All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy (1992)

9/10

My appreciation of Cormac McCarthy was on the ropes in the later rounds of a long match. It had lost the upper hand in a battle against my impatience and annoyance.

After coming out strong with a KO in the opening rounds (via a country road uppercut for old men that very nearly won the match) it had stumbled badly in the middle rounds beginning with some dark footwork at the outer edge of the ring and then some childish, ungodly hijinks that left it bloody at the meridian of the arena. It was down for the count — McCarthy got kicked off the “favorite authors” list.

But then, almost miraculously, it hopped back up as if dragged by horses, pretty tired still but ready to go all out. It jabbed with its typically beautiful dialogue and hooked with that familiar southern authenticity. The body blows made a huge impact as it pummelled away using a surprising blend of cultural sensitivity and critique. Then another KO with two beautiful uppercuts, one with an atypically beautiful arc and the other leaving the initials JGC imprinted on my annoyance’s forehead. That would stick for awhile!

But my appreciation isn’t out of the woods yet. Were those uppercuts — that round — all it had left? It’ll need to reach deep down, maybe crossing itself for luck, if it wants to hold my annoyance at bay. It’ll have to restrain itself from overpunching, from getting too fancy with its footwork, from describing circles around the ring without going anywhere. Even in that glorious last round it tended to see red far too often while looking toward the sky. Nope, it’ll need good old plain punching with its trademark jabs, hooks and another key uppercut or two. If it wants to make it to the big cities, that is.

So will it be able to get McCarthy back on the favorite authors list? It’ll be a long match, that’s for sure, but it’s looking rejuvenated. Then again, the judges are notoriously fickle. . .

For more info. . .

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