National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 1993
All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of the Borders Trilogy, tells of young John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of Texas ranchers. Across the border Mexico beckons; beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. With two companions, he sets off on an idyllic, sometimes comic adventure, to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.
©1992 Cormac McCarthy; (P)1992 Recorded Books, Inc., ©2000 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"This unabridged version is one of the best recorded books to date, for Frank Muller's narration is such a perfect model of balance and control that it deserves an award in itself." (Library Journal)
"McCarthy puts most other American writers to shame. [His] work itself repays the tight focus of his attention with its finely wrought craftsmanship and its ferocious energy." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Muller's straightforward, unembellished reading suits the spare drama of McCarthy's acclaimed novel....Muller's accent in conveying Mexican voices is as convincing and unforced as his others, and he evokes equally well a distinctive personality for each character." (Publishers Weekly)
This book glows with the power that any real work of art possesses; it is not so easy to explain where it comes from, but you can feel the heat. Three teenaged riders flee the US for Mexico, each with his own reasons, and encounter a radically different culture. They discover alien savagery and beauty and risk their own destruction.
The narration is from super-reader Frank Muller, and it surpasses even his superb reading of Moby Dick. The book bears relistening very well, as I discovered as I rewound to nail down details that I missed on my first time through. I found the beginning difficult to follow at first, but it soon became crystal clear. The novel is a dark and grey and magnificent classic; I'm glad that this spoken-word edition helped me find my way into this essential work, which is part of a trilogy. I hope that the other two works become available on Audible soon.
This book is fantastic, and is read to wonderful effect. It's one of my favorite books, and audiobooks, so far. However, to achieve the effect, the narrator reads in a somewhat silent, breathy voice. I found I couldn't listen to this on my commute (all interstate at highway speed) because of road noise--I had to turn it up so loud it was painful. I'd advise not planning to listen to this in a car unless you're not on the highway or you've got a pretty silent car.
Before you listen to this book, you should understand what it is-- and more importantly what it is not. This book is not a western in the traditional sense, although it takes place in the American West as well as in Mexico. And this book is certainly not a bestseller in the popular, mass-produced, summer-blockbuster, movie-novelization sense, although it was a commercial success (Cormac McCathy's first commercial success, though his sixth novel).
Instead, this is a remarkable work of literature (it won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award) written by a brilliant author.
This is a book for people who love language and for people who like to think. This is not a book for children or for childish adults. It is a book that is both horrifyingly beautiful and seductively horrible. It is not a book for either the fainthearted or faintminded.
This is a book that rewards the reader. I have read it four times and listened to it twice. And each time, I come away from the experience with something new, something meaningful, and something to enrich the soul.
And THAT, after all, is what literature is all about.
There are a number of people who find Cormac McCarthy too violent for their tastes. It's too bad for them, IMHO, because they miss out on masterpieces like these. The plot grabs you very quickly and holds on tight. John Grady Cole, a sixteen-year-old Texan, is forced off his family's ranch due to his mother's disinterest in finances. She eventually finds her way to the stage, where she acts very small roles. John Grady leaves his hometown with his best friend Easy Rawlins, and they ride south into Mexico. I couldn't possibly give you a fair taste of the plot, but trust me. Cormac McCarthy has been called one of our finest writers, and this is perhaps his finest book. It actually is the first part of a three-book series called the Border Trilogy. McCarthy follows John Grady and Rawlins through several years of their lives, beginning with John Grady leaving home and then riding around Mexico without any direct purpose but with a taste for adventure, the need to see what is over the next mountain, and the bittersweet experience of falling in love. Along the way we meet a large cast of characters, every single one of them described so perfectly that we remember them for years. John Grady falls in love with a young woman who is the daughter of a very wealthy man. The romance is scandalous, as John Grady is light-years beneath the social status of her family. The father likes John Grady, respects him for his skills and his independence and his extraordinary knowledge of horses. However, once the man discovers that John Grady has fallen in love with his daughter, he sends her off to Mexico City, where his wife dominates the social scene; he then sends John Grady to prison, despite the fact that the young man has become his trusted foreman on the ranch. There is no real charge against him, but John Grady and Rawlins find themselves in a truly horrific prison. This is the section where the faint of heart might be stretched to their personal limits. Several thugs are hired to kill John Grady, and they make very serious attempts on his life. We meet the inmate boss of the prison, and learn of the brutal authority structure within the prison. John Grady and Rawlins find themselves in the prison infirmary, from which they are mysteriously rescued. On the streets again, John Grady is determined to find the young woman, and he does. These scenes are achingly romantic, even though we know that they will end badly for him. Nonetheless, they spend two days in a lovely small Mexican town, which is made incredibly beautiful and emotionally warm through the skills of the author. If you want to hear more of the story, it awaits you in the book. You will love it.
The readers who follow me know how I feel about Frank Muller. He was the greatest narrator who ever lived, and this book is one of his finest achievements. I have listened to this about four or five times, and I will continue to do so for years to come. His feeling for the ambience of the West is remarkable. He speaks slowly, with a perfect Texan accent. He voices all of the characters in such a masterly way that it is really hard to believe that he can call up all those voices whenever he needs them. You have to listen to him in order to appreciate the breadth of his skills. He died about ten years ago, and it was a tremendous loss. Stephen King once said that he wrote for Frank's voice. If you are interested, another Frank Muller masterpiece is John Grisham's "The Testament." A completely different book, but just as powerful a story, again told by the greatest story teller we have ever known.
After reading all of McCarthy's novels and viewing the film, I must say this audible book is the rendition I enjoyed the most. Lets have more of McCarthy narrated by Frank Muller. The Crossing would be an excellent listen.
This story is captivating and believeable. It is a tall tale about three Texan teens on a rideabout in Northern Mexico. Two of the three, Cole and Blevins, have unique, almost superhuman capabilities. Cole, who is the principled, taciturn protagonist, is extremely gifted with horses. Blevins is a gifted marksman. The third musketeer is Rollins, who is decidedly more normal. Blevins' actions regarding a horse are the fulcrum for the story which drive the characters to flee deeper into Mexico as fugitives. It is great tale of comradeship, horsemanship, revenge, justice and learning to love. The prose is brilliant at times. The narrator is pitch perfect. At the conclusion of the story we realize that our protagonist has grown through the adventures to become a scarred man of some spiritual substance. The spiritual substance is not intellectual, but has been distilled from the big Western horizons, the intrinsic goodness of horses and the complexity and creulty of men and women. It is my first Cormac McCarthy book and definitely not my last.
This is a great story, I loved every minute of it and was always kept on my toes, not knowing where the next chapter would lead to or how this book would end. Cormac McCarthy is a very talented writer and I will be looking for more stories from him. Frank Muller is very easy to listen to and was a perfect choice for this book.
Like many one- and two-star print reviewers on amazon or goodreads, I never could get into reading McCarthy because of his minimalist punctuation and his polysyndetic syntax, producing seemingly never-ending sentences. I don't know whether McCarthy intended for it to seem biblical, but I couldn't stand reading it. On the other hand, Frank Muller's fabulous narration is a pleasure to the ear. His rendition of dialect and Spanish is amazing, giving each character has a distinct voice. To succeed, he must also be like an editor who parses the writing to give it the correct pace and voice, supplying all the missing commas and quotation marks. Six stars all around.
The writing is classic prose, sure and profound, and the story addresses the deepest emotions of love and death. I recognize the inherent nostalgia for a simpler time and place. There are some conceits that are a little hard to describe without spoiling the story, so I won't go into detail. One is Dueña Alfonsa's self-assured, lengthy monologue about her life and the history of Mexico, which strikes me as out of place in context. Another is John Grady's conversation with the judge at his home, which seems out of character. His self-expressed motivation rings hollow--as the judge suggests, only Jesus himself could be that ethical.
The story balances coming-of-age romanticism and social Darwinism, all rolled up into a coherent whole. To me, the conclusion is fitting and realistic, but I have not yet read the rest of the trilogy.
The book is a fine piece of literature that could never be faithfully transformed into a movie. In 2000, Billy Bob Thornton directed Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz in the lead roles and, by most accounts, failed. If they did not succeed, I doubt even the Coen brothers could.
There are very few books that are of this caliber. I Love this author and the narrator. It is a perfect combination of style and form. I can't recommend it enough.
WOW! This book is absolutely deserving of the National Book Award. It is not a "western" but a passage. These characters' journeys are physical and spiritual and lead the reader through a space which surpasses time and borders. John Grady Cole is a monumental character. If you love great prose and purposeful storytelling, you will adore this book. It ranks in my top five. Cormac McCarthy may be the greatest of our modern authors.
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