The opening section of The Crossing
, book two of the Border Trilogy, features perhaps the most perfectly realized storytelling of Cormac McCarthy's celebrated career. Like All the Pretty Horses
, this volume opens with a teenager's decision to slip away from his family's ranch into Mexico. In this case, the boy is Billy Parham, and the catalyst for his trip is a wolf he and his father have trapped, but that Billy finds himself unwilling to shoot. His plan is to set the animal loose down south instead.
This is a McCarthy novel, not Old Yeller, and so Billy's trek inevitably becomes more ominous than sweet. It boasts some chilling meditations on the simple ferocity McCarthy sees as necessary for all creatures who aim to continue living. But Billy is McCarthy's most loving--and therefore damageable--character, and his story has its own haunted melancholy.
Billy eventually returns to his ranch. Then, finding himself and his world changed, he returns to Mexico with his younger brother, and the book begins meandering. Though full of hypnotically barren landscapes and McCarthy's trademark western-gothic imagery (like the soldier who sucks eyes from sockets), these latter stages become tedious at times, thanks partly to the female characters, who exist solely as ghosts to haunt the men.
But that opening is glorious, and the whole book finally transcends its shortcomings to achieve a grim and poignant grandeur. --Glen Hirshberg
From Publishers Weekly
Young Billy Parham, in a horse stall, dreams of his father's eyes, "those eyes that seemed to contemplate with a terrible equanimity the cold and the dark and the silence that moved upon him." Billy could as well be dreaming of McCarthy's prose and the unsparing tone of this, the second volume in the Border Trilogy. The Crossing , following the award-winning and bestselling All the Pretty Horses , is set in the American Southwest and in Mexico, and features, like its predecessor, teenage boys, their horses, a girl and the recurring spectacles of desert days and nights, awful wonders and appalling deprivations, and no small amount of roadside philosophizing. The story of Billy, his younger brother Boyd, the fates of their horses, a wolf, their parents and their dog, set against a vague and distant backdrop of the coming Second World War, throws little light upon a universe without much meaning, though it is in the nature of McCarthy characters to try to anyway. In the end, when the last dog is hanged, so to speak, what survives is the rhythm of McCarthy's open, ropey sentences circling a logic as inscrutable as an animal's or a god's. Although no mysteries are solved, and no comfort gained for these lonely characters, there is that language wrestling to earth all that it cannot know and all that it can. Readers again will be in awe of McCarthy's extraordinary prose attentions--the biblical cadences, the freshened vocabulary, the taut, vivid renderings of the struggle to live. 200,000 first printing; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.