Book Report: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I finished it, so it couldn’t have been that bad. And yet…:

  1. For a book with a theme I identify with (i.e., people being born into lives not of their choosing and then having to deal with it), it seems like I should have liked it a lot better.
  2. The main character sucked. I mean, as a person. He made frequent bad decisions against advice he should have listened to, thus leading to detrimental situations for everyone around him — and was shameless (and condescending) in doing so.
  3. Which is problematic, because he was, as a result, very unsympathetic and the sparse setting and infrequent event doesn’t give you a lot else to care about.
  4. Everyone who comes to know him ends up worse off as a result. I’m not sure what the message there is. People who fight their fates really mess stuff up for everyone else?
  5. So many monologues.
  6. While it was probably very clever the first time someone submitted a punctuation-free manuscript, McCarthy’s insistence on doing so in everything he writes is just self-indulgent and makes the book harder to read (and is probably just a cynical branding function).
  7. It’s also hard to read paragraph after paragraph of dialogue in Spanish. I’m not sure how that was a good idea.
  8. The getaway/chase scene at the end was utterly unintelligible and did not seem predicated on any gun found on the mantelpiece in the first chapter.

McCarthy obviously likes main characters who, over the course of a novel, stubbornly insist on not learning anything. At least in No Country the sheriff seemed to undergo some sort of transformation even if the cowboy dude didn’t. In The Road, the father was clearly detrimentally self-focused, but that sure never changed even though there were plenty of opportunities for him to recognize his errors. From a perception of reality standpoint, I think McCarthy has a good point about an individual’s inability to adapt. From an enjoyment of reading standpoint: guh.

I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten 80-percent through with a book and then just not cared about the last 20%. I’m starting to wonder if McCarthy is overrated.


1 comment

  • Mr. Telkontar

    I thought the padre in The Camino (ok, the “Road”) was a representation of a man out of his depth trying to keep his kid alive and possible happy, like sharing a Coca Cola.
    How can you identify being born into a life you did not choose when there was extremely high demand to live in the same house that I was living in?
    I like the reference to Chekov.
    El Wifo worked with a descendant of E.E. Cummins — he insisted on writing his name all in lower case. He did not keep the job, but at least he was invited at one time to work at The Firm.
    Alas, not all books can match The Dark knight.