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Cities of the Plain

by Cormac McCarthy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Border Trilogy (3)

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3,525363,671 (4.01)94
A Texas cowboy falls in love with a Mexican prostitute, only to discover he has a rival, her pimp. The pimp refuses to let her go because he will lose money and the stage is set for a violent confrontation.

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English (32)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Years ago, I was browsing in a used bookstore with my husband. He discovered this copy of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, Cities of the Plain. He quickly realized it’s a first edition and was on sale for $5. At the time, I had no interest in reading what I perceived a western novel and wasn’t inclined to purchase it even though I was well aware of Cormac McCarthy’s reputation. My husband enabled my love for collecting books and encouraged me to buy it. He was better at appreciating how special this book is. He thought it would be nice to own and I didn’t need much convincing. I love the red colored edges on the top of the book and I like the cover image.

Cities of the Plain is the final installment of The Border Trilogy. I read the first book, All The Pretty Horses about a year ago and the second book, The Crossing a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed The Crossing so much, I wanted to finish the trilogy sooner rather than later. I tend to spread out series of books and seldom read them this closely together. Why? I have no sensible idea. Maybe it’s to make the experience last longer? To procrastinate the finality?

John Grady Cole and Billy Parham exist together in this final story, working on a ranch in New Mexico. 1952, the two young men are enjoying life on the ranch. It’s a rather simple life, but yet daily hard work. They realize the world is changing and their lifestyle is vanishing. John Grady falls in love with a young Mexican girl working as a prostitute. He enlists Billy’s help to free her from her pimp, which is extremely complicated and dangerous. Meanwhile, there are many interesting characters introduced throughout the story: a blind musician, a pack of dogs, fellow ranch workers, and a clever shoe shine boy.

Cities of the Plain left me feeling much the same emotions as The Crossing. There are moments of heart wrenching despair and utter sadness. McCarthy knows how to build hope for the reader, but I wasn’t fooled this time. I knew any moments of joy or excitement were going to be met with devastating grief. And still, I loved McCarthy’s writing and talent to create authentic characters. I am a huge fan of his sarcastic humor. Only McCarthy can make me laugh in the middle of an argument or stressful event.

I loved John Grady Cole and Billy Parham. They are two down to earth cowboys I am grateful to have met and will miss. I suppose they will come to mind the next time I see a question about which characters you would like to have over for dinner. I think they would be satisfied with just about any measly meal I could create. Or, I could take them out to a Mexican restaurant.

Even though I own a beautiful hard cover copy of this book, I listened to the audiobook I acquired from Audible. Frank Muller’s narration was exceptional. It’s interesting how sometimes I will be browsing my Audible wishlist and notice I can add some audiobooks directly to my library as part of my membership. That’s how I got my hands on this audiobook.

I have photos and additional information that I'm unable to include here. It can all be found on my blog, in the link below.
A Book And A Dog ( )
  NatalieRiley | Mar 15, 2024 |
Cities of the Plain concludes McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy. It brings together the protagonists from each of the previous two volumes. John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses is now nineteen years old and nine years the junior of Billy Parham from The Crossing. John and Billy share an loving bond and a deep passion for riding horses and living off the land. They work as ranch hands for a respected landowner on his farm not far from the Mexican border. Yet, when John Grady tumbles helplessly in love with a sixteen-year-old Mexican prostitute, Magdalena, from across the border, he provokes the ire of the girl’s pimp. John’s relentless desire to marry the girl leads him down a dangerous and fateful path. Billy’s attempts to protect his friend draw him into the violent turmoil where there is no turning back. The violence quickly boils to an all out blood bath as Billy confronts the pimp in a battle that reminds one of the ill-fated meeting of Macbeth and Macduff in its poetic grandeur. The anguish that Billy Parham feels for his lost friend is heartbreaking.

The end of book focuses on Billy and his wanderings. On his journey, he meets a mysterious man who tells him about a convoluted dream. Though the man denies it, Billy suspects he is Death. However, Billy survives the meeting with the man and finds shelter and a new life with a family who takes him in. The book ends with Billy, it seems, putting his restless and sometimes violent past behind him, with a new lease on life. It would seem that the "romance" of the cowboy way of life has faded for Billy, and the reality and harshness of the world has taken root. And that he has achieved some sort of wisdom from it.

Cities of the Plain is a melancholy story, deftly told in poetic grandeur, about American violence, idealistic romance, and a fading way of life ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
Loved the knife fight.

Hated the epilogue. ( )
  oshafiro | Mar 3, 2023 |
This is the third book in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. While the first two, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, can be read in either order, this one should come last. It brings together the protagonists of the first two novels, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham.

It is set in the early 1950’s in the plains around El Paso, Texas and across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The plot revolves around John Grady’s romantic interest in Magdalena, a sixteen-year-old Mexican prostitute. Nineteen-year-old John Grady is devoted to Magdalena to the point of obsession. He exhibits a strong-willed personality and the brashness of youth. Billy and ranch owner Mac serve as his mentors.

It is written in McCarthy’s signature style with short, direct dialogue. He realistically portrays the Southwestern desert, and the setting becomes, essentially, another character. I particularly like the indelible connection McCarthy establishes between the land and the people who traverse it. Themes include the inevitability of fate and good vs. evil. I doubt anyone that has read McCarthy would expect anything cheery, and this one is no exception. I am glad I read the trilogy. All three books are solid.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I am glad I waited until I had read the third book in the trilogy before I reviewed these books. I really think they need to be taken as a whole rather than looking at each individual book. That said, of the three, I would say All the Pretty Horses was the best but it really doesn't matter because the three books together told such a riveting and moving story.

I am not qualified to do a critical deep dive into the inner meaning of what I read or what Cormac McCarthy meant to say in these novels. On the surface though, I thought they were beautifully written. The descriptions of the Mexican countryside range from the magnificent and epic to desert austere. These were some of my favorite parts of all of the novels.

The welcoming nature of the villages and people of Mexico is related so well in both All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. One could stumble into the lowliest home in the smallest village and be taken in and fed by the family even if it was just humble beans and tortillas. At other times cruelty, lawlessness and death are part of the background narrative that comes to the fore in both the first and second books and ultimately what brings the trilogy to a tragic end.

I liked the characters of Billy Parham and John Grady Cole and how each came out of Mexico changed in some way and, in Cities of the Plain, we see how this ultimately plays out as the two characters have matured but each still carries something of their experience with them that, in the end, has life changing repercussions.

I purchased used copies of all of the books and look forward to reading them again. ( )
1 vote DarrinLett | Aug 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
McCarthy greift in diesem Buch, das ebenso wie "All die schönen Pferde" und "Grenzgänger" als eigenständiges Werk gelesen werden kann und als solches besteht, einige bekannte Motive auf. Das Jungenpaar, hier ein paar Jahre älter, die unmögliche, aufgrund der Grenzen zwischen den Kulturen nicht realisierbare Liebe, das Wolfthema aus "Grenzgänger", das hier in Form einer Hundemeute und eines einsamen Welpen variiert wird, und natürlich Mexiko und die Pferde. Doch "Land der Freien" ist melancholischer als seine Vorgänger, es ist introvertierter, beschäftigt sich weit mehr mit seinen Protagonisten, weniger mit dem Land, den Tieren, den Abenteuern. Anfangs ist man noch ein wenig skeptisch, da allein die exakten und kenntnisreichen Beschreibungen von Pflanzen, Tieren, Landschaft und Tätigkeiten noch keinen großen Roman ausmachen. Doch unmerklich baut McCarthy die Dramatik des Buches auf, streut kleine Symbole, die unausweichlich auf das Kommende hinweisen und weist den Personen mehr und mehr ihren Platz im Geschehen zu. Das alles schafft eine Atmosphäre, die den Leser beruhigt, denn nun befindet er sich auf gewohntem literarischen Gebiet, in einer sprachlich und thematisch vertrauten Umgebung: in McCarthy-County.
That brief moment between a culture's existence and extinction -- this is the border that McCarthy's characters keep crossing and recrossing, and the one story, as he's forever writing, that contains all others.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Sara Mosle (May 17, 1998)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cormac McCarthyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirsch, FrançoisTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montanari, RaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murillo Fort, LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ofstad, KnutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaeffer, PatriciaTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stingl, NikolausÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They stood in the doorway and stomped the rain from their boots and swung their hats and wiped the water from their faces.
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A Texas cowboy falls in love with a Mexican prostitute, only to discover he has a rival, her pimp. The pimp refuses to let her go because he will lose money and the stage is set for a violent confrontation.

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