All the Pretty Horses: Book Review

I just finished All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.  My reading overlapped significantly with our reading of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and there were some noteworthy parallels between the two books, not just in writing style, but with theme, tone, imagery, and countryside.

And, of course, horses.

The characters were different, less purely evil, violent, or amoral.  But there were definite similarities.  I think a very interesting thesis could be written comparing and contrasting the themes and styles of the two books (I would someday like to come back and complete my portion of the close chapter-by-chapter analysis of Blood Meridian.  Unfortunately, at least for now, that is a too taxing and time-consuming task).

I saw the movie adaptation of All the Pretty Horses back in college, and liked it very much.  But in retrospect, even at the time, even without reading the book, I knew it was too cutesie and Hollywood-ized and happily-ever-after.  McCarthy has a very different approach to friendship and fate and romance and human nature.  I find his outlook both truer and less hopeful.  Not exactly encouraging, but not exactly unrealistic.

Things come full circle, making for a “good” story, but not comfortably, expectedly, or happily.

McCarthy sees the world, like the actual, physical earth, more tangibly and closely than I do.  I appreciate it though, and long for such a grounded, appreciative relationship.

He understands an aspect of humanity I am not as familiar with, a darker, less pleasant side.  He explores uncomfortable shades of grey.

A large percentage, probably close to 25%, of the dialogue in the book is in Spanish, so if you don’t “habla” (and I am certainly not fluent), that may prove a struggle.  But I would recommend it.  The beauty was still there, mesmerizing, but grounded.  It’s not surprising that Hollywood had to “happy” it up for Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz’s portrayal.  This would probably prove true for any movie adaptation of a McCarthy work.  Not the most digestible or settling stuff I have ever read, but worth the stretch, and very invigorating, intellectually and emotionally.

I am glad to have discovered him.



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