Cormac McCarthy, Vintage Books, 1993.
This is one of those books that I’d had recommended by numerous people numerous times. The description of the story didn’t strike any chord with me. Then Peter read an excerpt at a Meander, and I was intrigued. I resolved to read it. And time passed.
Well, then I read it.
All The Pretty Horses‘ plot is not exceptional. In terms of structure, it’s a love story, a western, a coming-of-age story. The text lacks quotation marks, which can be challenging. And there is a fair amount of vocabulary in Spanish. So much for the mechanics.
The writing is paradoxical throughout. It’s simultaneously simple vernacular and spectacular, soaring literary magic. Nearly every paragraph contains a revelatory sentence that exposes an underlying truth about people or about the world that we barely even suspected — and yet, once revealed, we know to be absolutely correct. The descriptions of a sunset may evoke a place that we have never seen, and yet we immediately know it. A phrase in a conversation will be one we’ve never heard before, but will be intimately familiar. The story unfolds slowly, but also in a strange breathless rush.
It’s a fantastic book.