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All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1) Paperback – Print, June 29, 1993
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Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This is a novel so exuberant in its prose, so offbeat in its setting and so mordant and profound in its deliberations that one searches in vain for comparisons in American literature. None of McCarthy's previous works, not even the award-winning The Orchard Keeper (1965) or the much-admired Blood Meridian (1985), quite prepares the reader for the singular achievement of this first installment in the projected Border Trilogy. John Grady Cole is a 16-year-old boy who leaves his Texas home when his grandfather dies. With his parents already split up and his mother working in theater out of town, there is no longer reason for him to stay. He and his friend Lacey Rawlins ride their horses south into Mexico; they are joined by another boy, the mysterious Jimmy Blevins, a 14-year-old sharpshooter. Although the year is 1948, the landscape--at some moments parched and unforgiving, at others verdant and gentled by rain--seems out of time, somewhere before history or after it. These likable boys affect the cowboy's taciturnity--they roll cigarettes and say what they mean--and yet amongst themselves are given to terse, comic exchanges about life and death. In McCarthy's unblinking imagination the boys suffer truly harrowing encounters with corrupt Mexican officials, enigmatic bandits and a desert weather that roils like an angry god. Though some readers may grow impatient with the wild prairie rhythms of McCarthy's language, others will find his voice completely transporting. In what is perhaps the book's most spectacular feat, horses and men are joined in a philosophical union made manifest in the muscular pulse of the prose and the brute dignity of the characters. "What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them," the narrator says of John Grady. As a bonus, Grady endures a tragic love affair with the daughter of a rich Spanish Hacendado , a romance, one hopes, to be resumed later in the trilogy.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
And so I continue to work my way slowly through McCarthy's brilliance. There is no order or plan to my approach: I just take them as they come to me, as the quoted title advises.
This is a reader's dream, 1,020 hard-bound pages, with an embroidered gold satin placekeeper. This is a book to keep and treasure, that you will read again, and that you will want to pass on (ideally to a son), maybe adding your own note to the lovely dedication, almost hidden in the back pages.
My father, dead three years now, read Louis L'Amour voraciously his entire life. From a teenager to a 75-year-old man, it was the same books, over and over. He never spoke of the west, of cowboys or gunfights or life on the range, but his unending flight there told me. I don't know what drew him, what he was missing in his life as an Army officer or husband or father. Maybe freedom, possibility, or just predictable simplicity.
McCarthy's three books in this trilogy belie this assumed simplicity. The characters are simple, unassuming, honest, hard-working people to whom horrible things happen. Simple choices lead to life-altering events, saving and ending it. "He thought about his life and how little of it he could ever have foreseen and he wondered for all his will and all his intent how much of it was his own doing . . ."
Synopsis: By page 77 in the first book it's clear: "Somethin bad is goin to happen" [sic] (and we get it again on page 36 of The Crossing). Young John Grady Cole flees to Mexico for work with horses and finds a woman and brutally adult reality in betrayal, pain and death. In the second Billy Parham flees to Mexico and unwittingly saves his own life only to find more cruelty, injustice and death. In the last the now young men find their simple existences just cannot remain so. Through it all is the beautiful, alluring and deadly enigma that is Mexico.
I don't really care to read about cowboys or horses. I know there are people who dedicate their lives to them and can work magic with them. Such are John Grady Cole and Billy Parham. All the Pretty Horses is clearly McCarthy's love song to the horse, with the other two novels complementing. If you are a cowboy, these three books are the best thing ever written for and about you.
In all of this is the intimidating wonder of McCarthy's magnificent writing, his beautiful, attentive descriptions and perfect depiction of movement and action. I will read anything he writes about. Describing a man's interest in a woman: "The prism-broken light from the chandelier that ran in a river over her naked shoulders . . ." In Blood Meridian I took notice of his description of the night sky, and it came through again and again here, one starry night most certainly not the same as any other, with multitudes of things so subtly different, and therefore McCarthy's devotion to chronicling just that:
* Constellations "rising up through the phosphorous dark like a sea-net."
* ". . . worlds sprawled in their pale ignitions upon the nameless night . . ."
* ". . . the myriad constellations moving upon the blackness subtly as sealife . . ."
* ". . . the stars in flood above her . . ."
* ". . . the lights of the cities burning on the plain like stars pooled in a lake."
* ". . . the stars which wer belled above them against the eternal blackness of the world's nativity."
Yes, this collection did make me cry, twice. Both times it came on surprisingly abruptly, despite me knowing what was coming; it just hit me, me in the story and living its depth and presence. Only one book has ever done that before, The Road, and that's the truth. This is profoundly powerful stuff.
I'll make my simple complaint again: the Spanish frustrates me intensely. I'm learning it slowly as I read McCarthy's work, but there is so much I know I'm missing in these passages. McCarthy has put a lot of time and attention into his work, and it pains me that I don't have the capacity to access this.
Bottom line: ". . . the world was sentient to its core and secret and black beyond men's imagining . . ." This is a masterful collection, a worthy addition to your library of the greatest literature ever written. These are stories of cowboys and horses and adventure in the dusty Southwest but are so much more, magnificent tales of existence and musing on human purpose and destiny.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When the child was born... A trilogy of human interaction's Something both horrible and gorgeous that dosn't have room for BS on how the natural world and human...Read more