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The Cities of the Plain [Hardcover]

Cormac McCarthy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 19 1998 Border Trilogy
From the author of "All the Pretty Horses" and "The Crossing" comes the third part of Cormac McCarthy's "Border Trilogy". This book contains all the components of his two previous books and also joins together the heroes from the earlier works.

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"They stood in the doorway and stomped the rain from their boots and swung their hats and wiped the water from their faces. Out in the streets the rain slashed through the standing water driving the gaudy red and green colors of the neon signs to wander and seethe..." Thus begins Brad Pitt's throaty, near whispered telling of Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plain, the final installment of the Border Trilogy, which includes All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. Pitt captures the essence of young John Grady, a pensive cowboy and brilliant horseman working a ranch in southeastern Texas in the early 1950s. Pitt glides smoothly from one character to another with subtle changes in voice and accent (although you'd never peg him as a fluent Spanish speaker); his performance gives enough to understand the differences in personality without ever becoming cute or obnoxious.

On the ranch, John Grady joins up with Billy Parham, and the two form an abiding friendship. Though Parham is much more a realist, he finds himself drawn further into Grady's dreams, namely a beautiful teenaged Mexican whore whom John Grady is determined to release from bondage and to marry. Through physical injuries, personal trauma, and many dangerous trips across the Mexican border, the two young men struggle to do what they think will make things right. A full cast of cowboys, landowners, barkeeps, pimps, and desperate whores set the stage for the final curtain call on the American West. (running time 3 hours, 2 cassettes) --Colleen Preston --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This volume concludes McCarthy's Border Trilogy?the first two books being All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award in 1992, and The Crossing, published to great acclaim in '94. Devoted McCarthy readers will know not to expect any neat or dramatic resolution in Cities of the Plain, for the author is more of a poet than a novelist, more interested in wedding language to experience in successive moments than in building and setting afloat some narrative ark. Cities, like the other books, takes place sometime shortly after WWII along the Texas-Mexico border. John Grady Cole, the young, horse-savvy wanderer from All the Pretty Horses, and Billy Parham, who traveled in search of stolen horses with his younger brother in The Crossing, are now cowhands working outside El Paso. John Grady falls in love with Magdalena, a teenage prostitute working in Juarez, Mexico; determined to marry her, he runs afoul of her pimp, Eduardo. That is basically the narrative. Along the way, McCarthy treats the reader to the most fabulous descriptions of sunrises, sunsets, the ways of horses and wild dogs, how to patch an inner tube. The cowboys engage in almost mythically worldly-wise, laconic dialogues that are models of concision and logic. Although there is less of it here than in the earlier books, McCarthy does include a few of his familiar seers, old men and blind men who speak in prophetic voices. Their words serve as earnest if cryptic instructions to the younger lads and seem to unburden the novelist of his vision of America and its love affair with free will. If a philosophy of life were to be extracted from these tales, it would seem to be that we are fated to be whatever we are, that what we think are choices are really not; that betrayals of the heart are always avenged; and that following one's heart is a guarantee of nothing. There is not much solace in McCarthy-land; there is only the triumph of prose, endlessly renewed, forever in search of a closure it will not find save in silence. 200,000 first printing; BOMC alternate; simultaneous audio, read by Brad Pitt.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lordy, what beautiful writing March 10 2004
Format:Hardcover
Cities of the Plain is the last of a The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy. Everyone is probably familiar with All the Pretty Horses, so if you want to know what became of John Grady Cole, read this one. It picks up a few years after he left Mexico and his first love (if you don't count horses) behind and came back to the USA, where he works as a cowboy on a big ranch in a town across the border from Juarez. This time, he has the misfortune to fall in love with a beautiful young whore, and he determines to marry her.
John Grady's friend and mentor, Billy Parham (read The Crossing to learn his equally powerful story) tries to help him out - but to tell much more of this tale would be to tell too much.
Like in the other two books, McCarthy has a loooooooong passage of philosophy spoken as almost a monologue by some wise old dude. It's good stuff, but it's okay to skim through it if you're not in the mood for about 80 pages of a pretty good speech. It really has no bearing on the story; it's just McCarthy doing his thing.
I'd advise reading these books in the proper order; there's a pathos and continuity that can't be appreciated otherwise. However, they do read as complete within themselves, so, whatever. I flat out loved each one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Start Elsewhere Feb. 23 2004
Format:Paperback
sadly, "Cities of the Plain" disappoints in comparison with the first two volumes of the Border Trilogy. It is possible that I expected too much, but I think it is merely a less successful book. The story itself places Billy Parham and John Grady Cole, the protagonists in the previous books, together on a ranch in New Mexico in the 1940s. The setting has the same romantic feel of the other novels and there is good action throughout, but the story does not flow as well and it is less believable then the previous books. This edition relies on too many flashbacks, wasn't as well written and didn't add much to the series. I think it is important to read "Cities of the Plain" if you've read and enjoyed the rest of the trilogy, because the story really comes full circle here, but it is not a good starting point to become familiar with McCarthy. He has written much better material then this book and I hate to think of people thinking this is a good representation of his talent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another classic March 15 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
McCarthy brings together the protagonists from ATPH and The Crossing in a story that concludes the Border Trilogy. Among the book's themes: the passing of an era in the West. The book is everything CM fans have come to expect: a great story, amazing characters, wonderful use of the English language, and heartbreaking events.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why Billy? Why? Dec 25 2003
Format:Paperback
First: I read the Border Trilogy this week. I haven't read any other McCarthy literature. I was told that if I liked Larry McMurtry, Steinbeck, and Salinger then I would love McCarthy. The first thing I bought was The Crossing. Upon realizing it was part of a trilogy with All The Pretty Horses as the first installment, I was very disappointed. I had no intrest in a Hollywood western novel. But, I grudgingly purchased All The Pretty Horses and read it. (Have not watched movie). That said...
Cormac McCarthy far surpasses any living writer with which I have come in contact. If I had the masterful ability with language that he does, I could express that in a much more emphatic manner.
Any reviewer who complains about things such as puncuation, grammer, or spanish-I feel compelled to respond with this:
1. Would you prefer that all painters created exact duplicates of their subject matter? Are we not better, as a society and as a species, for taking our interpretations further and showing those things we are already intimate with in a fresh or different way? Would you say 'cubism', for instance, is too complicated for you?
2. Are you 25 years old or less? Do you have any true ability to surive in a harsh world without parental aide? The struggles depicted in this novel would, of course, be difficult to fathom in that scenario, especially when teamed with non-traditional grammar and punctuation and a lack of a personal translator.
3. If neither of the two applies to a negative reviewer, perhaps your solution would be ritalin. It is supposed to assist in 'focus'.
On to the review:
All the Pretty Horses is the 'prettiest' of the three. The least bleak, possesses the least darkness. John Grady Cole, loses what he allows himself to lose.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cities of the Plain Oct. 17 2003
By Marlena
Format:Paperback
This is by far the most emotionally engaging and thrilling book out of the border trilogy. The way that Cormac McCarthy can incorporate comedy, love, hate, and suspense all together in this book always left me wanting to read more. The friendship between Billy and John always warmed my heart with their jokes and the way that they will always be there for one another. This book jumps from emotion to emotion and has a unforgettable ending that will forever stay in my heart. The life lessons in this story have changed some of my perspectives on life and have touched me in ways I can not describe. This was an excellent end to the trilogy that no one should go without experiencing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars this book is awe-SOME Aug. 2 2003
Format:Paperback
I just finished the Border Trilogy. The books get better and better. Cities of the Plain was my favorite. It has the most action. I generally don't read the works of living writers. I find most modern subject matter socially and spiritually unredeeming. But McCarthy's stuff is all about society and spirit! Remember that part in The Crossing where he says that you have to live with men instead of merely passing among them? That was pretty cool.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Passing of the Cowboy of the America West
Two friends try to "hang on" to the passing age of cowboys in New Mexico. Modern days are fast approaching sending them to Mexico which still offers a taste of the Old... Read more
Published on May 31 2003 by Evelyn Horan
4.0 out of 5 stars Third-best book in the trilogy
CITIES OF THE PLAIN has the feeling of a third book, an add-on in many ways dissimilar from the first two books in the Border Trilogy. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2002 by J. Gifford
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts like a knife....
Reading Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plain cuts like a knife leaving a steadily flowing wound when one finishes reading this the last of his Border Trilogy. Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002 by booknblueslady
4.0 out of 5 stars The End of an Era
The third book of the Border Trilogy brings us to the cusp of an irrevocable loss -- of a way of life, of a landscape, of a dream of openness and freedom that is uniquely American. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2002 by Bruno J. Navarro
4.0 out of 5 stars Great end to a superb trilogy
A beautiful, desolate, and poignant finish to a fine trilogy of novels. Cities of the Plain would make a wonderful stand-alone book, but I highly recommend reading all three in... Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by MDP
4.0 out of 5 stars A Suprising, Wonderful Experience
Although I am not a fan of Western frontier stories, I found this book a fantastic experience. McCarthy's writing style and attention to detail places you on the Mexican ranch,... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2001 by Sahar Kianfar
4.0 out of 5 stars Campaign for Quotation Marks
I join with others in heaping accolades of affection on this book, even if it was following the pattern of the two earlier books in the trilogy. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2001 by David M. Brice
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