Friday, June 27, 2008

Review: All the Pretty Horses



All the Pretty Horses is the bastard offspring of a mating between Ernest Hemingway and Zane Gray, with some William Faulkner apparent in the DNA.
It was his horse. And it was a good horse. And he rode the horse. When it was night, he hobbled the horse by a stream and both boy and horse drank from the cold water of the stream . . . .
So, maybe that is not a direct quote, but it captures the essence.

Not that it is a bad book. There is plenty of exciting plot to keep it moving along, at least after the plodding first chapter. The story of John Grady Cole’s adventures in Mexico is riveting, involving vagabonds, a lovely senorita, her rich rancher father, Mexican prisons, murder, escape, and lots and lots of horses.

But the characters, with the exception of the fascinating aunt, are one-dimensional. Cole is a particularly wooden hero. It is apparent that McCarthy intended him as an archetype, but his approach of always doing the right thing, damn the consequences, becomes wearily repetitive. By the time he reaches his final soul-searching scene with a sympathetic judge back in Texas, he has become a stoic goody two shoes.

All the Pretty Horses won the National Book Award in 1992 and is the first of the three novels in McCarthy’s oft-praised “Border Trilogy,” followed by The Crossing and Cities of the Plain. Hopefully, the later books will keep the same spirit of adventure, but drop the Hemingway parody and add character development.

OTHER REVIEWS

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Summer Reading Lists: Why Bother?

OK, the Summer Reading List I started with has gotten all cattywhompus in less than a week, so I am starting over. This new list reflects that I finished several of the books on the first list, I added a couple of early review books that I had forgotten about, and I decided on an arbitrary method of selecting which books on my iPod to listen to next. Here is the latest version of my Summer Reading List, which is really just a list of the next 10 books I plan to read (subject to change at whim) in roughly the order of reading them: Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer (Which I am listening to now); Resistance Fighter by Jorgen Kieler (about the Danish resistance movement in WWII); Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (which I've been avoiding but the book club chose); The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy (next up on my iPod); America, America by Ethan Canin (one of the early review books I forgot about); The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie (which I have been carrying around in my car for emergencies); The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (also on my iPod); Abbeville by Jack Fuller (another for which I need to write a review); My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl (so I can completely finish his Omnibus); and The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (because I have never read it and so plan to listen to the audio version).


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