McCarthy, Cormac Cities of the Plain

ISBN 13: 9780001055377

Cities of the Plain

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9780001055377: Cities of the Plain

Uniting the central characters from All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, Cities of the Plain is a tragedy not only of the passing of youth, but also of American life itself "…a masterpiece … McCarthy’s prose is so melodious that it demands to be read out aloud." Sunday Times

In the fall of 1952, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham, marked by the boyhood adventures of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, now stand together as cowboys on a New Mexico ranch encroached upon from the north by the military. To the south, always on the horizon, are the mountains of Mexico, and one of these two is drawn, by a love as dangerous as it is inevitable, beyond those mountains, drawn to cross the border, again and again.

Cities of the Plain – with its magisterial prose, humour both wry and outright, fierce conviction and unwavering humanity – tells of the land, of the horses, and most of all of the men and the women they love and mourn, of their memories and their dreams.

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Review:

On a Texan ranch, soon after the second world war, a group of solitary, inarticulately lonely men gathers to work animals as the sun sets for good on the mythic American West. All of these men nurse losses both personal (siblings or wives) and collective (a shared lifestyle and philosophy). Among them is John Grady Cole, the adolescent hero of the first book in Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy, All the Pretty Horses. John Grady remains the magnificent horseman he always was, and he still dreams too much. On the ranch, he meets Billy Parham, whose own tragic sojourn through Mexico in The Crossing, the second book of the set, continues to quietly suffocate him. The two form a friendship that will nurture both but save neither from the destiny that McCarthy's characters always sense lurching to meet them.

Soaked in storm-heavy atmosphere but brightened by the ranchers' easy camaraderie and gentle humour, Cities of the Plain surprises with its sweetness. The awkward doomed-romance plot at the centre of this tight, concise novel fails to convince, but, remarkably, does little to undercut the book's impact. What lingers here, and what matters, are the brooding, eerie portraits of the plains and the riders, glimpsed mostly alone but occasionally leaning together, who slip across them, over the horizon and into memory. -- Glen Hirshberg

Review:

“…a masterpiece… McCarthy’s prose is so melodious that it demands to be read out aloud.”
Sunday Times 7/6/98

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