Wednesday, May 02, 2007

back into the wind

cities of the plain
-cormac mccarthy

i have no way of properly addressing this book's significance and compositional style. everything i write reminds me of how little pertinent knowledge of american literature i have attained. i can't possibly see why people would prefer all the pretty horses, unless it is simply because they read it first.

there is a passage in this book, perhaps around page 207 or 209, that was the most incredible i have encountered in some time. perhaps it was the right mood for that day, that evening, that moment. i could re-read it, and i doubt i would feel at all the same. reading many other passages, i could only think how much i must be missing and how i would have a lot to gain from re-reading cities of the plain. overall, the novel was a relief after the heartbreaking depravity of blood meridian. i had to give up on mccarthy for a while after that one. my leap of faith in re-dedicating myself to exploration of his oeuvre was richly rewarded.

cities of the plain is a sequel to both all the pretty horses and the crossing. those familiar with mccarthy's style and anyone who champions authorial freedom will be glad to hear he wastes not a word preparing us for the union between these two worlds. as we find the protagonists from the previous two works of this trilogy united, we hear next to nothing of the time since those works concluded. mccarthy's narrator describes the action. characters are not introduced; they simply appear. you have to make inferences about who they are based on the dialogue. the narrator has no greater inclination to describe individuals withing the story than the laconic cowboy heroes of these tales. mccarthy manages to transcend these self-imposed limitations through the use of alternate narrators, ancient hermits encountered by his characters. their stories are vivid, philosophical, and grandiose. these are the passages that most often defy my attempts at full comprehension of mccarthy's message.

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