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Cities of the Plain: Border Trilogy (3) Paperback – May 25, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage International; Later Printing edition (May 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679747192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679747192
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"They stood in the doorway and stomped the rain from their boots and swung their hats and wiped the water from their faces. Out in the streets the rain slashed through the standing water driving the gaudy red and green colors of the neon signs to wander and seethe..." Thus begins Brad Pitt's throaty, near whispered telling of Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plain, the final installment of the Border Trilogy, which includes All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. Pitt captures the essence of young John Grady, a pensive cowboy and brilliant horseman working a ranch in southeastern Texas in the early 1950s. Pitt glides smoothly from one character to another with subtle changes in voice and accent (although you'd never peg him as a fluent Spanish speaker); his performance gives enough to understand the differences in personality without ever becoming cute or obnoxious.

On the ranch, John Grady joins up with Billy Parham, and the two form an abiding friendship. Though Parham is much more a realist, he finds himself drawn further into Grady's dreams, namely a beautiful teenaged Mexican whore whom John Grady is determined to release from bondage and to marry. Through physical injuries, personal trauma, and many dangerous trips across the Mexican border, the two young men struggle to do what they think will make things right. A full cast of cowboys, landowners, barkeeps, pimps, and desperate whores set the stage for the final curtain call on the American West. (running time 3 hours, 2 cassettes) --Colleen Preston --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This volume concludes McCarthy's Border Trilogy?the first two books being All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award in 1992, and The Crossing, published to great acclaim in '94. Devoted McCarthy readers will know not to expect any neat or dramatic resolution in Cities of the Plain, for the author is more of a poet than a novelist, more interested in wedding language to experience in successive moments than in building and setting afloat some narrative ark. Cities, like the other books, takes place sometime shortly after WWII along the Texas-Mexico border. John Grady Cole, the young, horse-savvy wanderer from All the Pretty Horses, and Billy Parham, who traveled in search of stolen horses with his younger brother in The Crossing, are now cowhands working outside El Paso. John Grady falls in love with Magdalena, a teenage prostitute working in Juarez, Mexico; determined to marry her, he runs afoul of her pimp, Eduardo. That is basically the narrative. Along the way, McCarthy treats the reader to the most fabulous descriptions of sunrises, sunsets, the ways of horses and wild dogs, how to patch an inner tube. The cowboys engage in almost mythically worldly-wise, laconic dialogues that are models of concision and logic. Although there is less of it here than in the earlier books, McCarthy does include a few of his familiar seers, old men and blind men who speak in prophetic voices. Their words serve as earnest if cryptic instructions to the younger lads and seem to unburden the novelist of his vision of America and its love affair with free will. If a philosophy of life were to be extracted from these tales, it would seem to be that we are fated to be whatever we are, that what we think are choices are really not; that betrayals of the heart are always avenged; and that following one's heart is a guarantee of nothing. There is not much solace in McCarthy-land; there is only the triumph of prose, endlessly renewed, forever in search of a closure it will not find save in silence. 200,000 first printing; BOMC alternate; simultaneous audio, read by Brad Pitt.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He later went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper. The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; McCarthy's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, McCarthy received a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966 he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, McCarthy completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark. In 1967, McCarthy returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published by Random House in 1968, and McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press. In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published by Knopf in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. The Stonemason, a play that McCarthy had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, Knopf released the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing; the third volume, Cities of the Plain, was published in 1998.McCarthy's next novel, No Country for Old Men was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago and published in paperback by Vintage Books. McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, was published in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Photo © Derek Shapton

Customer Reviews

McCarthy's great gifts are with his descriptive ability.
mrliteral
It is possible that I expected too much, but I think it is merely a less successful book.
Z. Blume
I found myself slowing down toward the middle of the book to make it last.
tpaglia@essential.org

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Mike Smith on April 4, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I usually read every night to my wife. We've gone through dozens of books together in our marriage, and several months ago, I read "All the Pretty Horses" to her. She loved it, and would not let me read her anything else until we had read McCarthy's entire trilogy. We just finished it.

This book, the third in that trilogy, has its shortcomings, but it is still one amazing piece of work.

In this book, John Grady Cole--the genius horsetrainer of "All the Pretty Horses"--and Billy Parham--the kindhearted nomad of "The Crossing"--come together as ranch hands on a New Mexico estancia. Both are older than they were in the previous books--Billy much older--but both are kindred spirits whose stories connect with and affect each another.

The book tends more heavily toward the lengthy philosophical monologues that appear only occasionally in the trilogy's earlier volumes, and the whole story at momemnts goes a little bit long if you've just read the two previous volumes right before.

However, the writing is gorgeous, and haunting. For example, in one passage, a dead calf's "ribcage lay with curved tines upturned on the gravel plain like some carnivorous plant brooding in the barren dawn." Yeah.

And the ending--the ending is amazing. It might not be quite what you expect or ask for, but it is thrilling in its perfectness, in its completess, in how true it feels.

It left me holding the book like a priceless religious relic, re-reading its back cover, flipping back through it to parts I had marked, reluctant and unwilling to let go of these characters or their world.

Cormac McCarthy is a literary genius. He has made the West tangible, taken its most ineffable qualities and turned them into words. He makes me homesick for the place I already live.

Do not start with this book, if you've never read his other works, but do work up to it. Do read it.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
This final novel in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy of the southwest brings together the themes McCarthy has developed throughout the trilogy. In the first novel, All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy stresses the romanticism of John Grady Cole, who runs away to become a cowboy, suffers a heart-breaking loss at love, and returns, sadder and perhaps wiser, to find solace in the solitude of his work on the plains.

Times are changing as the 20th century progresses, and the independent life of ranchers is threatened. In The Crossing, a far darker novel, Billy Parham, another young man, takes off with his brother, crossing the border into Mexico, to explore its older traditions and ways of life. Cities of the Plain, with Biblical suggestions in the title, brings young John Grady Cole and the older Billy Parham together, as they work on the McGovern ranch in Texas in the 1950s. The wilderness is disappearing, cities are encroaching, and an army base may take their land.

Focusing less on the harshness of ranch life than in past novels, McCarthy here concentrates more on character, in this case, that of John Grady Cole, who falls in love with a prostitute from Juarez and wants to bring her across the border to his way of life. Billy Parham counsels him against marrying her, but John Grady is determined to wrest her away from Eduardo, her manager, and give her the peace that she has never known. Life is harsh, however, and outcomes are bleak for dreamers and altruists. John Grady soon finds himself engaged in a struggle with Eduardo which is vicious and unrelenting, a metaphorical struggle between honor and evil, and between civilized values and the "justice" of tooth and claw, hope and desperation, and acceptance of change and adherence to the past.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tim Peeler on June 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
It took a while to get around to this one. My experience with this writer has always been that you don't pick up one of his books purely for entertainment. In fact, the complexity of the telling and the tale in parts one and two of this trilogy approach Faulkner.
I found CITIES, in terms of plot and style, to be less complex, more reader-friendly. However, even writing in this more traditional sense, McCarthy maintains the edge that sets him apart from most of his American contemporaries. The simplicity and poetry of the phrasing is still there, the marvelous descriptions, the dead perfect dialogue, still crisp and efficient.
And even though you know what's going to happen if you've read the earlier works, you can't help but be tantalized and magnetized and pulled along. The suspense and style that Larry Brown emulates in his southern underbelly novels is raised a couple levels by the hand of this master writer.
In creating this more readable conclusion to the Border Trilogy, McCarthy may have blown his chance at the Nobel (rumors of his shortlisting abound among the writers I've spoken to). But with CITIES, he allows us to go along for the ride with little more than a dusting off of that rusty Spanish.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jay Gambol on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I found out the two heroes of the first two books, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham, were united in this one, I went out of my mind to read it. Unfortunately this book is neither as exciting as "All the Pretty Horses" or as philosophically rich as "The Crossing." McCarthy's concentrating on the girl prostitute reveals his weakness in understanding a woman's viewpoint. "Cities of the Plain" works best in tandem with the first two books. Taking the trilogy as a whole, the necessity of this girl becomes clear, though that's up to the reader to pick up. The epilogue, which is really the epilogue for the whole trilogy, indicates the meaning of John Grady, of the women he loved -- and more importantly, the meaning of Billy. Get "Cities of the Plain" as the key to "All the Pretty Horses" and "The Crossing"; read the other two first.
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