Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review - All the Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy has fast become one of my favorite authors, and I'm in the process of acquiring/reading as many of his works as I can. Having heard that he had written a Western styled trilogy of books, I went to the library and rented all three. I'll be reviewing each independently and when I finish the trilogy I'll post a brief recap of the whole story.

Cormac McCarthys style is fashioned after the styles of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway (among others), with long sentences, plain descriptions, simple dialogue and a very un-stylized style. This can be somewhat of a turn off, as individual sentences can sometimes run to almost half a page. It's an interesting technique that does take a little getting used too. The lack of punctuation besides the occasional comma, periods and apostrophes is also interesting and really speeds up the reading. I never noticed before how much punctuation can slow you down when reading before reading McCarthy.

I don't like giving away stories and plots in my reviews, so there's no spoilers here. I will touch on a few key points though: firstly, McCarthy is master of dialogue and showing what really makes people tick inside through simple observation. He really and truly is a master at his craft. Simplicity in the modern world is an almost bygone quality, but McCarthy has it down like few others ever have. While not as heartbreaking as his most recent work The Road, lots of emotion can be felt through the sparse and sometimes harsh dialogue. There's also a good amount of philosophizing to be found here, in long and drawn out sentences. Some of it really struck a chord inside me, some of it seemed to be more or less rambling, but all of it at least sounds good. I don't mind rambling about nothing, so long as it is conveyed in an interesting way.

All the Pretty Horses isn't for the faint of heart, despite it's deceptive title. There is a lot of harsh violence depicted in this mid 1900s western novel, and the dialogue between the various thieves, killers, criminals and innocents can be as terse and harsh as the descriptions of the surrounding Mexico/Texas landscape. While nothing to grotesque, those put off by stark looks at violence should be warned.

In conclusion, All the Pretty Horses is another evocative novel from Cormac McCarthy. Bleak, brutal and sparse in every way, I loved this book and am eager to begin the next in the trilogy.

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