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Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy) [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Cormac McCarthy
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Feb 2001 The Border Trilogy (Book 3)
2 cassettes /  3 hours
Read by Brad Pitt
Abridgment approved by the author

In this final volume of The Border Trilogy, two men marked by the boyhood adventures of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing now stand together, in the still point between their vivid pasts and uncertain futures, to confront a country changing or already changed beyond recognition.

In the fall of 1952, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham--nine years apart in age, yet with a kinship greater than perhaps they know--are cowboys on a New Mexico ranch encroached upon from the north, at Alamogordo, by the military. To the south, always on the horizon are the mountains of Mexico, looming over El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and all the cities of the plain.
Bound by nature to horses and cattle and range, these two discover that ranchlife domesticity is compromised, for them and the men they work with, by a geometry of loss afflicting old and young alike, those who have survived it and anyone about to try. And what draws one of them across the border again and again, what would bind "those disparate but fragile worlds," is a girl seized by ill fortune, and a love as dangerous as it is inevitable.

This story of friendship and passion is enfolded in a narrative replete with character and place and event--a blind musician, a marauding pack of dogs, curio shops and ancient petroglyphs, a precocious shoe-shine boy, trail drives from the century before, midnight on the highway--and with landforms and wildlife and horses and men, most of all men and the women they love and mourn, men and their persistence and memories and dreams.

With the terrible beauty of Cities of the Plain--with its magisterial prose, humor both wry and out-right, fierce conviction and unwavering humanity--Cormac McCarthy has completed a landmark of our literature and times, an epic that reaches from tales of the old west, the world past, into the new millennium, the world to come.

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Random House US Audio; abridged edition edition (9 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679460500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679460503
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,082,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He later went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper. The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; McCarthy's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, McCarthy received a travelling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966 he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, McCarthy completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark. In 1967, McCarthy returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published in 1968, and McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press. In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. The Stonemason, a play that McCarthy had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing, was published with the third volume, Cities of the Plain, following in 1998. McCarthy's next novel, No Country for Old Men, was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago. McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, was published in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Product Description

Amazon Review

On a Texan ranch, soon after the second world war, a group of solitary, inarticulately lonely men gathers to work animals as the sun sets for good on the mythic American West. All of these men nurse losses both personal (siblings or wives) and collective (a shared lifestyle and philosophy). Among them is John Grady Cole, the adolescent hero of the first book in Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy, All the Pretty Horses. John Grady remains the magnificent horseman he always was, and he still dreams too much. On the ranch, he meets Billy Parham, whose own tragic sojourn through Mexico in The Crossing, the second book of the set, continues to quietly suffocate him. The two form a friendship that will nurture both but save neither from the destiny that McCarthy's characters always sense lurching to meet them.

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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 12 Mar 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I guess the greatest gift that I writer can give is a little of his own soul. All three books in "The Border Trilogy" give the reader such a profound feeling of having been written from the heart, that to finish each book is like parting with a friend, and the completion of the Trilogy is like bereavement. One of the aspects that make these books so affecting is that they concern ordinary people who try extraordinarily hard to do the right thing against the overwhelming opposition of landscape, history and the future as other, lesser people, see it. "Cities of the Plain" brings together the protagonists from the two earlier works and as friends they reprise the doomed enterprise of the earlier works. This revisiting by McCarthy of similar themes throughout the Trilogy serves to highlight his concept that we are all pawns in a bigger game but nonetheless we should endeavour to play to some higher rule in order that collectively we may amount to something better. If all this sounds rather grandiose, well, it is, and it matters. In a very different way Richard Ford illuminates a similar area in his Frank Bascombe books, but whereas Ford's characters are found in everyday settings, both McCarthy's settings and language are epic. I have read criticism that he goes too far with his archaic language and tumbling sentences. Well, he may do occasionally, but I would read McCarthy for the prose alone, and consider plot, characterisation etc a bonus. I can think only of Annie Proulx right now whose prose is such a delight for its own sake and both make much other good reading seem turgid in comparison. Harold Bloom states that we read to enrich our experience, our wisdom, our healing. This is true of literature of this calibre. Cities of the Plain is a fine conclusion to an ennobling reading experience. I anticipate that I will read this Trilogy many times.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating ending to an awesome trilogy 15 Dec 1998
By A Customer
A reviewer once said of McCarthy that he is "a nation unto himself". Truer words and all that.
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 23 days ago by Steven Hartley
5.0 out of 5 stars Cities of the Plain
A very good read, very unusual at that.
Published 1 month ago by Gerry
5.0 out of 5 stars Brill'
Great condition
Published 2 months ago by TJ MCGINN
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy reader!
Yes. Delivery, quality ... all was exactly like stated.. happy to shop here again.
Published 3 months ago by Sonja
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
An amazing trilogy, I've read the trio three times.
modern western of thought invoking quality.
Great descriptive passages. Must go to Mexico
Published 12 months ago by terence griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars Cities of the Plain
Characters featured in 'All the Pretty Horses' and 'The Crossing' come together to make an engrossing tale. Read more
Published 12 months ago by James P. Hendrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Read
McCarthy brings everything to life, I have never been there and probably never will, but I see the countryside and feel its emptiness and small kindnesses and daily struggle
Published 18 months ago by Clive
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book
This is a book that draws you in and holds your attention from cover to cover. I became so completely absorbed that I felt a distinct sense of loss when it came to an end. Read more
Published 19 months ago by J M R
5.0 out of 5 stars PEERLESS
As the final book of the trilogy, Cities of the Plain is perhaps slighter than the first two stories - but no less moving and tragic for that. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Scribbler
5.0 out of 5 stars Loyalty, courage, love and death in the American West
Frrom boyhood when I used to watch Westerns with my Dad on a 12" screen B&W TV I have been a lifelong aficionado of novels and films about the American West. Read more
Published 22 months ago by cimic
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