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Cities of the Plain (Border Trilogy) Paperback – 3 Aug 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (3 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330390163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330390163
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,182,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


In a lovely and terrible landscape of natural beauty and impending loss we find John Grady; a young cowboy of the old school, trusted by men and horses, and a fragile young woman, whose salvation becomes his obsession . . . McCarthy makes the sweeping plains a miracle. (Scotsman)

Like the Western settings he captures to perfection, his work is both heart-wrenchingly beautiful and uncompromisingly brutal. (Express)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
Page 206: "the last time he was to see her was....." .... and that's the end of Cormac McCarthy for me. No need to torture myself reading the last x pages: I know what happens. I know, as in the first two novels - here's a writer who includes his own spoilers. So farewell to New / Mexico, whorehouses, horses, pithy cowboy dialogue and a side-order of the Cormac McCarthy Society translation of Spanish terms into English. And adios to an annoying and overrated writer.
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Format: Paperback
Mccarthy has created another masterpiece of modern American writing to add to his formidable works. The characters from the first two books in the "trllogy" take on the raw world of ranching on the mexican border and a fateful tale beyond normal imagination is played out in Mccarthy's inimitable technicolour of language.
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Format: Paperback
This is the third volume of the "Border Trilogy." The first two volume are All the Pretty Horses (Border Trilogy 1): 1/3 and The Crossing, both of which I have read and reviewed. The "border" is the Mexican-American one, in the area centering around El Paso, where Cormac McCarthy lived for a number of years. The author is reticent in giving interviews. What I'd love to know is what led this man, born in Rhode Island, and having spent some of his formative young adult years in Appalachia, to decide to move to El Paso, truly in the border zone, surrounded by bleak lands, as he notes in this novel. But even more so, I'd love to know what he did in order to learn so much about the ranching - horse culture of the American West that he could so vividly and authentically portray it in this trilogy.

McCarthy placed a couple very unlikely places on the "literary map," almost certainly the only author to do so. The Crossing commences in the "boot heel" of New Mexico, where very few, even New Mexicans, have been (including myself). His depiction of the land there makes it a "must see." (Much of the novel does unfold in Mexico, hence the title). And this, the last of the trilogy, is primarily set on a ranch near Orogrande, New Mexico, which is approximately 35 miles north of El Paso.
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