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The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book 2) by…

The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book 2) (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Cormac McCarthy

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3,080351,842 (4)154
Title:The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book 2)
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:Vintage (1995), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (1994)

  1. 10
    Cities of the plain by Cormac McCarthy (beebowallace)
    beebowallace: The next & final book in the border trilogy series.
  2. 10
    All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (beebowallace)
    beebowallace: The first of the border trilogy series.

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63. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (1994, 426 pages within an Everyman's Library Hardcover edition of The Border Trilogy, read Sep 2 - Oct 4)
Rating: 4 stars

Eventually McCarthy gives us a date, but in the mean time The Crossing leaves us wondering about the era and how it relates to All the Pretty Horses, and why this books is so completely different, and how long does the Peter and Wolf thing need to go on.

I'll spoil it a bit and tell you that Billy Parham crosses over to Mexico the first time about the winter of 1939, with his lame wolf in ropes. He's about 15 years old, making him about nine years older then John Grady. Billy is nothing like John Grady, nor really is his book. The Crossing is distinctly slow and plotless. Billy just wanders. The reader wanders with him, but mostly that reader is pondering the details, all the Spanish, and the various ways Billy handles the ropes to manage the wolf, the paths of his wanderings, the horses, and what exactly is unspoken. There is a managed tension throughout. Notably, from wondering if that wolf will get loose. But also between Billy and his younger brother Boyd. Billy is the epitome of hard luck. Boyd however naturally attracts affections and is quite beautiful in many different ways. Billy tries to protect Boyd, but he can never manage to talk to him.

But the notable aspect of this book is that McCarthy has added in quite a bit of thought and philosophy. I think McCarthy tried hard to work out his own mindset here, the one running through all his work, and then to spell it out for the reader in his own way. That is to say, with some reconstruction a lot is revealed. McCarthy's worldview is cold, but not baseless.

He uses numerous prophets, including a gypsie, a variety of oddball wise men and women, and his favorite teller, an expriest. McCarthy loves ex- and fallen-priests. There has to be a loss of faith to get his attention. This one gets the most acreage, covering several pages, giving Billy a lesson and, as I'm only just now realizing, an accurate fortune telling. He tells his story in third person:

“And the priest? A man of broad principles. Of liberal sentiments. Even a generous man. Something of a philosopher. Yet one might say that his way through the world was so broad it scarcely made a path at all. He carried within himself a great reverence for the world, this priest. He heard the voice of the Deity in the murmur of the wind in the trees. Even the stones were sacred. He was a reasonable man and he believed that there was love in his heart.

There was not. Nor does God whisper through the trees. His voice is not to be mistaken. When men hear it they fall to their knees and their souls are riven and they cry out to Him and there is no fear in them but only that wildness of heart that springs from such longing and they cry out to stay His presence for they know at once that while godless men may live well enough in their exile those to whom He has spoken can contemplate no life without Him but only darkness and despair.

As for Billy, he will find only sadness and a very hard lonely world.

He got his things from the house and saddled the horse in the road and rode out. He said goodbye to no one. He sat the horse in the road beyond the river cottonwoods and he looked off down country at the mountains and he looked to the west where thunderheads were standing sheared off from the thin dark horizon and he looked at the deep cyanic sky taut and vaulted over the whole of Mexico where the antique world clung to the stones and to the spores of living things and dwelt in the blood of men. He turned the horse and set out along the road south, shadowless in the gray day, riding with the shotgun unscabbarded across his lap. For the enmity of the world was newly plain to him that day and cold and inameliorate as it must be to all who have no longer cause except themselves to stand against it.

I developed a lot of affection for this book. I read it slow and enjoyed lingering around in it. Scattered about are many lines of note, although as we say online, YMMV.

...(on the nature of the world)...

men wish to be serious but they do not understand how to be so. Between their acts and their ceremonies lies the world and in this world the storms blow and the trees twist in the wind and all the animals that God has made go to and fro yet this world men do not see. They see the acts of their own hands or they see that which they name and call out to one another but the world between is invisible to them.


To see God everywhere is to see Him nowhere.


...the truth may often be carried about by those who themselves remain unaware of it.


...the order which the righteous seek is never righteousness itself but is only order, the disorder of evil is in fact the thing itself.

... (on writing)...

Always the teller must be at pains to devise against his listener's claim—perhaps spoken, perhaps not—that he has heard the tale before.

... (I see this fragment as characterizing part of what drives McCarthy)...

...that elusive freedom which men seek with such unending desperation.
( )
2 vote dchaikin | Oct 10, 2015 |
The Crossing begins with 16 year old Billy working with his father to trap a wolf. After weeks of the she-wolf uncovering traps (without being caught in them), Billy begins to appreciate her intelligence and wildness. When he finds her finally caught in a trap, he collars her rather than shoot her, muzzles her, and sets off with wolf and horse to return her to the mountains in Mexico that she wandered from.
Billy’s journeys through Mexico, both alone and with his younger brother, Boyd, take him among different places and different people, many of whom share vivid stories of their lives and worldviews. Billy’s vagrant spirit and listlessness are mirrored in the stark and desolate landscapes he travels through, and the uncertainty of his future is shown in his often inexplicable choices and transient views.
The novel is sometimes beautiful, but often stark, harsh, and keenly painful even if the reader cannot agree with or understand Billy’s (and Boyd’s) decisions. The novel is in many ways bleaker than McCarthy’s The Road, and the characters in The Crossing lack the sense of connection with each another or with the world that is seen in The Road’s father and son. ( )
  Ailinel | May 1, 2015 |
Rip out my heart and soul and crush them, why don't you. I must be a masochist. ( )
  danlai | Sep 1, 2014 |
between 1.5 and 2.

i find myself struggling to find meaning in this book, and by the end was even wondering if that was part of mccarthy's point - that so much crap happens to people for no reason. but whatever he was doing in this book, i think i mostly missed it.

this was largely a slog for me. i enjoyed the first section of the book (with billy and the wolf) best, and actually thought it could have ended there. even though i liked this section best, i still felt there was no explanation for billy's motivation throughout it, and this bothered me a lot. actually, character motivation wasn't explained at all in the book; sometimes it's obvious but often there seems to be no reason at all for the characters to do what they do. which brings me back to maybe that being his point - that there isn't reason for the things that happen in this world. if that really is what he was saying with this book, he could have done it in far fewer pages.

there were some nice (by which i mean moving) parts toward the middle and end of the book, but overall i didn't connect with this book much at all and just wanted to get it done so i could move on to the third in the trilogy, which i'm hoping i'll find more like the first book.

i forgot to mention this in the first one, but couldn't possibly forget this time around - the amount of spanish in this book is...unfair. he never goes too long without putting some english in, but there is a considerable amount of dialogue (i would actually say that probably half of the dialogue in this book takes place in spanish) that isn't in english. i know enough spanish to make this not much of a problem for me, but seriously, this needs to be footnoted. most of it is glossed over enough in the english parts to make the spanish make sense, but not all of it. and some of the important things were said in spanish, like in the conversation with the blind man. ("Si el mundo es ilusion la perdida del mundo es illusion tambien." - which is more or less: "If the world is an illusion, than losing the world is an illusion as well.") there is way too much spanish here for the casual reader to comfortably be able to look things up. it was frustrating. which is generally the impression i'm left with, sadly, with the entire book.

"He said the wicked know that if the ill they do be of sufficient horror men will not speak against it." ( )
  elisa.saphier | May 9, 2014 |
It takes a certain masochism of the soul, I think, to enjoy a McCarthy novel. You can appreciate the stark beauty, the occasional humor, even the deep melancholy with which he addresses the world... but you cannot truly enjoy these books because they are too damn sad. And dry. And, dare I say it, often a bit boring. This novel could've been a hundred pages shorter and better for it - but I have to admit that I wouldn't've skipped certain scenes (the bickering between the brothers, the scene with Billy and the wolf at the Mexican camp) for the world. I just really want to go do something happy now, because I can't survive on a diet of hopelessness like this.

More about it at RB:http://wp.me/pGVzJ-qe ( )
  drewsof | Jul 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Mr. McCarthy, because he is interested in the mythic shape of lives, has always been interested in the young and the old or, if not the old, then those who have already performed some act so deep in their natures (often horrific, though not always) that it forecloses the idea of possibility. "Doomed enterprises," Mr. McCarthy's narrator remarks, "divide lives forever into the then and the now." So "The Crossing" is full of encounters between the young boys, who look so much like the pure arc of possibility, and the old they meet on the road, all of whom seem impelled, as if innocence were one of the vacuums that nature abhors, to tell them their stories, or prophesy, or give them advice.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Robert Hass (Jun 12, 1994)

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCarthy, Cormacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernascone, RossellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carosso, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679760849, Paperback)

The opening section of The Crossing, book two of the Border Trilogy, features perhaps the most perfectly realized storytelling of Cormac McCarthy's celebrated career. Like All the Pretty Horses, this volume opens with a teenager's decision to slip away from his family's ranch into Mexico. In this case, the boy is Billy Parham, and the catalyst for his trip is a wolf he and his father have trapped, but that Billy finds himself unwilling to shoot. His plan is to set the animal loose down south instead.

This is a McCarthy novel, not Old Yeller, and so Billy's trek inevitably becomes more ominous than sweet. It boasts some chilling meditations on the simple ferocity McCarthy sees as necessary for all creatures who aim to continue living. But Billy is McCarthy's most loving--and therefore damageable--character, and his story has its own haunted melancholy.

Billy eventually returns to his ranch. Then, finding himself and his world changed, he returns to Mexico with his younger brother, and the book begins meandering. Though full of hypnotically barren landscapes and McCarthy's trademark western-gothic imagery (like the soldier who sucks eyes from sockets), these latter stages become tedious at times, thanks partly to the female characters, who exist solely as ghosts to haunt the men.

But that opening is glorious, and the whole book finally transcends its shortcomings to achieve a grim and poignant grandeur. --Glen Hirshberg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:44 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the 1930s, two teenage brothers whose ranch in New Mexico was raided by bandits, cross into Mexico to search for stolen horses. The novel follows them through the revolution-torn countryside, meeting soldiers, peasants, priests and thieves, all proffering advice. By the author of All the Pretty Horses.… (more)

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