Cormac McCarthy is fast becoming one of my favorite authors (see my thoughts on No Country for Old Men here). All the Pretty Horses is my third McCarthy book and as with finishing the other two, I was left with his prose haunting me. This book is the first in the Border Triology; I’ve already read the second book, The Crossing, so now I’ll be looking forward to Cities of the Plain where the “heroes” of each book come together.
All the Pretty Horses is the story of John Grady Cole, the last in a long family line of Texas ranchers. Set in West Texas (San Angelo–see the picture below of the town I just moved from which is about 30 miles or so from San Angelo–yes, there is a brush fire in the background) and Mexico, the landscape plays a large role in the novel. At the beginning of the story, John Grady’s grandfather dies leaving his ranch which is too expensive to keep. His mother has no interest in the ranch, so she sells it and John Grady decides to leave with his friend Lacey Rawlins to find work as vaqueros in Mexico.
As with The Crossing, All the Pretty Horses is the story of a young man learning life’s injustices and coming to terms with his manhood. During John Grady’s journey, he encounters a troublesome youth who nearly costs John Grady his freedom and life, enters into a forbidden love affair with a Mexican Don’s daughter which can only end in heartache, and struggles to make his way back to a home and way of life that no longer exist.
What I love about McCarthy is his honesty in the way that he writes about life, but I also love his style. I can’t explain what it is about his prose that I love so much, but for some reason it provides me with a feeling of nostalgia. Again, of what, I’m not sure—nostalgia for Texas—particularly the wide open country of Texas. His style is a little reminiscent of Faulkner in that he writes long sentences that go on and on, but McCarthy has a rhythm to his writing that is so packed with emotion:
“…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” (132).
I’ve noticed that my posts are starting to get longer and longer (which is kind of annoying to me since I prefer to read shorter posts because of my time constraints), but this is a book that I can’t write about in a paragraph or two. I don’t recommend it to everyone—I think a lot of people find McCarthy’s prose long-winded and boring, but to me it is so fitting for the land that he writes of—strangely beautiful.