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All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Border Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,659251647 (3.96)625
Fiction. Literature. Western. HTML:NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER ? NATIONAL BESTSELLER ? The first volume in the Border Trilogy, from the Pulitzer Prize??winning author of The Road
All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for… (more)
  1. 40
    Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (mabith)
    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.
  2. 20
    Butcher's Crossing by John Williams (thatguyzero)
  3. 20
    Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (sturlington)
  4. 10
    Blindness by José Saramago (Rob.Larson)
    Rob.Larson: Much different from anything else, but his writing reminds me of McCarty's style.
  5. 00
    Close Range by Annie Proulx (chrisharpe)
  6. 00
    In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent (jhowell)
  7. 00
    Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead (TheRavenking)
  8. 00
    The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (sturlington)
  9. 01
    Griffintown by Marie Hélène Poitras (Serviette)

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» See also 625 mentions

English (236)  Spanish (6)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (251)
Showing 1-5 of 236 (next | show all)
  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
There's a lot of empty dark landscape and red blood in this book. And there are mesas and tortillas and saddles and sheetiron stoves and knives. The light in the sky is a character itself. The story weaves through Texas and Mexico, and through themes of fate and choice, care and violence, love and loss, as we follow a couple of young cowboys looking for . . . something beyond the life they were brought into, and which is disappearing in any case. It's an adventure and a romance, with a foreboding and sombre backdrop of the inevitability of suffering and betrayal. The writing is by turns pacy and lyrical, with passages of beauty and resignation mixed with page-turning thrills.

Some favourite quotes:

The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community one of sorrow.

They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.

In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

. . . they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.

( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
All the Pretty Horses is an odyssey set on the Texas-Mexico border that focuses on a sixteen year old boy becoming a man through the trials and tribulations of his adventures. All the Pretty Horses is a tragic romance and coming-of-age story, set in a land that is harsh, unforgiving, and deadly. John Grady Cole is a sixteen year old cowboy in Texas a few years after World War II who was raised on his grandfather’s ranch after his parents split up. After his grandfather dies, the ranch is being sold off. With no where else to go, John and his best friend Lacey Rawlins ride off for Mexico. Along the way they hook up with a runaway kid who is nothing but bad news. After getting work on a large ranch, John catches the owner’s eye with his skill working with horses, but after being promoted, John falls in love with the owner’s daughter which leads to trouble for him and Rawlins. Finding himself imprisoned, beaten, and struggling to survive, John is eventually freed, loses his love, regains his horses, and returns home to Texas to realize there is nothing left for him and rides off into the sunset, alone.

All the Pretty Horses is a beautiful, lyrical, and at times, harsh, novel of the realities of the cowboy/bandit life. It is also a tragic coming of age tale about a boy losing everything and the pains of first love.


( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
A grim but beautifully-written book about people whose motives I struggled to understand. I liked it best as a window into Mexico of the mid-twentieth century. You'll get the most out of it if you have an annotated version for translating the intermingled Spanish and expanding on the Mexican history. ( )
  mmparker | Oct 24, 2023 |
I've long been a fan of McCarthy's stand-alones, so it felt like past time that I get around to his most well-known work. I'm not normally a reader of westerns, but McCarthy's language is so distinctive, his descriptions so gorgeous, that this one still pulled me in quickly. And as someone who loves horses and has spent a fair amount of time around them, I enjoyed the care he took with talking about and writing them. I probably will go on and read the second book in the trilogy, though this one felt complete enough by itself that it might take me some time to get around to it. I can't say that this lived up to his darker, stand-alones that I've read, but for those interested, I'd still recommend it. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Oct 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 236 (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)
Just as jazz is the archetypal American music, so is the Western the truly original genre of American literature. The West --- particularly for those of us who grew up on a video diet of television shows such as "Gunsmoke," "Cheyenne," and "The Rifleman," and the literary feast of the classic novels of Zane Gray and Louis L' Amour --- is evocative of a time of rough nobility, where it seemed as if each breath brought a new confrontation of Good vs. Evil. The reality was, of course, something quite different, an existential setting where life and death did strange dances in the sunset and actions occurred with a randomness and happenstance that took no notice of pureness of heart or motive and often rendered foresight useless.

This reality is presented with an indescribable elegance in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, the first volume of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. The volumes that comprise The Border Trilogy --- ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE CROSSING, and CITIES OF THE PLAIN --- each stand quite well independently, though they are best read together and in order. But it is ALL THE PRETTY HORSES that is, in many ways, the superior volume to its brothers in the trilogy and quite possibly to any other work written by an American writer in the 20th Century.

McCarthy's landscape is the southwest of Texas and Mexico between the two world wars, a time of uneasy transition, when horses and motor vehicles share the road and cattle ranches and cowboys are fading from the landscape. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old with a love for horses and a knowledge of them far beyond his years, senses on some level that the way of life he loves --- horses and cattle ranching --- is soon to come to an end. He and his best friend Lacey Rawlins run away to Mexico in search of unnamed fulfillment other than the promise of adventure. Their meeting with the enigmatic Jimmy Blevins is a pivotal event that leads Cole into a series of bittersweet and violent encounters in a land where the rules are unknown and constantly changing. When Cole and Rawlins separate from Blevins and obtain employment on a Mexican cattle ranch, it appears that they have achieved their idyllic dream. Their brief association with Blevins, however, collides with Cole's affair with Alejandra, the beautiful and willful daughter of the owner of the ranch. Cole and Blevins soon find themselves in a situation where neither hope nor mercy exist.

McCarthy's main theme in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is conflict --- man vs. woman, freedom vs. authority, rich vs. poor --- viewed through a clear glass with unblinking, unwavering vision and described with a poetic voice possibly unequaled in all of American fiction. Although the violence in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is sudden and uncompromising, it is never gratuitous. It is also balanced and contrasted by McCarthy's description of the blossoming and fulfillment of the romance between the star-crossed Alejandra and Cole, a description that leaves the reader hoping that it will succeed even as it is known, almost from their first encounter, that any relationship between them is predestined to fail.

Ultimately, however, what is most significant about ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is that McCarthy has transcended the constraints of literature and fashioned a work that functions on an aural and visual level as well as a literary one. It is on that basis that it is possibly the penultimate American work of art of its era. One cannot come away from reading ALL THE PRETTY HORSES without wondering if, at the end of time and all that is, one of the last sounds to be heard will be the turning of the final page of this wonderful, incredible novel.
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.
Situada en 1949, en las tierras fronterizas entre Texas y México, la historia se centra en el personaje de John Grady Cole, un muchacho de dieciséis años, hijo de padres separados que tras la muerte de su abuelo decide huir a México en compañía de su amigo Lacey para encontrarse con un mundo marcado por la dureza y la violencia. Una novela de aprendizaje con resonancias épicas que inaugura un paisaje moral y físico que nos remite a la última epopeya de nuestro tiempo. Un estilo seco para una historia de emociones fuertes, ásperas, primigenias.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCarthy, Cormacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giralt Gorina, PilarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirsch, FrançoisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hrách, TomášTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Legati, IgorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CajTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pàmies, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitt, BradNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaeffer, PatriciaTranslatorsecondary 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.
Scars have a strange power to remind us of our past.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Fiction. Literature. Western. HTML:NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER ? NATIONAL BESTSELLER ? The first volume in the Border Trilogy, from the Pulitzer Prize??winning author of The Road
All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for

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