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am 26. Mai 2000
This is the first novel in the set of McCarthy's so called "Border Trilogy," and by far, the best. It stands on its own as a classic American novel.
It is the story of a taciturn 16-year old Texan, with a love for horses and a gift for training them, who sadly (or so it seems; his emotions are never explicitly revealed) comes to the realization that there is nothing for him in Texas anymore to keep him there. With a friend, and on horseback, he embarks upon a journey to Mexico. Plotwise, the story is unusual in that, unlike the usual standard western, it takes place in 1947, an era way beyond cowboys and Indians. Reminders of this are contained throughout, such as the sudden appearance of a noisy automobile, or the description of a line of telegraph poles stretched across the distance, as far as one can see.
Yet Mexico even in 1947 is still in many ways a savage land, and the young men's adventures there are the subject of the novel. I can tell you that when I use the term "adventures," I mean exactly that. This is an exciting novel, a page-turning novel.
The lads finally reach a place they wish to call home: a large, sprawling ranch in central Mexico, where they become hands, and where the protagonist ultimately achieves a somewhat exalted position training and breeding horses. I'm not going to give away too much of the plot here, but it's moved to a large degree by the presence of the ranch-owner's daughter, a well-educated, headstrong, black-haired and blue-eyed 17-year-old beauty. Suddenly confronted with the arrival of this lanky, brave, adventurous and mature-for-his-age American . . . well, you can almost guess what will happen, but the story nevertheless veers from cliche and instead becomes fresh, believable and extremely moving.
More than the plot, though, is the simple, almost sparse nature of McCarthy's prose. His descriptions of the landscape through which his characters travel is poetic, almost dreamy: "They'd ride out along the cienaga road and along the verge of the marshes while the sun rose riding up flights of ducks out of the shallows or geese or mergansers that would beat away over the water scattering the haze and rising up would turn to birds of gold in a sun not yet visible from the bolson floor." The spare language, and also the lack of punctuation, lend to the almost surreal nature of his prose, which, I should add, is never difficult to digest.
It's similar in many ways to the best of Hemingway both in style and in subject matter. Both authors write rough-and-tumble, outdoors adventures; both of them use stark prose; both of them spare the reader layer after layer of psychological analysis, and simply tell the story. Hemingway may have had a better grip on character development, but McCarthy is by far the more poetic. This is fiction of the first drawer, and not to be missed.
am 5. Mai 2000
It is 1949, every family owns at least one car and society is used to many modern conveniences such as dishwashers and vacuum's. For a third generation rancher, these so called conveniences foreshadow the end of an era when a simpler lifestyle had value. After loosing his grandfather and his land, John Grady, the main character, flees from an industrial America. He tries to travel back in time by escaping to a primitive Mexico. This novel is commonly viewed as a coming of age story in which John Grady Cole matures into a man. However, the main purpose of this book, is to inform the reader of mans struggle to cope with his losses. Cole faces many losses throughout the novel. John Grady is forced to cope with the loss of his grandfather, his innocence, his first love, and his pride. These losses all foreshadow John Grady's ultimate loss of hope and contentment. The other two major characters of the novel offset Cole because of their ridiculous and often amusing actions. The novel is divided into three parts: John Grady's life in his home town in west Texas, John Grady's life in Mexico, and John Grady's life after he returns to Texas. McCarthy does a great job of revealing Coles feelings of alienation in the first part of the novel. During the bulk of the novel (while John Grady is in Mexico), McCarthy superbly identifies the fallacies of all of Coles fantasies. He accomplishes this task by harshly eliminating each one of Grady's hopes and
desires. This book is very well written and often depicts the characters emotions through the landscape. It's overall plot is not difficult however, the reader may experience difficulty discerning some dialogue because McCarthy does not use quotation marks. Initially, the reader may also struggle with extremely long sentences. While reading this book I quickly grew attached to the characters and I was eager to learn more about their daily adventures. However, the first fifty pages are rather uneventful. The reader should prevail because the plot gains momentum and the ending is rewarding. I would recommend this novel to anyone who has ever experienced loss because they will identify with the thoughts and feelings of the characters of this novel.
am 30. März 2000
"...his grandfather looked up from his plate at the painting as if he'd never seen it before and he said those are picture book horses and went on eating." (16) Horses are one of the main focuses in All the Pretty Horses. They are held as sacred and an object of affection for the characters in the book. They are what life is based around and an intense topic of discussion. John Grady Cole and his cousin Lacey Rawlings are the main characters in the book. Hardened by their tough life in the rugged area of southern Texas and northern Mexico, they set off on a perilous journey. Driven by the desire of a better and more fulfilling life, All the Pretty Horses reports a detailed account of their adventures. John Grady Cole is sixteen years old and like all of the other characters in the book, has a fascination and love of horses. There has been a recent death in his family and his mother left his father and him on the family's Texas ranch and went to the city. John Grady is a dynamic or round character. At the beginning of the novel, he is a little naive and unaware of the brutal harshness of life. He has been toughened by hard ranch life, but he does not fully understand the ways of the world. He shows compassion towards other characters in the novel. Although in a sense he has lost his mother, he does not know the true sadness of a lost loved one. By the end of his journey he understands the brutality of life and no longer enjoys the innocence of childhood. Rawlings is a static or flat character. He is seventeen and lives on a ranch as well. Little is revealed about Rawlings' past or home life in the novel. He is tougher than John Grady is and does not come across as being naive. He uses strong language throughout the novel and shows little sympathy towards other characters excluding John Grady. He is the definition of a true cowboy. His experiences throughout the novel do not have the same life altering effect on him as they do on John Grady. These two cousins and best friends yearn for something more. They want a better life and future. With hopes of achieving this, they set off for Mexico. They meet a young boy named Blevins who rides with them for awhile. Rawlings and John Grady share different emotions about Blevins, which reveals their characters more clearly. Blevins eventually gets them into serious trouble and the situation they arrive in forever alters their lives. The most remarkable aspect of this novel is the way it is written. Characters are often referred to as he or she. Dialogue never has quotation marks around it and the phrase he said or she said or something similar to that seldom is at the end of a statement of dialogue. Often times the reader must guess who is speaking. The novel is littered with foul language, however that helps to show characterization and the setting more clearly. Spanish is used quite frequently with no translation guide. Often times important parts of the book are written in Spanish. Studying three years of Spanish will be helpful in reading this book or a Spanish-English dictionary will be sufficient. There are a few things to consider when reading this novel. Be sure to read dialogue carefully and pay special attention to what is said because often times dialogue hints at who is speaking and more about the characters or their situations. Make sure you have a Spanish dictionary because entire conversations are done in Spanish frequently. At first the novel will seem slow and redundant. Do not give up. The novel is divided into three parts and the second half of part two and all of part three is extremely good. You will find it hard to put it down and become lost in the story. This novel is in a way a coming of age story. John Grady and Rawlings learn about themselves as well as the world. Teenagers will especially relate to this story and realize that they are not alone in the emotions that they feel. By reading this story, the reader will gain an understanding of what life was like at the beginning of the nineteen hundreds and become aware of the lawlessness and poverty stricken regions of southern Texas and northern Mexico. The reader will understand their dependency and relationships with their horses better and realize why the novel was titled All the Pretty Horses. There are many themes in this book and all of them are important. If taken seriously, the reader can be changed by the message in this book, however I will leave it up to you to discover what those themes are.
am 2. März 2000
I understand why everyone likes this book, but all the hyperbole seems to be feeding off itself. I don't see anything about "All the Pretty Horses" that will have people still talking about it a generation from now. It is not a classic, but I thought it might be one all through the first half of the book. The language is so evocative and poetic as it describes the South-Eastern scenery and establishes the characters. Very spare and beautiful and pure. Then, when the story's complications set in down in Mexico, the book degrades quickly to a run-of-the-mill adventure tale. All the subtlety and poetry in the book vanishes as McCarthy does nothing more than relate a series of increasingly violent actions. Whereas the first half of the book is introspective, the second half is extroverted in the extreme. Perhaps another writer could have pulled this off, but McCarthy, ironically because he writes so beautifully, does not. The problem is that the pristine poetry of the first half promises a revelation of truth in the second half - a promise that is not kept. Instead of any kind of rare, penetrating insight, the reader is served up an action movie. The story devolves from fine literature to genre fiction with alarming abruptness. In this way, the novel reminds me of the countless Hollywood movies that start out so promising with clever, engaging scripts, then lose their nerve and segue into the typical car chases, explosions and gun play. Very entertaining, perhaps, but common. Even the romance is generic. McCarthy either had nothing to say in this book or lacked the conviction to say it. Who knows what he really wanted to accomplish. In the end, "All the Pretty Horses" is still a great read, it's just not great literature.
am 24. März 1999
The richness and sensuality and mythology of McCarthy's work cannot be denied. As with all works of genius and its consequent complexities, this laconic work of love and loss interspersed with death and idyllic ignorance is indubitably bound to be unappreciated by a fair amount of people. However, the stature of McCarthy as perhaps the most important Southern writer of the century, omitting Faulkner, necessitates that the reader should attempt to experience his work on its numerous levels. At once a bildungromanic saga of a Southern boy's violently tragic yet uncomplaining initiation into a manhood governed by forces beyond his control, forces which over time clearly become other than those in whom he was brought up to believe--it is also an important continuation of the creation myth first established in "Blood Meridian" of the United States not only as a nation and a people, but also as an ideology, an experience, and a consequential destiny other than that promised by forefathers whose alleged intent and perfection had already been engraved in the halls of false American deism. This parable of disenfranchisement and the exile of the damned impoverished descendants of Southern society, the wandering sons of Cain who, disadvantaged and sensing their more naturalistic way of life vanishing in the vacuous moral chasm surrounding the years of the Second World War, have found the face of country their ancestors have taken from the Native Americans suddenly foreign and unwelcome, devoid of an enriching culture which is needed to sustain a society. The wanderings and listlessness of John Grady Cole are not just driven by youthful wanderlust, but by an ancestral guilt as well as an inherited subconscious longing for other lands, the same longing his forefathers felt and left their countries for to invest their tears and blood into the violent earth of a youthful America. Through his poetry not only of incredibly described landscape and locals of various locales, but his poetry of underdescription, of painful destinies and thoughts born but left unsaid, McCarthy presents us with not only a criticism of what the modern Americas have become, but also a lament for the loss of traditions and inherited cultural strengths which have either been whittled away by war or drained by the imminent encroaching standards of materialism which have led Northamerican society to judge a man not by the merits and resiliences of his heart but by the quality of fabric of which his garments are made. By presenting his myth of seemingly senseless death and pain and destined wandering into lands south of the border through the only truly Northamerican symbol that approaches the archetypical, that of the vagabond cowboy, McCarthy simultaneously calls into question and subverts the religion of superiority and violence named Manifest Destiny, thereby calling into question the very bloodstained foundations upon which our society has been built at the exact postwar point in historical time when America can truly be said to have lost its farcical innocence and purity and soon began to tear itself apart in an internal revolution criticizing the inhuman treatment of non-european Americans, and eventually combusting in the sixties into a criticism of the very aggrandizing imperialism upon which the country was built. At the end of McCarthy's work, all of the violence and malevolence lurking just beneath the surface of substances seems to presage the destined course of Cole's country, and after all of his wandering upon an endless terrain of sand, one begins to question just what the foundations of his country were built upon in the first place. Despite this, Cole survives, not as an American, not as a Mexican, but as a man who transcends national boundaries and is left without a home, left only with the resilience, the strength, and the stubborness of his forebears; and perhaps also a love for an unattainable Mexican woman of Spanish descent, the crimes of whose ancestors have also been called into question, a relationship and a passion which so astutely personifies the relationship of violence and fascination that still exists between Mexico and the United States even today. The entire work attests to the genius of McCarthy, both the subtlety of his implications as well as the sheer sensous beauty of the worlds his words create.
am 23. März 1999
This masculine view of the American cowboy in the southwest, circa 1935, All the Pretty Horses would probably be boring if penned by any other writer. McCarthy breathes life into this simple story through his masterful, though somewhat risky, writing.
McCarthy's use of cattleman lingo and apparent distain for using quotes in his dialog take some time to get use to, but his artistry in breaking the high school rules of literature are invigorating. McCarthy has no qualms about sentences that take entire paragraphs, or pages, strung together with 'ands'. There is a unique rhythm to his writing as he blends brief sentences of prose with long. Intertwined with prose are some stunning glimpses of poetry.
This is a story as the cowboy poets might tell it. The main characters are not the one-dimensional cattlemen often portrayed as macho men, though they are unashamedly masculine. The central character unselfconsciously accepts his tenderness, especially toward horses, and his insecurity with women and life at large.
Taken as models for modern living the men in this book necessarily fall short. They are not literal role models but icons and symbols of true masculinity. This is man at his best: loyal, independent yet social, self-sacrificing, and willing to see the beauty within nature, horses and his fellow man.
"All The Pretty Horses", like so much of the 'great' literature of the twentieth century, is simple in its delivery yet vastly complex. It is the kind of book college professors could force students to agonize over as they dissemble the grammar and symbolism. It is also a book that anyone, especially horse lovers, can enjoy.
Take the time, make the investment, and take the risk. You will be rewarded.
am 24. Juni 1998
As the literary child of Herman Melville, Cormac McCarthy sends his characters off for their own taste of "truth" in their beautiful, violent, and life-affirming quests in the great Southwest--the last bastion of the archetypal American West. The three novels that comprise The Border Trilogy come as close to anything since *Moby-Dick* or *Huck Finn* to being the Great American Novel. Each in its own way presents a chapter on the American's search--even need--for meaning in life. Although not all characters truly come to that understanding--John Grady Cole, in his unstoppable desire to save anything small, frail, innocent, or weak cannot in the end save himself from the dangers of his search. Billy P. nevers really comes to the realization of his truth, but it is through him that we as readers (best exemplified as the woman in the closing sentences) come to an understanding of McCarthy's view of truth. Although *Cities of the Plain* is not the exciting and ambitious novel that *All the Pretty Horses* is nor is it the touching and relevant story that *The Crossing* is, it is a beautifully satisfying culmination to the search. It, by itself, may not be a particularly solid and worthwhile novel in the American canon, but taken with its two brothers, the trio stands head and shoulders above anything else written in the last fifty years. McCarthy deftly manipulates his readers with his lyrical prose, juxtaposition of bloody death and life-affirming action, doubt and certainty, love and loss. A thoughful reader is easily taken to the red sands of the desert by McCarthy's spell-binding imagery; the symbolism is at once obvious and hidden. The novel(s) are well worth the time and energy. They are getting very close to the epitome of what America has come to expect from its great writers.
am 4. Mai 1998
When making a book into a movie, many changes have to be made. There are three vital scenes in Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses which must be included in the movie to achieve the same effect. The scenes which the movie could not exist without involve courage, emotion, and comedy: three things that make movies great.
The most important scene involving courage is John Grady Cole jamming the red-hot gun barrel into his wound. The movie could not succeed without this inspiring episode. In this scene, John Grady builds a scalding hot fire and puts his gun right in the hottest part of the fire, the coals. Only after the barrel of the gun glows red-hot does he drive it into the bullet wound in his leg. He then displays even more courage by ramming it into the exit wound on the other side of his leg. All the guys will love this gory scene.
The most meaningful emotional scene is where Alejandra tells John Grady that she cannot go with him and disassociate with her family. John Grady tells her how much he loves her and asks her to come with him, but Alejandra will not aquiesce. Alejandra possesses strong bonds with her family, and she can never go against their will, no mat5ter what happens. As these two lovers part forever, never to see each other again, the strong emotions surpass any other emotions in the book. This final love scene must be included in the movie version if any females are to watch the movie.
Finally, the funniest part of the book ocurs when the three travelers, John Grady, Rawlins, and Blevins, drink too much. Blevins is so drunk that he falls off his horse. When asked if he can ride, Blevins replies, "Does a bear **** in the woods? **** yes I can ride! I was ridin' when I fell off!"
These three scenes I have mentioned are constitutive to make a movie about All the Pretty Horses. These vivid, emotional scenes draw crowds of men and women, young and old. A movie about this book cannot be made unless it includes the rudiments of courage, emotion, and comedy.
am 31. Juli 1999
McCarthy redefines the Homeric hero in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, a novel which places him in the company of Melville, Faulkner, Twain, Morrison and Hemingway. McCarthy's protagonist, John Grady Cole, understands completely the lesson of Santiago in Hemingway's greatest work, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA: to transcend time and experience, you have to journey beyond your deepest fears, embrace your destiny, and carry your dream. Even when the journey places you in imminent danger of losing your life, it is the truth of the journey which teaches lessons that are profound and life-transforming, lessons which can only be learned once we, like Odysseus, make the journey. To see beyond you have to go beyond, and once you go beyond, the vision before you will change your life completely. The ancient Greeks believed that a Homeric hero must have "arete," meaning excellence in all things--see ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE for Pirsig's brilliant interpretation of arete in the modern era. And in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, McCarthy does many things masterfully, but, quite possibly, none so masterfully as his portrayal of John Grady Cole, who is convincing, selfless, and truly in the Homeric tradition. Of course, many a literature professor will say there is no such thing as a Homeric hero in modern literature. And that's why they are paid to teach novels, not write them. Five stars is not enough. Cole's journey is no accident, and neither is McCarthy's command of the American language in this novel. Nowhere in contemporary American fiction is there a voice as compelling and lyrical as McCarthy's. Viva McCarthy!!!
am 5. November 1998
Before I start I want to say I loved this book. It was enjoyable and profound and I will recommend it to nearly everyone. However some of the sentences were too long, I think someone counted 40+ ANDS in one sentence? and it was difficult to read at times. This was not necessary in my opinion. I am a fast reader and I sometimes overlooked the meaning of whole paragraphs because of this problem. It meant that a lot of backtracking was necessary. Hemingway used long sentences as well, leading one reviewer to call it deceptively simple writing. I would call it unnecessarily complicated. The best books should be a pleasure to read. I would say easy to read, but then I would need to define 'easy'. No, writers write for people to READ, and they read not because they have to , but because they want to, where it is an enjoyable pursuit. I did enjoy this book. McCarthy is very good at his craft. But I cannot resolve this issue of over long sentences. Can someone explain why they NEED to be this long???? Another thing. . On the front of my version was a review by the Guardian (quality newspaper in UK) declaring this book to be one of the greatest works of american literature ever or something. And then looking at the reviews within this site, I cannot help my distasteful feeling at the pomposity with which some people approach commentary. YES, YES, YES, YES this is a good book, but so is Catch 22, and Catcher In The Rye etc etc Hearing what people have to say about Cormac McCarthy's writing is like listening to sycophantic supporters at a radical politics rally. Its not the only book in the world you know. .