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Paperback Cities of the Plain Book

ISBN: 0679747192

ISBN13: 9780679747192

Cities of the Plain

(Book #3 in the The Border Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

In this magnificent new novel, the National Book Award-winning author of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing fashions a darkly beautiful elegy for the American frontier. The setting is New Mexico in 1952, where John Grady Cole and Billy Parham are working as ranch hands. To the North lie the proving grounds of Alamogordo; to the South, the twin cities of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Their life is made up of trail drives and horse auctions and stories...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"One world that will never be...the world they dream of."

This final novel in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy of the southwest brings together the themes McCarthy has developed throughout the trilogy. In the first novel, All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy stresses the romanticism of John Grady Cole, who runs away to become a cowboy, suffers a heart-breaking loss at love, and returns, sadder and perhaps wiser, to find solace in the solitude of his work on the plains. Times are changing as the 20th century progresses, however, and the independent life of ranchers is threatened. In The Crossing, a far darker novel which takes place a few years later, Billy Parham, another young man, takes off with his brother, crossing the border into Mexico, to explore its older traditions and ways of life. Cities of the Plain, with Biblical suggestions in the title, brings young John Grady Cole and the older Billy Parham together, as they work on the McGovern ranch in Texas in the 1950s. The wilderness is disappearing, cities are encroaching, and an army base may take their land. Focusing less on the harshness of ranch life than in past novels, McCarthy here concentrates more on character, in this case, that of John Grady Cole, who falls in love with a prostitute from Juarez and wants to bring her across the border to his way of life. Billy Parham counsels him against marrying her, but John Grady is determined to wrest her away from Eduardo, her manager, and give her the peace that she has never known. Life is harsh, however, and outcomes are bleak for dreamers and altruists. John Grady soon finds himself engaged in a struggle with Eduardo which is vicious and unrelenting, a metaphorical struggle between honor and evil, and between civilized values and the "justice" of tooth and claw, hope and desperation, and acceptance of change and adherence to the past. McCarthy's gorgeous descriptions of this vanishing way of life on the ranch are as effective here as they are in the other novels in the trilogy, though they seem to be presented nostalgically. Times are changing, and the "old man," the ranch owner, is now becoming senile. Civilization is drawing closer, and John Grady, the cowboy, uses taxis instead of horses when he is in a hurry to travel. As McCarthy draws the reader into John Grady's story, the reader knows that the struggle between him and Eduardo is a mythic struggle, and s/he also knows what the likely outcome will be. The elegance with which the ending is drawn, however, gives both potency and poignancy to McCarthy's message. Mary Whipple

"One world that will never be...the world they dream of."

This final novel in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy of the southwest brings together the themes McCarthy has developed throughout the trilogy. In the first novel, All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy stresses the romanticism of John Grady Cole, who runs away to become a cowboy, suffers a heart-breaking loss at love, and returns, sadder and perhaps wiser, to find solace in the solitude of his work on the plains. Times are changing as the 20th century progresses, and the independent life of ranchers is threatened. In The Crossing, a far darker novel, Billy Parham, another young man, takes off with his brother, crossing the border into Mexico, to explore its older traditions and ways of life. Cities of the Plain, with Biblical suggestions in the title, brings young John Grady Cole and the older Billy Parham together, as they work on the McGovern ranch in Texas in the 1950s. The wilderness is disappearing, cities are encroaching, and an army base may take their land. Focusing less on the harshness of ranch life than in past novels, McCarthy here concentrates more on character, in this case, that of John Grady Cole, who falls in love with a prostitute from Juarez and wants to bring her across the border to his way of life. Billy Parham counsels him against marrying her, but John Grady is determined to wrest her away from Eduardo, her manager, and give her the peace that she has never known. Life is harsh, however, and outcomes are bleak for dreamers and altruists. John Grady soon finds himself engaged in a struggle with Eduardo which is vicious and unrelenting, a metaphorical struggle between honor and evil, and between civilized values and the "justice" of tooth and claw, hope and desperation, and acceptance of change and adherence to the past. McCarthy's gorgeous descriptions of this vanishing way of life on the ranch are as effective here as they are in the other novels in the trilogy, though they seem to be presented nostalgically. Times are changing, and the "old man," the ranch owner, is now becoming senile. Civilization is drawing closer, and John Grady, the cowboy, uses taxis instead of horses when he is in a hurry to travel. As McCarthy draws the reader into John Grady's story, the reader knows that the struggle between him and Eduardo is a mythic struggle, and s/he also knows what the likely outcome will be. The elegance with which the ending is drawn, however, gives both potency and poignancy to McCarthy's message. Mary Whipple

Why Billy? Why?

First: I read the Border Trilogy this week. I haven't read any other McCarthy literature. I was told that if I liked Larry McMurtry, Steinbeck, and Salinger then I would love McCarthy. The first thing I bought was The Crossing. Upon realizing it was part of a trilogy with All The Pretty Horses as the first installment, I was very disappointed. I had no intrest in a Hollywood western novel. But, I grudgingly purchased All The Pretty Horses and read it. (Have not watched movie). That said...Cormac McCarthy far surpasses any living writer with which I have come in contact. If I had the masterful ability with language that he does, I could express that in a much more emphatic manner.Any reviewer who complains about things such as puncuation, grammer, or spanish-I feel compelled to respond with this:1. Would you prefer that all painters created exact duplicates of their subject matter? Are we not better, as a society and as a species, for taking our interpretations further and showing those things we are already intimate with in a fresh or different way? Would you say 'cubism', for instance, is too complicated for you? 2. Are you 25 years old or less? Do you have any true ability to surive in a harsh world without parental aide? The struggles depicted in this novel would, of course, be difficult to fathom in that scenario, especially when teamed with non-traditional grammar and punctuation and a lack of a personal translator.3. If neither of the two applies to a negative reviewer, perhaps your solution would be ritalin. It is supposed to assist in 'focus'.On to the review:All the Pretty Horses is the 'prettiest' of the three. The least bleak, possesses the least darkness. John Grady Cole, loses what he allows himself to lose. He is afforded by McCarthy some level of self determination. He rarely states a prediction that does not become so. He never throws a rope without catching what he intends. Even in the darkest scenes, if John Grady fights for something, he seems to get it.The Crossing's main character was just the opposite. Billy Parnham will never get anything he for which he fights. He will always align himself most closely with a losing cause. It seems that he is completely asexual, and the closest bonds he forms almost always precede the demise of said character/animal.There is something striking in the fact that the moral stance, character, sense of justice are nearly identical for John and Billy. Yet John wins, and Billy loses. Repeatedly. Yet it is Billy who survives all contests, all tragedies, all of his closest bonds. Billy's 'heart' is never joined with any group or idea or convention larger than land and animals. At some points his 'heart' is rejected; but is his survival possibly attributed to his lack of truly 'giving' his 'heart' to any passionate cause? The passion Billy gives us in the final scene of The Crossing, the self-realization and anger and utter despairing are so exceedingly rare that yo

COMPLEXITY ROPED IN

It took a while to get around to this one. My experience with this writer has always been that you don't pick up one of his books purely for entertainment. In fact, the complexity of the telling and the tale in parts one and two of this trilogy approach Faulkner.I found CITIES, in terms of plot and style, to be less complex, more reader-friendly. However, even writing in this more traditional sense, McCarthy maintains the edge that sets him apart from most of his American contemporaries. The simplicity and poetry of the phrasing is still there, the marvelous descriptions, the dead perfect dialogue, still crisp and efficient. And even though you know what's going to happen if you've read the earlier works, you can't help but be tantalized and magnetized and pulled along. The suspense and style that Larry Brown emulates in his southern underbelly novels is raised a couple levels by the hand of this master writer. In creating this more readable conclusion to the Border Trilogy, McCarthy may have blown his chance at the Nobel (rumors of his shortlisting abound among the writers I've spoken to). But with CITIES, he allows us to go along for the ride with little more than a dusting off of that rusty Spanish.

Purpose and Identity

The last installment on the Border Trilogy proves to be well worth the wait. Although not McCarthy's best effort, any effort by McCarthy shines out like a lighthouse beacon over the dark waters of the standard fare of modern fiction (one shrinks from using the word literature for 99.9% of published fiction). McCarthy intertwines and concludes the tales of John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses and Billy Parham from The Crossing. A 20-year-old John Grady and a 28-year-old Billy Parham are working together on a ranch in New Mexico near El Paso in the early 1950s. In this tale, Billy becomes the everyman, doomed to walk the lands in search of the ever receding revelation which will give meaning to his life and healing to his pain, while Cole becomes the symbol for honor and redemption through deeds in a fallen (and still falling) world. All of the key elements of McCarthy's body of work are here - the quest, the violent nature of our race, the recurring nature of societies in an ancient land, our search for meaning in the seemingly arbitrary events of our lives, the pathos of our struggle against overwhelming fates. The epilogue is fifty years after the heroic Cole has done battle with the beast in his lair (there is something of the Norse myth about McCarthy - warriors in a recurring cycle of violence, Ragnarok when the gods and the forces of darkness annihilate each other at the end of all days) and has killed and been killed. (The best that can be hoped for in McCarthy's world is a hard fought draw in the unending battle with shadow forces.) A 78-year-old Billy, wandering his world aimlessly, homeless, waiting only for death, encounters a nameless stranger who is a shaman, a dream interpreter. The final scene is the summary statement of the Border Trilogy, and a defining moment in modern American literature. The basic questions of our existence - who are we and why are we here? - are answered in the only manner possible, with beauty and simplicity.
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