Friday, March 27, 2009

The Border Trilogy

I just finished Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. The three books are: The Crossing, All The Pretty Horses and Cities of The Plains. McCarthy is an astonshing writer, poetic, complex and a hell of a story teller. The stories are set in New Mexico, Texas and Mexico between the years 1939(or so) and 1950. The first two involve adolescent boys taking off for parts unknown in Mexico. They involve horses, wolves, cattle and all manner of humans. The boys travel, work, undertake quests, endure grueling hardships and do their best to live up to the standards they have they have chosen. The third book involves two of the boys after they return to the States and work together on a small ranch in Texas. Billy and John Grady have become close friends although they differ in age by some eight years. In fact Billy is now 28 years old. We find out what they have learned, or failed to learn from their earlier oddysies.

McCarthy is known for his grim and graphic violence, and there is violence in these books, to be sure. He does, however, use violence quite judiciously compared to the horrifying Blood Meridian, another novel set in Texas but in the 1840's.
McCarthy uses embedded stories to pursue philisophical speculations and he does a masterful job with these. In The Crossing he has an elderly Mexican give the most intriguing description of blindness I have ever read as he is telling young Billy Parham his story. It is the only thing I have ever read that actually helped me to have some grasp of the experience of blindness. The epilogue in Cities of The Plain is an embedded story told as an extended and fantastically exotic dream.
If you enjoy good stories beautifully told that also stimulate your mind , you would do well to read these books. Start with The Crossing and you will be hard pressed to stop until you have read all three.

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