I am not what you would call the average Cormac McCarthy reader. Yes, I may fit the stereotype—white male with a beard in his thirties—but I defy most stereotypes and hope that someday I may be the poster child for “stereotypes be damned.” (It seems out of place to use quotes in a review of a McCarthy book, doesn't it?) Historically, grisly, romanticized westerns do little for me.
Like everyone else, I've read The Road. That was more than a decade ago and I thought, “eh, it's okay.” It was the first McCarthy I'd read and while I was open to the idea of returning to the author, he wasn't on the top of my list. Two weeks ago, I had no plans of returning to McCarthy anytime soon. I have a long list of books I really want to read, and between those and whatever randomly tempts me on the bookshelf, I have no time for outliers. But a strange thing happened: I wasn't in the mood for any of the books on my list. Nothing seemed right. I experienced something rare: I had no idea what I wanted to read. I spent more than an hour trying to decide what was next. I was tempted to just take a day or two away from reading. Then, as though some conscious entity grew tired of my fit, I picked up All the Pretty Horses and started reading. Divine intervention? Subconscious desire? Likely, I just wanted to surprise myself.
And was I surprised. Within an hour, I found that I was enjoying the story. Thoroughly. And for those who know me and my likes, this may be surprising. I'm an open-minded individual and will try things outside of my comfort zone, but there are some things that have burned me so many times that I expect to be displeased. A book that promises to be filled with horses and gunfights is prone to disappoint.All the Pretty Horses exceeded all my baseless expectations. Much of my appreciation was in the way the main characters, John Grady and Lacey Rawlins, converse. What pulled me in was those two, sitting around a fire and talking, riding through desolate terrain and talking. Oddly, I became very wrapped up in their simple conversation. Even though their relationship seemed unbalanced, even though Grady seemed like a contradiction, and even though I hate heat and horses, I was pulled in. And as others were added to the mix, the dynamics changed, but the conversation remained riveting.
Grady was a wonderful character, though I couldn't quite grasp how much faith I was willing to invest in his authenticity. Although I never thought of Grady as old, I had trouble shaping his image as a sixteen year old. He was far too wise and mature. The more I got to know him, the more I was convinced that such a wise teenager could exist. And, as the story developed, I began to see that underneath it all, he may have not been quite as wise as he seemed (though I'm still not sure). Multi-dimensional character: you've hooked me.
Ironically, it was only when the book picked up speed, reaching its climax, that my interest waned some. An old-fashioned shootout and the getaway on a horse: I find that a bit boring. Overall, this was such a small part of the novel that I wasn't too distracted by it.
Who'd have thought that cowboys sitting around talking would've been such a draw? Divine intervention? I'm a weird one, I guess. Now I'm actually excited to read the next book in the series.