Friday, September 14, 2012

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy ***

I've always loved horses.  Watching them run in a horse race is one of my favorite things to do, though I've never seen a race live--just on TV.  I took a riding class in college for one of my PE credits & learned to ride English.
But I have to admit that I still sometimes get scared of how big they are.  I had a lot of trouble when I was younger being assertive with them, letting them know I was boss.  I haven't ridden one now for 20 years, so I don't know how I'd handle it.  I've changed a lot in the past 20 years, I might be more confident about being in charge.  Or I might be less.
John Grady Cole is the hero of All the Pretty Horses, and he has a great love of the animals.  He seems to be able to sense things about them that others can't, and he values them almost as much as he values people.  He's a very loyal young man with a firm sense of who he is.  And he's only 16 years old when he and his pal Lacy Rawlins decide to head south into Mexico to seek their fortunes.  John Grady has nothing to lose--the ranch he grew up on was owned by his maternal grandfather.  When his grandpa dies the ownership went to his mother, who is a want-to-be actress who hates living on the ranch.  His parents are estranged, especially after his father was presumed dead during WWII while a POW in the South Pacific.  And so the ranch will be sold.  And everything that's important for John Grady will be gone.
This story of the boys' misadventures in Mexico has some humorous moments, especially whenever Rawlins is involved.  You can just hear these boys talking to each other in their Texas drawls, Rawlins wearing his new boots, breaking some horses.
But mostly the story is about the brutality of our southern neighbor.  The absolute and irrevocable justice of life, the common story of wrongful death.  I wish I could say Mexico has changed a lot since the 1950's, the setting for this book.  But as many of us know, the violence of Mexico lives on, and tries to spread over the border into the US constantly and successfully.
Quite a few years ago this book was the choice for the Reader's Review on the Diahn Rehm Show on NPR.  I hadn't read it yet, but I remember one of the readers mentioning that the profound reasoning and deep introspection of John Grady Cole just didn't fit with any 16 year old boy he'd ever met.  I have to agree.  I don't understand why the two main heroes weren't portrayed just a few years older, but Cormac McCarthy may have his reasoning.  I know this is the first of three books about this part of the country at this time, called collectively The Border Trilogy.
Overall I thought some of the imagery of the book both beautiful and haunting.  It was an upsetting book in it's violence, but not in it's presence.  It's hard for me to explain, but maybe it's because of it's unfairness.  I think as I get older I've become less of a realist and more shallow in some ways--I just want to read something where everyone is OK in the end.
This was a beautifully written book, but I don't see myself reading the other two books in the trilogy.  I just wasn't able to take the reins of this book and control it--in the end it controlled me and got me down.

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