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All the Pretty Horses [Paperback]

Cormac McCarthy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Amazon

Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This is a novel so exuberant in its prose, so offbeat in its setting and so mordant and profound in its deliberations that one searches in vain for comparisons in American literature. None of McCarthy's previous works, not even the award-winning The Orchard Keeper (1965) or the much-admired Blood Meridian (1985), quite prepares the reader for the singular achievement of this first installment in the projected Border Trilogy. John Grady Cole is a 16-year-old boy who leaves his Texas home when his grandfather dies. With his parents already split up and his mother working in theater out of town, there is no longer reason for him to stay. He and his friend Lacey Rawlins ride their horses south into Mexico; they are joined by another boy, the mysterious Jimmy Blevins, a 14-year-old sharpshooter. Although the year is 1948, the landscape--at some moments parched and unforgiving, at others verdant and gentled by rain--seems out of time, somewhere before history or after it. These likable boys affect the cowboy's taciturnity--they roll cigarettes and say what they mean--and yet amongst themselves are given to terse, comic exchanges about life and death. In McCarthy's unblinking imagination the boys suffer truly harrowing encounters with corrupt Mexican officials, enigmatic bandits and a desert weather that roils like an angry god. Though some readers may grow impatient with the wild prairie rhythms of McCarthy's language, others will find his voice completely transporting. In what is perhaps the book's most spectacular feat, horses and men are joined in a philosophical union made manifest in the muscular pulse of the prose and the brute dignity of the characters. "What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them," the narrator says of John Grady. As a bonus, Grady endures a tragic love affair with the daughter of a rich Spanish Hacendado , a romance, one hopes, to be resumed later in the trilogy.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Set in the southwest, McCarthy's sixth novel is the first volume of "The Border Trilogy." With the death of his grandfather, John Grady Cole must find his own way in life and come to terms with his manhood. In evocative language, McCarthy recounts John Grady's adventures in discovering the world: its cruelties, its kindnesses, and its justice. With its strong masculine point of view, lyric language, and thematic interplay of honor and survival, the story is often reminiscent of Hemingway. The reader may be put off by the unconventional punctuation (McCarthy eschews apostrophes and quotation marks for direct dialog), and the plot is occasionally confused by imprecise character identification. And, in the literary tradition, McCarthy expects us to be bilingual or come prepared with our Spanish dictionaries. For literary collections.
- Linda L. Rome, Middlefield P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

McCarthy's work (Blood Meridian, 1985, etc.) is essentially about fatality: grotesque human acts that lack self-direction, that seem to be playing out a design otherwise established. In his more gothic early works, this fatality had a hanging-moss quality that seemed to brush your face invisibly but chillingly as you worked your way through his books. More recently, ever since McCarthy turned into a high-class cowboy novelist, the fatality is, understandably, more spread out--punctured by boredom and ennui and long, lonesome plains. Here, John Cole Grady is a 1930's East Texas teenager, abandoned by his parents' troubles, who sets out with his pal Rawlins to ride across the border to Mexico. Along the way, they pick up an urchin named Blevins and arrive finally at a hacienda, where they're hired to break horses. Grady falls in love with the owner's beautiful daughter--a disaster that leads in succession to arrest and Mexican jail and murder in self-defense. But this clich‚-d plot is not, of course, what one reads a McCarthy novel for. McCarthy is one of the most determined art- prose writers around; and his clean, laconic dialogue is pillowed everywhere with huge gales of imperial style: ``While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who's will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who's will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations and of who's will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves...''--and this is just half of the one sentence: no horse would ever move if it had to parse that out first. Like the late D.H. Lawrence at his worst and most pretentious, all blood-voodoo and animistic design, McCarthy makes an awfully unconvincing lot of a little here. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Rambunctious, high-spirited...All the Pretty Horses is a true American original." --Newsweek


From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

When I first joined the Audio division two years ago, the first two AudioBooks I listed to were All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing.  There were two reasons behind this selection - 1) Cormac McCarthy's prose  2) Brad Pitt's voice.

Brad Pitt has a voice that melts ice.  Smooth and with a tinge of Texas makes Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy come alive.  Bitter, sad, angry, hopeful - these are truly stories well told, and well told out loud.
-Carrie, Random House AudioBooks Publicity --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Rambunctious, high-spirited...All the Pretty Horses is a true American original." --Newsweek


From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Cormac McCarthy received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award for All The Pretty Horses. The Crossing and Cities of the Plain are also available from Random House AudioBooks and read by Brad Pitt. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboards creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttered candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.

It was dark outside and cold and no wind. In the distance a calf bawled. He stood with his hat in his hand. You never combed your hair that way in your life, he said.

Inside the house there was no sound save the ticking of the mantel clock in the front room. He went out and shut the door.

Dark and cold and no wind and a thin gray reef beginning along the eastern rim of the world. He walked out on the prairie and stood holding his hat like some supplicant to the darkness over them all and he stood there for a long time.

As he turned to go he heard the train. He stopped and waited for it. He could feel it under his feet. It came boring out of the east like some ribald satellite of the coming sun howling and bellowing in the distance and the long light of the headlamp running through the tangled mesquite brakes and creating out of the night the endless fenceline down the dead straight right of way and sucking it back again wire and post mile on mile into the darkness after where the boilersmoke disbanded slowly along the faint new horizon and the sound came lagging and he stood still holding his hat in his hands in the passing groundshudder watching it till it was gone. Then he turned and went back to the house.

She looked up from the stove when he came in and looked him up and down in his suit. Buenos días, guapo, she said.

He hung the hat on a peg by the door among slickers and blanketcoats and odd pieces of tack and came to the stove and got his coffee and took it to the table. She opened the oven and drew out a pan of sweetrolls she'd made and put one on a plate and brought it over and set it in front of him together with a knife for the butter and she touched the back of his head with her hand before she returned to the stove.

I appreciate you lightin the candle, he said.

Cómo?

La candela. La vela.

No fui yo, she said.

La señora?

Claro.

Ya se levantó?

Antes que yo.

He drank the coffee. It was just grainy light outside and Arturo was coming up toward the house.


He saw his father at the funeral. Standing by himself across the little gravel path near the fence. Once he went out to the street to his car. Then he came back. A norther had blown in about midmorning and there were spits of snow in the air with blowing dust and the women sat holding on to their hats. They'd put an awning up over the gravesite but the weather was all sideways and it did no good. The canvas rattled and flapped and the preacher's words were lost in the wind. When it was over and the mourners rose to go the canvas chairs they'd been sitting on raced away tumbling among the tombstones.

In the evening he saddled his horse and rode out west from the house. The wind was much abated and it was very cold and the sun sat blood red and elliptic under the reefs of bloodred cloud before him. He rode where he would always choose to ride, out where the western fork of the old Comanche road coming down out of the Kiowa country to the north passed through the westernmost section of the ranch and you could see the faint trace of it bearing south over the low prairie that lay between the north and middle forks of the Concho River. At the hour he'd always choose when the shadows were long and the ancient road was shaped before him in the rose and canted light like a dream of the past where the painted ponies and the riders of that lost nation came down out of the north with their faces chalked and their long hair plaited and each armed for war which was their life and the women and children and women with children at their breasts all of them pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only. When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses' hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues aloll and footslaves following half naked and sorely burdened an above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across that mineral waste to darkness bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives.

He rode with the sun coppering his face and the red wind blowing out of the west. He turned south along the old war trail and he rode out to the crest of a low rise and dismounted and dropped the reins and walked out and stood like a man come to the end of something.

There was an old horseskull in the brush and he squatted and picked it up and turned it in his hands. Frail and brittle. Bleached paper white. He squatted in the long light holding it, the comicbook teeth loose in their sockets. The joints in the cranium like a ragged welding of the bone plates. The muted run of sand in the brainbox when he turned it.

What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenthearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise.

He rode back in the dark. The horse quickened its step. The last of the day's light fanned slowly upon the plain behind him and withdrew again down the edges of the world in a cooling blue of shadow and dusk and chill and a few last chitterings of birds sequestered in the dark and wiry brush. He crossed the old trace again and he must turn the pony up onto the plain and homeward but the warriors would ride on in that darkness they'd become, rattling past with their stone-age tools of war in default of all substance and singing softly in blood and longing south across the plains to Mexico.


The house was built in eighteen seventy-two. Seventy-seven years later his grandfather was still the first man to die in it. What others had lain in state in that hallway had been carried there on a gate or wrapped in a wagonsheet or delivered crated up in a raw pineboard box with a teamster standing at the door with a bill of lading. The ones that came at all. For the most part they were dead by rumor. A yellowed scrap of newsprint. A letter. A telegram. The original ranch was twenty-three hundred acres out of the old Meusebach survey of the Fisher-Miller grant, the original house a oneroom hovel of sticks and wattle. That was in eighteen sixty-six. In that same year the first cattle were driven through what was still Bexar County and across the north end of the ranch and on to Fort Sumner and Denver. Five years later his great-grandfather sent six hundred steers over that same trail and with the money he built the house and by then the ranch was already eighteen thousand acres. In eighteen eighty-three they ran the first barbed wire. By eighty-six the buffalo were gone. That same winter a bad die-up. In eighty-nine Fort Concho was disbanded.

His grandfather was the oldest of eight boys and the only one to live past the age of twenty-five. They were drowned, shot, kicked by horses. They perished in fires. They seemed to fear only dying in bed. The last two were killed in Puerto Rico in eighteen ninety-eight and in that year he married and brought his bride home to the ranch and he must have walked out and stood looking at his holdings and reflected long upon the ways of God and the laws of primogeniture. Twelve years later when his wife was carried off in the influenza epidemic they still had no children. A year later he married his dead wife's older sister and a year after this the boy's mother was born and that was all the borning that there was. The Grady name was buried with that old man the day the norther blew the lawnchairs over the dead cemetery grass. The boy's name was Cole. John Grady Cole.


He met his father in the lobby of the St Angelus and they walked up Chadbourne Street to the Eagle Cafe and sat in a booth at the back. Some at the tables stopped talking when they came in. A few men nodded to his father and one said his name.

The waitress called everybody doll. She took their order and flirted with him. His father took out his cigarettes and lit one and put the pack on the table and put his Third Infantry Zippo lighter on top of it and leaned back and smoked and looked at him. He told him his uncle Ed Alison had gone up to the preacher after the funeral was said and shook his hand, the two of them standing there holding onto their hats and leaning thirty degrees into the wind like vaudeville comics while the canvas flapped and raged about them and the funeral attendants raced over the grounds after the lawnchairs, and he'd leaned into the preacher's face and screamed at him that it was a good thing they'd held the burial that morning because the way it was making up this thing could turn off into a real blow before the day was out.

His father laughed silently. Then he fell to coughing. He took a drink of water and sat smoking and shaking his head.

Buddy when he come back from up in the panhandle told me one time it quit blowin up there and all the chickens fell over.

The ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

In this lyrical, coming-of-age story set in the forties, a young man rides to Mexico from Texas to find work with cattle and horses. Haunting music introduces each cassette and provides background for Brad Pitt's dramatic narration. His even cadence and soft, Southern drawl match the setting. Pitt is especially talented in dialogue, and John Grady Cole and all the people he encounters vividly come alive. Although the presentation begins slowly, Pitt's wonderful narrative style captures the tone and emotion of the author's words and moves the audience along to the story's sad conclusion. A powerful presentation. A.A.B. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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