Monday, April 23, 2007

The Border Trilogy

For the last few months, between book team reading, I’ve been working my way through Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, which consists of All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain.

Each of these books feels different from the other, yet combine in epic form. All the Pretty Horses seems to be an anti-western in a lot of ways. McCarthy succeeds in redefining the American West. John Grady Cole is no longer the “hero” who always overcomes the odds, defeating the antagonist, reconciling himself with God and Land. His characters are always coming to a deeper knowledge of things that are rarely defined. This book in particular puts the character of the all American cowboy to the test.

The Crossing is more challenging than All the Pretty Horses. Main character Billy Parham crosses the U.S. Mexico border three different times and, as he says, never found what he was looking for any of those times. He continually runs into profound campesino philosophers ready and willing to share their view of the world with Billy. Yet we never see which of these philosophies he integrates into his own belief system if any. In ways he comes out of the novel more confused than he was at its inception.

Cities of the Plain is more dialogue and plot oriented than its predecessors, and follows the surviving players from the first two novels. At its heart it explores themes of love and forgiveness and mankind’s role in each as well as God’s. The climax turns the gut, and is unforgettable.

There are few clear answers to the many questions and possibilities presented throughout the trilogy, and as such, I suppose, it becomes an accurate representation of life. The one problem here is that I cannot recommend these books to anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish, because so much of the dialogue in Spanish. After Blood Meridian and The Road, I’d but the Border Trilogy next on my list of McCarthy favorites.

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