Jeff's Reviews > The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain

The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
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's review
Oct 11, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: great_big-novels, 2010
Read from December 02 to 18, 2010

I've written individual "reviews" of each novel in the trilogy:
All the Pretty Horses
The Crossing
Cities of the Plain

I think i got the most out of AtPH and the least out of CotP. One could read AtPH and stop there and be satisfied; one might be able to do the same with The Crossing; i don't think anyone'd be satisfied having read only CotP though (i believe you need the backstory of the first 2 books).

More often than not, i enjoy McCarthy's style, in these and the other books i've read. I can understand how many do/will not. I used to loathe every song on the radio that started off in the guise of your typical guitar-centric rock/pop tune but then as soon as the singing began, the guitar would meekly pipedown, making it obnoxiously obvious to me that the band (or its producer/promoter) was among the cult of leadsingerworshippers (e.g., INXS). What does that have to do with McCarthy's prose style? The abrupt change from vaquero simplicity, plainness, terseness to lyrical, metaphysical descriptions seems hyper-self-conscious by the time you get to the 3rd book (if not much sooner). It became hard for me not to sigh and think to myself, "Did he feel constrained? required to continue with this even though it's not absolutely necessary to continue the pattern?"

That's the negative. The positive is that the story and the characters and the ideas are all very strong, compelling, and worthy of your time. Can you tolerate the author's penchant for occasionally overt and overly fancy table setting? If so, you'll be rewarded with a feast for the mind (and soul?).

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Reading Progress

12/02/2010 page 16
2.0% "I'm actually reading the individual hardcover editions, but this all-in-one edition meets the criteria of Great Big Novels. Incidentally, i've already listened to ~50% of the recording of *All the Pretty Horses*. (re the movie version: Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz as 16-year-olds? really?)"
12/04/2010 page 98
9.0% "Done wit th' first secshin an i reckon it's sposed ta be embarrassin but i cain't he'p mimickin th' cowboa tawk whenever ah open muh pie hole nowadays. It sure would be awesome to finish this a-here trilogy during my week offa work."
12/05/2010 page 255
25.0% "Surprisingly, not TOO much football-watching for me today. The end of book 1 feels a lot closer than 50 pp away and i'm eager to find out if John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins will remain the focal points in book 2."
12/06/2010 page 303
29.0% "Done with *All the Pretty Horses*."
12/06/2010 page 375
36.0% "i.e., ~75pp into *The Crossing* which could be subtitled (so far) "or, A Boy and His Wolf." NOT the same central characters as All the Pretty Horses, oh well."
12/08/2010 page 454
44.0% "Not about the wolf anymore. Except for the set-up (16-yr-old boy just ups and goes south to Mexico), this is markedly different from All the Pretty Pretties. If it remains limited (my opinion) by having only one real character, i'm prolly not gonna like it much. There's no dynamic. Maybe that's a challenge McCarthy wanted to attempt to overcome."
12/09/2010 page 602
58.0% "This story's starting to look a LOT like the first one, but that only reveals how synopses ain't stories. On a different note, this novel imposes upon the reader tales told by the narrator on the behalf of people that Billy encounters. I barely endured the tedious metaphysics lecture masquerading as a personal history but really enjoyed the ciego's lifestory "as told by" his wife."
12/11/2010 page 728
70.0% "Finished book #2. I spoze it's possible i could read all of book #3 tomorrow, but the likelihood of that happening is about ... 5%?"
12/13/2010 page 811
78.0% "Done with section one of book #3. SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT?! SPOILER ALERT!? SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!! JGC and BP are back. And they're together. Romantic love appears to remain JGC's main goal and finding his place in the world appears to remain BP's main goal."
12/15/2010 page 875
84.0% "Who woulda thunk the 3rd book would be a romance novel? just kiddin, but BP's life is taking a backseat to JGC's romance and i have a feeling they'll both be destroyed or saved as a result."

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