The completed trilogy emerges as a landmark in American literature Guardian
Soaked in storm-heavy atmosphere but brightened by the ranchers' easy camaraderie and gentle humour, Cities of the Plain surprises with its sweetness. The awkward doomed-romance plot at the centre of this tight, concise novel fails to convince, but, remarkably, does little to undercut the book's impact. What lingers here, and what matters, are the brooding, eerie portraits of the plains and the riders, glimpsed mostly alone but occasionally leaning together, who slip across them, over the horizon and into memory. -- Glen Hirshberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“…a masterpiece… McCarthy’s prose is so melodious that it demands to be read out aloud.”
Sunday Times 7/6/98
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.Read more ›
Anyone familiar with his work will already know that McCarthy is undoubtedly the USA's greatest living author. I certainly have not read one better.
Although Blood Meridian is probably his masterpiece and one of the great books of the 20th century, the Border Trilogy is right up there with it.
Pretty Horses was a fairly light-hearted undertaking compared to the second and third instalments. The Crossing was nothing short of devastating. That ending has to rank as one of the most desolate in the history of the written word.
Cities of the Plain isn't exactly a laugh a minute either. I can only guess at what ails Mr McCarthy but the man is not given to great outpourings of joy.
Apart from that, the master does not fail us when it comes to evoking the beautiful country in which he resides. Who needs westerns when you've got McCarthy? If the image of a man on a horse has any kind of resonance for you, then he's your man.
His understanding of the relationship between man and beast is profound. One gets the feeling that he is happier in the company of horses than men.
And his descriptions of the countryside are as vivid and enduring as any painting. If you've read the first two then you will of course want to read this one. Just be prepared for the culmination.
It's a harsh blow. As usual McCarthy pulls no punches. And his disgust at the trappings of "progress" is palpable in this outing.
I just hope that the man hasn't given up on us. His is a unique voice and we can ill afford to do without it. Muchas gracias, senor. Vaya con dios.