Tag : cormac-mccarthy

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.


Comments Cormac McCarthy Would Have Received If He Would Have Workshopped The Road

(Assuming he submitted it as an unpublished writer of course.)

  • How did the planet get like this? How long have they been walking? How old is the boy? How old is the man? Where are they exactly? Why is it always cold? How did they survive whatever happened? What are the bloodcults? (*They* sound interesting — you should write your story about them instead!) Who are these roving gangs? We need more back-story, otherwise this is way too confusing. You should try using more exposition if you don’t want to confuse people. No editor would ever buy a novel that confuses people like this one does.
  • Sometimes you wrote paragraphs about stuff that didn’t seem relevant to what was going on — you should get rid of those or else explain what they mean.
  • Once in a while you wrote some long run-on sentences that were really distracting. You should try breaking them up into smaller sentences.
  • I don’t even know the characters’ names!
  • Or what they look like!
  • I don’t like stories where the action all happens in dialog.
  • Your writing requires a lot of trust from the reader. You need to give stronger indications early on that let me know I can trust you.
  • The lack of punctuation and irregular capitalization was totally gimmicky. You should just use normal punctuation.
  • There wasn’t enough of a setting here. I never felt like I could see what was going on.
  • This world feels trite. I feel like I’ve read this before — a bunch of times.
  • The pace was too slow — you should pick it up by adding event.
  • My main concern was a lack of forward movement in the story. It was like it was a series of loosely connected vignettes.
  • I stopped at the part where you implied that the dog was killed because people shouldn’t mistreat animals. (I was okay with the cannibalism, just not when they killed the dog.)
  • Sometimes the dialog was confusing. If you added dialog tags, I’d know who was speaking; you should do that.
  • Some of the dialog was repetitive! I got really tired of having the kid say “okay”. You should change it up a little. Kids have bigger vocabularies than that!
  • I got tired of reading about those two characters. You need more characters to keep it interesting.
  • I’m not sure this is realistic enough. If the guy is sick or injured or starving, I don’t think he could possibly do all the things he did. You should do more research.
  • There are a lot of convenient plot points in the story, like every time they really need something, they *just happen* to find it. They need to earn everything.
  • This story is too cold and bleak and there’s not enough reason to hope. I don’t like that.
  • The POV shift was thoroughly annoying.
  • The tension in the story was great, but when they finally reached their objective, I wasn’t sure what was still on the table — only that there were still 50 or 60 pages left. I need something that gives me a stronger indication of what I’m still reading for and what the characters are trying to achieve; the ultimate aim that’s achieved seems oddly missing throughout most of the book. (<– This would’ve been my comment.)

I love the fact that this book exists, got published, got reviewed glowingly, and got read widely. Gives me hope for the future. A little bit.