Gary's Reviews > All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
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's review
Aug 25, 08

it was amazing
Read in November, 2005

Ascent into Hell

You read the first sentence of a Cormac McCarthy novel and you know that this is not Grisham or Connolly or Child or Crichton or King, certainly not Patterson, or anyone else writing fiction today. And before the first page is turned he has launched into one of his frenetic poetic riffs that lurches and rambles and stops and starts and doesn't care about punctuation and you can almost hear your high school English teacher scolding about grammar and run-on sentences but you know that she could never even hope to string words together like this even if she dared. And then you realize that maybe you've actually never really understood the English language at all because no one before has ever ripped it and bent it and twisted it as beautifully as McCarthy does while making it all look so easy.

So were it not for McCarthy's ferocious prose, "All the Pretty Horses" may have been just another coming of age story. But in McCarthy's special corner of hell, along with the obligatory introduction to "young love", passage to adulthood may include exile in a foreign country, being hunted on horseback across a barren desert, variously stabbed, shot, tortured, or imprisoned. John Grady Cole is a sixteen year-old son of a Texas rancher who, up until his grandfather's death, worked the ranch and developed an uncommon kinship with horses. With his grandfather gone, his father dying, and his mother flitting around the cultural scene in post-WWII San Antonio, John Grady sets out on horseback for Mexico with buddy Lacey Rawlings. What follows is an odyssey of restless youth across a rugged country, a bleak and sometimes bloody journey that is not without the humor and easy banter of young teenagers on their own; the "road trip" that turns nightmarish and accelerates the process of growing up into hyper drive.

John Grady is an endearing character; there are no Holden Caulfields in the Texas borderlands. A stoic young cowboy, he has had the youthful innocence to which he is entitled ripped out too early, replaced by a work-hardened cynicism and homespun wisdom of the Texas plains. The reader cares for John Grady in the way of the classic Greek heroes, watching helplessly as the protagonist stone-by-stone lays the foundation of his own downfall. This is Cormac McCarthy, and therefore not a fairy tale; the reader would be naïve to expect an ending with a smiling John Grady riding into the sunset with his girl's arms around his denim shirt. But since it is Cormac McCarthy, you can expect unparalleled prose that delivers its message with the power and subtlety of a cattle prod. An American classic - required reading.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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John Martinez Thank you for the awesome review.

Laura What a beautiful review - you made the points that I feel were perhaps somewhere in the recesses in my mind but that I would have never been able to put into words. Bravo.

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