Sunday, 24 July 2011

Book #68 All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

All The Pretty Horses

Published to great acclaim in 1992, I had always wanted to read McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, without being particularly sure why, I just really liked the title I think.  When I decided to do the blog it was definitely put into my mental "queue" as a book I wanted to read. I am, having built it up somewhat more than a little disappointed.

John Grady Cole, a sixteen year old Texas boy on a horse ranch, is dealing with family problems, as a getaway he and his best friend Lacey Rawlins decide to ride off to Mexico for adventure and work. Whilst travelling, a younger boy Jimmy Blevins crosses their path, with a horse they suspect isn't his, he tags along, yet proves a hinderance that has far reaching consequences for all three.

If there's something to be said about this book it is that some of the descriptive prose is beautiful both about horses and the Texas and Mexico countryside. McCarthy dispenses with regular syntax structure and at one point I read what I think is the longest complete sentence in any book I've ever read.

That night he dreamt of horses on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.

So, that's a single sentence from All The Pretty Horses, long obviously, and an example of the beauty of some of the prose. Where it falls down is with the storyline, characterisation and dialogue. Ultimately the story is a good one, but it's so slowly drawn out, sleepy even. Sometimes, I found myself bored, switching off - actually lots of times. Frequently there are conversations in Spanish between John Grady and the locals but there is often no attempt to make the reader aware of the meaning of these exchanges if you speak no Spanish, leaving you feeling shut out and excluded from the narrative. Although Rawlins was probably the best drawn character, there was little to make you feel that you 'knew' these characters in terms of motivations and feelings, until near the end. I occasionally felt like you were just supposed to imagine a young Clint Eastwood in place of an actual character. In addition, Cole's affair with his bosses daughter hardly felt like a soaring romance, it hardly felt like much of anything at all. I struggled to enjoy the book or to concentrate on it, it couldn't hold my attention.

Given that this book has been so highly complimented by many, I feel as with Brideshead Revisited that perhaps I've "missed" something, mind you the praise of J.D Salinger's Catcher In The Rye has always baffled me. However, I will probably read further McCarthy, I really loved the film No Country For Old Men and have not read the book and although I've not seen the film, I hear good things about The Road.

Sadly I'm only giving this book 5/10 - it frustrated me too much to give it any higher points.   

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