Tuesday, 14 December 2010

All The Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

I'm still quite new to McCarthy. I'm completely fascinated by his polyrhythmic prose, at once crystal clear and deliberately obtuse; completely fascinated by it, I am, but I'm not completely sure I like it. And even if I did like it, I wouldn't like it, I'd love it.

I guess I must love it. It certainly compels me. All The Pretty Horses, for instance, is the first book of a trilogy. The question of whether I would get hold of the others at some point has never come up. Of course I will.

I love John Grady Cole's taciturnity, and the little gaps between that cowboy front and the young boy behind it. They're hard to spot, those gaps, because the novel is unflichingly distant from its hero. What makes Cole so intriguing is that we never see inside his head. That's not unusual, but add to that the hero's youth and inexperience and the eye-opening shitfest he rides into, and you've got something. There's a whole novel here that isn't even written. A whole tumultous storm going on under the surface that we only see second-hand, shadows and winds, in the book.

The prose is distant, but not spare. The impression I get is that his earlier stuff is fuller, and if that's the case, I might struggle with them, but All The Pretty Horses is pitched in my reach. I love the beating horse heart that makes each sentence roll into the next, and I especially love the calm intervals between it: the dialogue.

Some of that dialogue is Spanish, though. Every now and then it's made clear what the gist of those conversations were, but mostly not. Is McCarthy writing for an audience who mostly know Spanish, like a British author would use O-level French twenty years ago? Or is this the most extreme example of McCarthy happily muddying his picture?

I don't know. I'd believe either. Reading All The Pretty Horses never felt like less than reading a book from another world entirely. Maybe in that world, everyone knows Spanish. Maybe that world doesn't really exist. 

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