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All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992)

  1. 30
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    mabith: McCarthy's border trilogy reminded me so heavily of Steinbeck. I think if you enjoy one author you'll enjoy the other as well.
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English (121)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
All the Pretty Horses is a pure Western with a melancholy, dreamlike quality to the prose. It’s peculiar; because of the narrative style (no quotation marks around dialogue, Spanish interspersed with English, and long run-on sentences) I sometimes felt that I wasn’t following along very well, but having finished the book my memories of it are quite vivid. The landscape was described in particularly great detail and will appeal to anyone with a love of the Wild West. Plot-wise, a young (but highly talented) cowboy discovers that he won’t be inheriting his father’s ranch as he had thought, and so he and a friend ride south to Mexico. There are horses, gunfights, forbidden love, corrupt sheriffs, and basically everything required for the genre. It’s a lovely book, if a little heavy on the harsh realities of life… ( )
  Erratic_Charmer | Apr 3, 2014 |
My first experience reading Cormac McCarthy. I have seen several of the movies based on his books, but not this one. I loved the prose, the characters, the pace...I especially enjoyed reading the Spanish dialogue which I managed to follow based on my high school Spanish classes. I think incorporating the language into the dialogue without direct translation requiring the reader to decipher the meaning based on context is a great way to learn and reinforce that learning. I am on to Book II of the trilogy, "The Crossing." I am a new fan. ( )
  readyreader | Apr 1, 2014 |
Series: The Border Trilogy (Book 1)
Edition: Harper Audio (2004), Unabridged MP3; 9h46, Narrated by Frank Muller
Original publication date: 1992

I really loved revisiting this book after several years; the audio version worked very well too, with Frank Muller giving lots of colour to these characters. Not only that, but he gave such a sensitive reading that he made the gorgeous passages describing the cinematography, scenery, lighting and supporting characters and 'extras' (in movie-speak) very vivid. I use movie jargon quite on purpose because there's something about McCarthy's prose that brings up clear images in my mind of what he's describing, very much like a cinematic experience, and I say this as someone who has not seen the movie version, and also as someone who rarely can imagine the scenes described in books, which might be surprising given I'm a visual artist, but so it is. I also couldn't help but feel this story was closely connected with another beloved Western story, Brokeback Mountain, because of how attune we are to these young boys even though we are never told how they are feeling or processing events, and rather shown with, in the case of John Grady Cole, rather less than more dialogue. Though of course being shown rather than told is the mark of a good writer. The other connection to that other book was that I have seen the movie version of Brokeback Mountain and kept imagining our young hero John Grady as Heath Ledger and the way he portrayed Ennis del Mar, with a similar kind of reserve and perhaps similar looks as well, very attractive, but not in the last self-consciously so and a bit of a scamp.

For those who are not familiar with the story, it is about two boys, ostensibly cousins, both sixteen, sometime in the late 40s leaving home on horseback from their impoverished Texas lives, and in John Grady Cole's case, a broken home, to make their way to Mexico to find work. On their way there, he and Rawlins are joined by a young boy who claims his name is Jimmy Blevins (the name of a radio personality). He claims to be sixteen but is probably no more than thirteen and riding atop a huge bay horse which seems much too fine a specimen to belong to him, and they suspect the boy has stolen him and will probably bring nothing but trouble, so want nothing to do with him. But Blevins follows them doggedly until they are forced to accept him as a travel companion. Eventually the boys lose Blevins along the way (to reveal more would be a big spoiler) and find employment on a large ranch owned by a wealthy, old money, and therefore powerful family. He falls in love at first sight with the owner's daughter, and his love is very much requited so that the two quickly become lovers. The girl's great aunt holds the reins in the family and soon warns off John Grady, though in a most civilized way, by first inviting him to play a game of chess during which she tells him part of her life story, of having been educated in France and being a thinking woman, difficult to accept in society in her days. He doesn't heed her warning and soon enough the boys are arrested under a charge of horse theft and sent to the worst kind of Mexican penitentiary, where they are forced to rely on their survival skills.

I hadn't been as conscious of how much of the story rides on the aunt (pun intended—it is a story involving hoses after all) in the first reading, when I was concentrating on the story from the boy's point of view. Another thing I noticed this time is how almost unbelievably clever and accomplished John Grady is. He's skilled with hoses, which he has a great affinity for and knows how to 'break' in record time to the admiration of all the ranch workers and locals, which in itself is believable enough, but when comes time for him to defend himself and survive against the worst kind of odds, he almost turns into a Western version of James Bond, which is a slight exaggeration since there are no gadgets or tricks or explosions, but at the same time the feats he manages to accomplish against the direst of odds seem almost miraculous, though of course in the deft hands of McCarthy, very much in the realm of possibility, if one throws in that the boy is probably blessed by a good star and protected by the love of a young and beautiful woman.

I remember reading from a softcover edition the first time at first being a little bit daunted by McCarthy's stream of consciousness style, featuring very little punctuation as that style tends to do, but after the first couple of initial pages, which I read over more than once to get used to the tone and rhythm, it flowed very naturally and it was easy enough to let oneself float along in his stream and let the story take hold of the imagination. Does it sound like I loved this novel? That's because I did, and I'm very happy I revisited it before moving on to the next book in the [Border Trilogy], which I hope to do in near future. ( )
3 vote Smiler69 | Mar 14, 2014 |
Blood-red sunsets, red wind blowing and copper faces are just a few of the descriptive words which paint this beautifully written novel. I'd consider this novel a coming of age story in that our protagonist John Grady Cole is 16 years old when he makes the decision to leave his family's ranch in Texas and head toward Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins. Along the way they meet a lone traveler, Jimmy Blevin who adds an entirely different dimension to the events of the story. In the humor filled Chapter II they loose Blevin and find employment at the Hacienda de Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion where John Grady's equestrian skills can be utilized. As he's breaking horses the beautiful young daughter of the owner breaks down his defenses and they fall in love. Unfortunately, all hell breaks loose when the issue of Blevin resurfaces and takes the reader onward to a very serious and frightful Chapters III and IV. Chapter IV was a page turner and I could not put it down until John Grady rode off into the blood red sunset. I will most likely want to complete the trilogy. ( )
  Carmenere | Mar 11, 2014 |
4.5 Stars ( )
  CaliSoleil | Mar 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
You can’t just nip at darkness, so when you read this book, from page one you feel a threat following you, some animistic urging that keeps you going by the way McCarthy manipulates your demonic love of the sounds of speech.
All the Pretty Horses may indicate McCarthy's desire to come in out of the cold of those Tennessee mountain winters, but his imagination is at its best there with Arthur Ownby or with the monstrous Judge of Blood Meridian drowning dogs. He is best with what nature gives or imposes, rather than with the observations of culture.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Review of Books, Denis Donoghue (pay site) (Jun 24, 1993)
The magnetic attraction of Mr. McCarthy's fiction comes first from the extraordinary quality of his prose; difficult as it may sometimes be, it is also overwhelmingly seductive. Powered by long, tumbling many-stranded sentences, his descriptive style is elaborate and elevated, but also used effectively to frame realistic dialogue, for which his ear is deadly accurate.

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCarthy, Cormacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door.
There were storms to the south and masses of clouds that moved slowly along the horizon with their long dark tendrils trailing in the rain. That night they camped on a ledge of rock above the plains and watched the lightning all along the horizon provoke from the seamless dark the distant mountain ranges again and again. (p. 93 of original ed.)
The boy who rode on slightly before him sat a horse not only as if he'd been born to it which he was but as if he were begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where horses never were he would have found them anyway.
He thought that in the beauty of the world 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679744398, Paperback)

Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:14 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Cut off from the life of ranching he has come to love by his grandfather's death, John Grady Cole flees to Mexico, where he and his two companions embark on a rugged and cruelly idyllic adventure.

(summary from another edition)

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