by Cormac McCarthy (1994)
This one is simultaneously more of the same and different, and oddly weaker than the first novel for both of these antagonistic reasons.
It’s more of the same because you have another gruff, silent, tough cowboy as a hero, one who’s more or less interchangeable with John Grady Cole from Pretty Horses. You have him misadventuring throughout Mexico, getting into and out of trouble, and ending up in the same place as JGC: alone and crying after getting back “home.” You have McCarthy’s increasingly annoying habit of starting sentence fragments with “As if” and his bizarre addiction to the word “chittering.”
It’s different because it’s longer, less interesting and more meditative, really as much meditation as it is novel. I can do a 2-300 page meditation but four hundred plus pages exceeds my patience. McCarthy’s nihilistic theme also wore on me.
There are several moments of beauty and satisfying insights, mostly when Billy Parham is speaking to random, improbably wise peasants who are improbably eager to impart their improbable wisdom. These isolated moments were unfortunately much further between than in the first of the trilogy.
Overall this takes a significant step back from the first book. In my horribly tortured metaphor of a review I recounted how Horses had rescued my respect for McCarthy after stumbling through Outer Dark, Child of God, and Blood Meridian.
This one is not as resounding a success nor yet does it approach the bleak nastiness of those three earlier novels. Much of my opinion will hinge on how well Cities of the Plain wraps up the trilogy.