Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

The more I get to know Cormac McCarthy's books, the more I like his sparse and (almost) punctuation-free writing. It's a little difficult to get into at first but then it just flows as naturally as thinking. Our thoughts are mercifully free of the constraints of punctuation, aren't they? It's just a flow of facts and emotions, impressions and predictions, making this a writing style as close to spoken storytelling as it gets. Reading this book is like listening to an old grandfather relaying the adventures of his youth. I love that. It's beautiful and comforting and exciting and I just kept wanting to know what happened next. That's not to say there weren't slow parts, though. Some of the wandering through the brush was overly long and detailed, and the aunt's monologue towards the end was a bit tedious, but nothing a little strategic skimming didn't fix.

Not only do like his writing, but I love the author's sentiment, too. It's not mawkish or overdone, but original and real. All the Pretty Horses is about friendship when everything else is stripped away, just as The Road is about the bond of family in the very bleakest and most dire of conditions. If nothing else, one still has the choice and ability to be a friend, to be a mentor. Cormac McCarthy, you will always have a place on my bookshelf.

The first volume of the border trilogy - tells of young John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of Texas ranchers. Across the border Mexico beckons - beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. With two companions, he sets off on an idyllic, sometimes comic adventure, to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. (back cover)

What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran in them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenthearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise. pg6

The last time that he saw her before she returned to Mexico she was coming down out of the mountains riding very stately and erect out of a rainsquall building to the north and the dark clouds towering above her. She rode with her hat pulled down in the front and fastened under her her chin with a drawtie and as she rode her black hair twisted and blew about her shoulders and the lightening fell silently through the black clouds behind her and she rode all seeming unaware down through the low hills while the first spits of rain blew on the wind and onto the upper pasturelands and past the pale and reedy lakes riding erect and stately until the rain caught her up and shrouded her figure away in that wild summer landscape: real horse, real rider, real land and sky and yet a dream withal. pg132

10 comments:

Beth said...

I read The Road but not this one – not sure why I haven’t yet.
But I plan to now – based on your excellent & well-written review.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

My husband read The Road and hated it so much that it put me off Cormac, even though I have never read him. I should probably try something to make my mind up for myself...

Trish said...

Beth - It took me a while to get to this one also. He's an author best taken in small amounts, I think.

Sam - He's not for everyone, that's for sure. As much as I like his writing and stories, there are times when I just can't do it. If you can bring yourself to give him a try, though, you might be pleasantly surprised. The Road is dystopian so be prepared for weirdness. Pretty Horses is a little more 'normal' in that it takes place in 1940s Texas and Mexico. There's also a smattering of Spanish throughout the story, which I found fun to try and parse apart through context and the few recognizable words I already knew.

Kristi said...

I have this on my shelf, but I've heard it's pretty dense so I've been putting it off. I'm glad to hear that it was worth it.

I read The Road last year and found the lack of punctuation a bit off-putting. I'd never thought of how it makes it feel a bit more like spoken story-telling. I guess it's something that takes a little getting used to.

Trish said...

It took me a long time to get up the nerve for this one, but it did pay off. If you can get past the first few pages, you're in the clear. I found I had to 'allow' for the lack of punctuation. We're so programmed to expect it that when it's not there I think we kind of freak out. I know I could never have a steady diet of punctuation-free writing, but for a change now and then I find it really refreshing. I'd love to know how you make out if you get to reading it in the next little while.

couchpotatocritic said...

I've heard of this book, I think, but I'd never read a summary before. Thanks for adding the quotes -- I'm not normally a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, but I think I could handle it in this case.

Trish said...

Excerpts are the real hook for me when deciding whether or not to read a certain book. If I can't connect to the author on some level then it probably won't work out in the long term. Often I can't even put my finger on what it is that turns me off or on to an author, but I know it when I see it.

Reviews and opinions only go so far, don't they? It's what's on the page and between the lines that really speak to a reader.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

This was one book I just couldn't get into no matter how hard I tried.

Tracy said...

I'm hoping to read The Road in 2012, but yes, I like McCarthy's writing style, as you've quoted him here.

Trish said...

Alexis - yeah, I think I gave this one a few false starts over the years, too. It's not an easy one to get into.

Tracy - I'll be interested to see what you think of him, especially The Road. It's a tough one but I loved it.