Wednesday, January 28, 2015

All the Pretty Horses

Alright, I have to admit something right here and now:

I am Texan.

And this fact may greatly influence my impression of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy.  But I am not really sorry for the fact of my birth and the love of that land borne into my heart.  As I am endeavoring to read the Border Trilogy by Cormac (we are on a first name basis now since I have read two of his books and seen at least one screen adaptation of his work); I am, indeed, congratulating myself on the place of my beginnings again.

My love for all things Cormac (or pretty much all things I have experienced thus far of Cormac) dovetails nicely with my endeavor not to spoil anything in the reviews on this blog.  So I will attempt to review All the Pretty Horses (book one of the Border Trilogy) without giving anything away.

Ready?  I have two primary thoughts about the book:

1. You know those people who you hear sing and that saying, "I could listen to them read the phone book."?  That is Cormac McCarthy for the written word and the lesser things of life.  Cormac is that guy who has so observed the world that he has discovered the nuances of objects and events.  And he takes those observations and translates them into some of the most beautiful prose I have read.  He does it with the most mundane things.  In All the Pretty Horses, he does this whilst describing the heaves that come with vomiting.  I had to read that paragraph twice, just to revel in it.  And he does it again in AtPH describing the feeling of waking up and not knowing where you are in a land where fear is the default emotion.

2. This is my second time through AtPH.  And this time through I was noticing a prevalent theme I don't think I noticed or remembered from the first read.  The theme is the contrast between a God-like plan (or fate) and the choices of man.  The characters talk a lot (as much as characters talk in a Cormac book about anything), wondering if there is a God and if he is in charge of the events of men.  This is juxtaposed with some seriously questionable decisions on the part of many of the characters.   And then it is highlighted by the main character (John Grady Cole)'s need to set things right, to do the right thing, to have everything right (at least as he sees it).  Mix in some events that would make most men shudder and you have a basic man questions God story.  Does He exist?  How could He be good if things like this happen?  etc. etc.  Maybe I am reading a little too much of my own theology into this, but I definitely see the contrast and conflict there.

And I have a secondary thought:

The way that Cormac describes the shift of the world that happens when you fall in love at first sight is spectacular.  As a girl who in a way, fell in this manner for the love of her life, he captured it perfectly.  I am not even going to quote the things he wrote so as to encourage you to pick up this book and read it to discover these tiny nuggets of sensitive beauty set amongst finely-honed boulders of brilliant observation.

The book is basically a Bildungsroman for John Grady Cole, but even as you turn the pages, you will discover that he was very much a man before you opened the book.  Nevertheless, the fact that it remains a development of a boy into a man reveals that we are always on this journey of becoming more.


Rating: 6 out of 7
This book fulfills 1/3 of the requirement for a "trilogy" in my current book reading challenge