Cities of the Plain, Cormac McCarthy


“The man smiled at him a sly smile. As if they knew a secret between them, these two. Something of age and youth and their claims and the justice of those claims. And of their claims upon them. The world past, the world to come. Their common transciencies. Above all a knowing deep in the bone that beauty and loss are one.”

The Border Crossing trilogy is perfect and Cormac McCarthy is a genius. These statements are not hyperbole. Cities of the Plain is the final book in the trilogy (the first two are All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, which I just read). This book takes the protagonists from both of those books and puts them in the middle of a tangled love story set on the US/Mexico border in the 1950s. Because it is written by Cormac McCarthy, nobody is actually happy and nothing good happens, but it is beautiful to read while it breaks you into little pieces of your former self.

That’s the thing. McCarthy is essentially a poet. I find myself reading whole passages out loud, amazed by their cadences, while being drawn along on an incredible adventure. Most people who write this beautifully can’t tell a story (lookin’ at you, Ondaatje), but his stories are so deeply rooted in plot progression and character development that they basically don’t have flaws. The biggest flaw is how much they make you feel. I spent much of this book screaming internally at John Grady, knowing exactly where he was going to end up and hoping he wouldn’t end up there, and actually yelling at the book towards the end. It’s astounding. Cormac McCarthy is a reminder of how much is possible.

Books read: 19


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