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All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

469571

Review

A western dream.
A Mexican odyssey.
Southward dispossessed.
Throughout he is in union with beast, thee two bloods flow parallel lives through the terrible beauty.
A sixteen year old John Grady horse-breaker, heartbreaker, and seeker of ones worth.
He is on a journey comparable to a kind of archaic odyssey.

Nations before him fell and lost their right of land, he felt in his grandfathers death that an end of line would occur with the ways of the cowboy in that it would be diluted like that of nations gone.
Land sold out lost to new technology and oil invading a Cowboy way of life passed down.
A literal journey like grapes of wrath and blood Meriden.
Linear storytelling and one of his more approachable works.
There is a strong female presence in this novel compared to other of his works, two distinctive memorable and passionate female characters
A journey of inner and outer in battle, in his rejection he seeks out beauty and paradise after wondering through wasteland, there are tests some Hellish and then redemptive with absolution and ultimately seeking all the pretty horses in possession.

In the final stage of this tale the narrative tells that there is a finding to the truths of life through experiencing the wilderness, the love and pain of it.
What he traversed had him come near to that coming of age, of heart, a great learning through the falls and that terrible beauty within it.

McCarthy has you again in his vice and his words surround you with a majesty and greatness, his sentences have you ponder over and immersed in the thick of some workings of this great place called earth.

Excerpts

“A goodlookin horse is like a goodlookin woman, he said. They’re always more trouble than what they’re worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done.”

“This is another country. Here a woman’s reputation is all she has.”

“That of course is the Spanish idea. You see. The idea of Quixote. But even Cervantes could not envision such a country as Mexico.”

“We weep over the might have been, but there is no might have been. There never was. It is supposed to be true that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. I don’t believe knowing can save us. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood and this is a thing that even God—who knows all that can be known—seems powerless to change.

“He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.”

“He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.”

“For me the world has always been more of a puppet show. But when one looks behind the curtain and traces the strings upward he finds they terminate in the hands of yet other puppets, themselves with their own strings which trace upward in turn, and so on. In my own life i saw these strings whose origins were endless enact the deaths of great men in violence and madness. Enact the ruin of a nation. I will tell you how Mexico was. How it was and how it will be again. You will see that this etchings which disposed me in your favour were the very things which led me to decide against you in the end.”

“The candle-flame and the image of the candle-flame caught in the pier-glass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboards creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cut-glass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttered candle-stub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.
It was dark outside and cold and no wind. In the distance a calf bawled. He stood with his hat in his hand. You never combed your hair that way in your life, he said.
Inside the house there was no sound save the ticking of the mantel clock in the front room. He went out and shut the door.
Dark and cold and no wind and a thin grey reef beginning along the eastern rim of the world. He walked out on the prairie and stood holding his hat like some supplicant to the darkness over them all and he stood there for a long time.”

“In the evening he saddled his horse and rode out west from the house. The wind was much abated and it was very cold and the sun sat blood red and elliptic under the reefs of bloodred cloud before him. He rode where he would always choose to ride, out where the western fork of the old Comanche road coming down out of the Kiowa country to the north passed through the westernmost section of the ranch and you could see the faint trace of it bearing south over the low prairie that lay between the north and middle forks of the Concho River. At the hour he’d always choose when the shadows were long and the ancient road was shaped before him in the rose and canted light like a dream of the past where the painted ponies and the riders of that lost nation came down out of the north with their faces chalked and their long hair plaited and each armed for war which was their life and the women and children and women with children at their breasts all of them pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only. When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses’ hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues a loll and foot-slaves following half naked and sorely burdened and above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across that mineral waste to darkness bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives.”

“What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardent hearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise.
He rode back in the dark. The horse quickened its step. The last of the day’s light fanned slowly upon the plain behind him and withdrew again down the edges of the world in a cooling blue of shadow and dusk and chill and a few last chitterings of birds sequestered in the dark and wiry brush. He crossed the old trace again and he must turn the pony up onto the plain and homeward but the warriors would ride on in that darkness they’d become, rattling past with their stone-age tools of war in default of all substance and singing softly in blood and longing south across the plains to Mexico.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 20 August 2014