The Border Trilogy – All the Pretty Horses

To be perfectly honest I had no idea what I was signing on for when I got The Border Trilogy. I hadn’t seen the movie but I’d read and loved The Road so I imagined this would be right up my alley. Well….let’s just say that if you’re like me and are looking for something in the same vein as The Road, you can look elsewhere. Which isn’t to say I hated the book (I didn’t) it just didn’t meet my rather unreasonable expectations. Where The Road is all about a post-apocalyptic desert, All the Pretty Horses is about the 1940s Texas and Mexico: deserted plains, ranches miles apart, wild horses and cowboys; where The Road is written in a short and concise style, All the Pretty Horses is about as longwinded as it gets. For example:

While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who’s will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who’s will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon of the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations and of who’s will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned.

Thing is, reading out of context doesn’t do it justice; when you really sit down and go through the book you find that there’s a very powerful rhythm within these seemingly interminable phrases. And whatever my opinions on the subject or theme are, there’s absolutely no denying that Mr. McCarthy is a great writer.

Wikipedia has the plot perfectly well dissected, so I won’t go over that again – besides, most people have probably seen the movie too. If you like westerns and cowboys and the works – you’ll probably love the book. If not, there’s still plenty to enjoy: John Grady’s adventures in prison, his little romance with Alejandra and most of all, the horses and the love and respect that the characters (and, by extension, I assume the author) have for these creatures.

That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow as far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and the coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran and the horses out along the high mesas  where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran  and their manes and tails blew off them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.

The Crossing and Cities of the Plain – the other 2 loosely connected books in the trilogy – will have to wait a while I think.

~ by ameer on November 20, 2010.

One Response to “The Border Trilogy – All the Pretty Horses”

  1. Wow, that’s pretty interesting. I read The Road and No Country before The Border Trilogy and it took me ages to adjust to All The Pretty Horses – I think I spent 3 months completing the 1st hundred pages, then had to re-read them all. Like you, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

    But when I finally did get hold of it I loved it. But nothing can compare to The Crossing – that story is special in every way in my own honest opinion. I cannot recommend it highly enough, for me it is between The Crossing and The Road for his best novel (with Suttre certainly in there somewhere too). I stumbled across this post as I was doing a little homework before a post on Cormac McCarthy about this period in his writing, which you might be interested in reading!

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