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Cities of the Plain (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. Januar 1998

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Taschenbuch, 1. Januar 1998
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Cowboy 1: Hey, Bud, did you read that new book by Cormac? Cowboy 2: I might of looked at it. 1: Care to opine? 2: Well, I've read better. 1: You can say that again. 2: John Grady deserved better'n that. 1: I don't know if him or the dog was better off. 2: And how bout that epilogue! 1: I know, what you're sayin', Bud. I mean I gotta blow my nose in the morning, but I don't share it with strangers I meet. 2: I guess ol Cormac thought predictable and windblown was the way to go on that one.
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It took a while to get around to this one. My experience with this writer has always been that you don't pick up one of his books purely for entertainment. In fact, the complexity of the telling and the tale in parts one and two of this trilogy approach Faulkner.
I found CITIES, in terms of plot and style, to be less complex, more reader-friendly. However, even writing in this more traditional sense, McCarthy maintains the edge that sets him apart from most of his American contemporaries. The simplicity and poetry of the phrasing is still there, the marvelous descriptions, the dead perfect dialogue, still crisp and efficient.
And even though you know what's going to happen if you've read the earlier works, you can't help but be tantalized and magnetized and pulled along. The suspense and style that Larry Brown emulates in his southern underbelly novels is raised a couple levels by the hand of this master writer.
In creating this more readable conclusion to the Border Trilogy, McCarthy may have blown his chance at the Nobel (rumors of his shortlisting abound among the writers I've spoken to). But with CITIES, he allows us to go along for the ride with little more than a dusting off of that rusty Spanish.
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Lots of reviews here complain about this book not having the drive or originality of the first two books in the trilogy. I'd have to agree, since this book just repeats the plots of the first two in a deliberate and symmetrical way. As Marx said, history happens twice, the first time as tragedy and the second as farce. Once again John Grady stupidly decides that he'll be able to save a Mexican girl, and once again Billy loses a brother.
In some ways this is a really ruthless book. The figure of the cowboy is given no possible redemption, no future. But what were we expecting? From the first it was clear that guys like John Grady and Billy are unforgivably short-sighted. They never "see" Mexico, they only fantasize about it (something for all you people who complained about the Spanish to think about--get a damn dictionary, for pity's sake!) They think of themselves as masters of all they survey, and as a direct result they end up dead or in despair.
And yet, and yet, and yet . . .
This is also a very serene and forgiving book that captures, more than any other western I can think of, the reality of the cowboy as worker--starved, broke, hanging on to the ranching life out of some kind of genuine love. If you get bored reading about the details of ranch life, just go read some pulp cowbody romance with shoot-outs and steamy sex scenes and get it over with.
McCarthy doesn't tell us which of his two visions of the cowboy is the true one, but he does leave them separate with no attempt to solve the problem he's laid out. I don't know whether this is good or bad, but McCarthy has brought a clarity and honesty to the Western that it was badly in need of.
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I'd read the first twobooks and was anxiously awaiting the publication of this lastinstallment in the Border Trilogy... the first thing I noticed was theodd choice of title: "Cities of the Plain" was for years and years the favorite title for English translations of Proust's "Sodom et Gomorrah" colume of "Remembrance of Things Past" -- something not likely to have passed McCarthy by (i.e., as a writer, unless I was Kathy Acker and feeling particularly postmodern, I can't imagine naming one of my novels "The Tin Drum", irregardless of the fact that "Die Blechtrommel" was the title Gunter Grass gave it in German) -- if you don't get the Biblical allusion, the title must seem fairly straightforward: cities, Great Plains, cowhands, etc. But the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah seems so utterly off: Billy Parham as Lot, and John Grady as Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of sand? El Paso as Sodom, and Juarez as Gomorrah? And so on, nothing really matching. The metaphor's too vague...
Grady -- and to a lesser extent, Parham -- seem to use their dreams, their unspoken fantasies, to project the world they live in only a precarious step or two ahead of where they're already at. It rarely reflects their surroundings more than haphazardly, gets them into all sorts of trouble, and is resolved for Grady in tragedy, vengeance, and death, and for Parham in perhaps the most oblique of all the sinister Mexican parables with which McCarthy has so generously salted and peppered the whole trilogy.
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