All The Pretty Horses

All The Pretty Horses

Book - 1992
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Publisher: New York : Knopf, 1992
Branch Call Number: FIC McCar
Characteristics: 301 p

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m
maiki69
Oct 24, 2019

Set in Texas and Mexico, McCarthy's paradise is a mental one. The story follows a couple of misplaced cowboys on their quest for nirvana: great spreads of unfenced ranch land. Disgruntled with America's modernity and nursing a broken heart, John Grady Cole and his buddy Rawlins set off across the Rio Grande like a couple of desperados on the lam. As they ride, they encounter a young boy named Jimmy Blevins and, against their better judgment, let him accompany them. We don't know Blevins' story, except he's a big talker and John Grady takes on the role of guardian of the youngster. Together, they ride off in search of the proverbial sunset; one rider (John Grady) who's story we know, the other two practically complete mysteries to us and each other.

They find Mexico a rough and tumble land. In it also they find the paradise they seek at the Hacienda de Nuestra Se~nora de la Purisma Concepcion, a ranch of some eleven thousand hectares. Having parted ways with Blevins, Rawlins and John Grady are employed by the ranch breaking horses, a satisfying activity for both young men. Further satisfying for John Grady is the rancher's daughter Alejandra, with whom he finds paradise in matters of the heart. It is short lived, however, and the resources of her powerful father come down on his head, shattering the paradise he and Rawlins have found for themselves.

The rest of the story recounts their return to Texas. It's a journey that includes the vulgarities of a Mexican prison, a situation Blevins has no small part in them finding themselves. It exacts a terrible toll on the young men, leaving neither physically whole. John Grady's price is highest; his freedom is secured by Alejandra's aunt on the promise she'll not pursue a courtship with him, landing a fatal blow to the last illusion of paradise he has.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you already knew that. (ALL THE PRETTY HORSES was a very successful Miramax film starring box office draws Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz.) While good, the movie fails to capture McCarthy's over-the-top writing style. He rants, paying hardly any attention to punctuation, breaking the rules of structure while somehow managing - in a big way - to deliver the goods. Reminiscing on the late great Comanche Nation, he writes:

"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 aloll and footslaves 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."

Although his writing style might take a few pages to get your head around, once accomplished McCarthy delivers in adroit fashion. He is uniquely gifted at folding acute detail into his writing in such a way it flows with the unencumbered grace of the bareback ponies he's so fond of writing about, and for which he won the National Book Award.

In the end, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (Fawcett, $7.99) is a story about culture's effect on the individual. John Grady's left physically, mentally and emotionally scarred by his journey into nirvana. The story closes with him still in the saddle, a portrait of the old American West, accepting that things change, but embracing none of it. His character, we suspect, will go the way of the Comanche warrior, horse and rider "Pass[ing] and pal[ing] into the darkening land, the world to come."

RogerDeBlanck May 02, 2018

All the Pretty Horses is the first novel in McCarthy’s remarkable The Border Trilogy. It chronicles the plight of sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole. He is a young man with an extraordinary love for the land and an equally unique devotion for the rearing of horses. When his grandfather dies and his parents separate, his mother plans to sell the ranch John grew up on in southern Texas. To escape the turmoil in his life, John sets out on horseback with his friend to explore the desert wilderness beyond the border in Mexico. John Grady’s quest for solace becomes a trial of survival and a search for decency in the face of madness. In examining the cruelty of the human condition, McCarthy locates through John Grady a redemptive quality that resonates with the harshest of lessons for the young man. No one creates mood and atmosphere in quite the same vivid and breathtaking fashion as does McCarthy. The beauty and precision of his prose wields a biblical-like power as he captures the merciless borderland and the depths of one’s fortitude and resilience. All the Pretty Horses is a masterpiece of contemporary American literature.

s
skiylourex
Oct 23, 2017

This is a good but sad book. A good beginning for those who like westerns.

b
becker
Sep 25, 2017

Every time I read Cormac McCarthy I am reminded of what I love about reading. The incredible impact that a few simple well crafted words can create.

r
ro_cohen
Aug 05, 2017

Spoilers Ahead ⚠️. All The Pretty Horses is an “American Western" turned up-side-down. The hero, teenager John Grady Cole, is a superb horseman and cowboy. He meets a girl, loses her, but never gets her back.

The anti-western quality is foretold by a beautiful metaphor in the very first line of the novel. A candle flame (and its reflection) in a pier glass, twists and then rights itself, when Cole enters his family’s ranch house on a cold night. He is there to view the body of his grandfather, who ran the family cattle ranch in western Texas.

The story takes place in the late 1940s – after World War II. The ranch is up for sale. Cole’s mother, who inherits the ranch, has taken up acting – a peculiarly non-Western career choice. Despite Cole’s pleas, she insists her son (and only child) is too young to run the ranch. Cole’s father, emasculated by the War and by his wife, is unable to run the ranch himself, or even intercede on his son’s behalf.
Disillusioned, Cole takes to the road on horseback.

Not to the American West. It has vanished. But, south to Mexico, a terribly beautiful land where he encounters lawlessness, official corruption (that would make a Philadelphia policeman blush) and many very bad people.
He is joined by his best friend, reluctantly; and by a companion they meet along the way who provides some comic relief.

But, that is ephemeral; and, apart from a brief and forbidden love affair with the aforementioned girl on her father’s cattle ranch – an Eden-like place deep in the heart of Mexico – all sorts of bad things happen to the adventurers.
Things so bad that they bend, but do not break, Cole’s idealism and adherence to the cowboy code. The code, a remnant from the old American West, values thoughtfulness over verbosity, modesty over boasting, concise wisdom over elaborate argument and repression of emotion over expression of fear. Think- Clint Eastwood or Hemingway’s alter ego, Nick Adams. Sadly, this ethic is now rare among men.

There is a sunset in the final scene. While the hero rides off into it, he does so without any sense of well being, accomplishment or resolution.

j
Joeybiomaster
Jul 18, 2017

After the first few pages I thought I knew what I was getting into and would hate this book and lay it down halfway and return it to the library where it would wait for another individual to pick it up. I forced myself to continue reading; it was difficult to get uses to the lack of commas, quotation marks, and semi-colons. But after awhile, the author's writing style began to grow on me.
This was an excellent story with thought-provoking descriptions of the world we live in. There's humor in between the pages and a beautiful love story that I think many have experienced. Being born in Él Paso and raised in New Mexico, it wasn't difficult to imagine the landscape and I will filled with nostalgia even though I've hardly ridden a horse.

l
LucasHill
Apr 22, 2017

A beautiful and violent story which is hampered at times by McCarthy's signature style. Despite the unusual syntax and punctuation, which at time sacrifices quality at the altar of art, this is a masterpiece.

d
DoctorFuntimes
Apr 17, 2015

An insult to America, the western, land, Mexico, burritos, televangelists, cowboys, horses, and words. Can't believe this is assigned reading in some places.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 27, 2014

A century from now, McCarthy will stand with the likes of Melville, Twain and Faulkner. Wake up to the best-kept secret of American fiction in the past thirty years! The gripping prose echoes early Hemingway, and the lean, swift (by his standards) pastoral tale recalls an American Southwest, lyrically and magically evoked, in the twilight of its wilderness. Written in a sweeping, picaresque form, in a language of a beauty and power seldom seen, it has rollicking physical action, horses, gunplay and romance, yet ultimately it is a never sentimental lament for a passing way of life. Don't miss his dark and savage dress rehearsal, Blood Meridian.

s
stewstealth
Sep 25, 2014

Wonderful prose encapsulates an excellent story about maintaining a way of life in an age of rapid industrialization. Well worth reading.

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m
maiki69
Oct 24, 2019

[McCarthy] is uniquely gifted at folding acute detail into his writing in such a way it flows with the unencumbered grace of the bareback ponies he's so fond of writing about . . .
http://www.penhead.org/

Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

I despise the wintertime. I never did see what was the use in there even bein one.

debwalker Oct 08, 2010

All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenthearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise.

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m
maiki69
Oct 24, 2019

In the end, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (Fawcett, $7.99) is a story about culture's effect on the individual. John Grady's left physically, mentally and emotionally scarred by his journey into nirvana. The story closes with him still in the saddle, a portrait of the old American West, accepting that things change, but embracing none of it. His character, we suspect, will go the way of the Comanche warrior, horse and rider "Pass[ing] and pal[ing] into the darkening land, the world to come."

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