes moving and important. Descending into the night-time Broadway inferno, taken by sharpies, fleeced, stripped, brought lower and lower, Joe Buck paradoxically appears less and less a cipher. Until, at the most terrible point of loneliness, when his own flickering sense of identity is almost snuffed out, a chance encounter with the crippled petty crook, Ratso Rizzo brings him his first connection with life itself—and brings the reader powerfully, compassionately, in touch with the individual human being who is Joe Buck.
Midnight Cowboy is Herlihy's first novel since he made his debut with the enthusiastically acclaimed All Fall Down. Now as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: "James Leo Herlihy becomes a great novelist with this book."
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