Tuesday, January 03, 2006

All the Pretty Horses

It grabbed me. Took control. Kept me up late. I had to finish no matter how much sleep I lost.

Don't you love it when a good book will do that to you?

I had checked out Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy from the library a few days before the new year. My mother had given me McCarthy's latest novel, "No Country For Old Men," as a Christmas present and I wanted to look back at his earlier work.

I had tried to read "All the Pretty Horses" once before, five or six years ago, just after college. He had been recommended to me years ago by a friend who, like me, can't get enough of anything having to do with horses, loners and wide open spaces.

But I couldn't read it. Couldn't get used to McCarthy's literary style. I read about 100 pages, was moved by a passage or two, but cast the book aside.

It was worth the second attempt.

"All the Pretty Horses" is a dark and almost ethereal novel about a young Texas drifter named John Grady Cole. Cole and a friend, Lacey Rollins, leave home one day in 1949 and head to Mexico. Trying to capture one last fading slice of something.

They pick up a younger ne'er-do-well, Jimmy Blevins, who promptly gets the trio into trouble. Cole and Rawlins ultimately find work at the ranch of Hector de la Rocha. It is here that Cole meets Alejandra, the girl who changes his life.

But theirs is a forbidden love. Cole and Rawlins are soon arrested. Reunited with Blevins, they enter the horrifying world of a Mexican prison, where survival looks bleak. When the duo are finally released from the hell, it comes at a price.

It is difficult to convey the power that lies within the pages of this book. Certainly part of it is McCarthy's way with the written word. When it gets going, the book lumbers along at a gallop, as expansive and as rocky as the terrain Cole and Rawlins trek.

It isn't an easy read. McCarthy apparently doesn't believe in quotation marks or other forms of punctuation. One has to work at it. But the journey is worth it.

The passages near the end of the book that culminate Cole and Alejandra's love affair are the best in the book. They are filled with a passion and with an empty yearning that only those who have ever loved in vain can understand. Such scenes can be cliched and trite. In McCarthy's hands, they become something almost poetic, something that keeps you awake on a Monday night contemplating life.

If one hoped for more from the book's conclusion, well, it doesn't matter anyway. This is the first part of a trilogy, and one expects that McCarthy left the reader wanting more for a reason.

Director/actor Billy Bob Thornton brought "All the Pretty Horses" to the big screen in 2000. I still haven't seen it. I probably will now, even though the reviews were mixed, and movie adaptations hardly ever are as satisfying as are the scenes a reader conjures inside.

According to a fan web site, McCarthy lived in or near Knoxville for many years. He makes his home in the southwest now and doesn't take letters or phone calls.

It's too bad. I wish I could thank him.

That's the least one could do for someone who created such a work as this.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well...I haven't read the book, but have, in fact, seen the movie...and it's good. the scenery, as you can imagine, is beautiful...and the story itself is pretty good. Let me know what you think!
-Linds

8:53 AM  

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