Saturday, July 11, 2015

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I listened to the audiobook version of this book years ago, before I started blogging and was just keeping an old-fashioned journal on the books I was reading and my experiences while reading them. Here are these journal entries that relate to that experience.

The audiobook I’m listening to now is All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. I’m enjoying it. The plot is fairly tight, with a fairly small story that is well told. I’m waiting for some secret to be revealed, and that’s helping me to move through some of the scenes, but I’m not sure if the secret is even there. John Grady’s relationship with his father is strained, that much is clear, but if the reason why was revealed early in the book I must have missed it. I keep expecting it to get mentioned, but it never does and only seldom gets referred to in a non-revealing way. It’ll be funny if this turns out to be all in my head because it’s really what I’m enjoying the most.

McCarthy is really good at moving characters through the mechanics of a scene and more impressively through the mechanics between scenes, and it all keeps the reader’s attention off the hidden secret and on the mechanical action. He’s very matter-of-fact about it. John Grady waited at the train station for thirty minutes then went back to the hotel and ordered some room service. He tipped the waiter three pesos. In my fiction, that transition would have taken another chapter. He gets it done in two sentences that have just enough detail to feel real and keep you connected to the story, but not so much detail as to devolve into John Grady’s thoughts, where the secret lays hidden. Even if I’ve read this wrong and there is no secret at the end, I think I’ve learned something I can use in my own fiction.

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John Grady didn’t get the girl. She chose her family over him just as her great aunt had said she would, although she slept with him one more time as John Grady thought she would. Now he’s risking his life in some desperate attempt to get his horse back. He’s been shot, he’s taken some hostile prisoners and now a posse is starting to approach. There was some glimpse into John Grady’s inner thoughts when he knew he had lost her, but everything else has been strictly mechanical. It got a little tedious during the shootout over the horse, but otherwise has been very well done. It’s almost as if the absence of comment on emotion and the focus on mechanical action stresses the emotional toll John Grady has paid. It’s very masculine in its style. Acting irrationally without dwelling on his feelings.

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It wasn’t a posse tracking John Grady. It was a group of men who lived in the wilderness and they helped him escape. He parted ways from the Mexican captain and made his way back to Texas where he eventually told his whole story to a judge in order to keep the rights to Blevins’ horse, which he also found at the place that was keeping his horse. Now he’s picked up a lead on a Reverend Jimmy Blevins, and is taking the horse back there. There was a powerful exchange between John Grady and the judge when John Grady said he didn’t want to be thought of as anything special because he had killed that guy in the Mexican prison. That guy was a bastard, and John Grady only did it to protect his own life, but he still couldn’t stop thinking about him and wondered if he had been destined to be killed or if John Grady had upset some delicate balance in the universe by killing him. There has been talk about fate and God scattered throughout the book, mostly between John Grady and Rawlins, but in other places, too. Makes me think that it’s one of those hidden themes.

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The Reverend is not related to the Jimmy Blevins John Grady knew. There’s an interesting exchange between John Grady and the Reverend’s wife, talking about how the Reverend’s voice goes out over the radio to everywhere, even to Mars, and how he heals people who put their hands on the radio when he’s talking because his voice is there, and that’s all that’s needed. Then John Grady returns Rawlins’ horse to Rawlins, attends the funeral of his Mexican wet nurse, and the book ends with John Grady riding off across the country, into what is to come. There is no big secret revealed at the end as I suspected there wouldn’t be, but I enjoyed the book on a lot of other levels. I think I’ll read it for real someday.

Now it's years later and I have read the book "for real." Reviewing the relevant entries in my journal, I’m amazed how many things I picked up on while just listening to it. They're all things that I picked up on again while reading the hard copy with pen in hand.

Things like McCarthy’s skill at moving characters through a scene without bogging it down. I jealously noted dozens of good examples in the text, and they generally fell into two categories. Scenes with lots of meaning and emotion for the characters, packed down to their barest essences, but still powerful and deeply moving.

When he came back down through the dark to the barn the five horses were standing under the pecan trees at the far side of the house. They hadnt been unsaddled and in the morning they were gone. The following night she came to his bed and she came every night for nine nights running, pushing the door shut and latching it and turning in the slatted light at God knew what hour and stepping out of her clothes and sliding cool and naked against him in the narrow bunk all softness and perfume and the lushness of her black hair falling over him and no caution to her at all. Saying I dont care I dont care. Drawing blood with her teeth where he held the heel of his hand against her mouth that she not cry out. Sleeping against his chest where he could not sleep at all and rising when the east was already gray with dawn and going to the kitchen to get her breakfast as if she were only up early.

And scenes where characters move through the mechanics of some action, not spelling out every detail. but providing just enough to put you there and get you cleanly to the next scene.

Their breakfast was a thin pozole and nothing more and afterward they were simply turned out into the yard to fend for themselves. They spent the whole of the first day fighting and when they were finally shut up in their cell at night they were bloody and exhausted and Rawlins’ nose was broken and badly swollen.

I read things like that and find myself wondering how many pages I would have spent trying to convey the same amount of information. Note to self—sometimes you need to go into a lot of detail, but most times you don’t.

Another thing that I heard in the audiobook which came through even stronger in the text was the periodic talk about fate and God—not enough to be heavy-handed, but just enough to be eerie and prescient.

You think God looks out for people? said Rawlins.

Yeah. I guess He does. You?

Yeah. I do. Way the world is. Somebody can wake up and sneeze somewhere in Arkansas or some damn place and before you’re done there’s wars and ruination and all hell. You dont know what’s goin to happen. I’d say He’s just about got to. I dont believe we’d make it a day otherwise.

I wrote in the margin on that one: “Will God watch out for Rawlins?” And, like a lot of folks who believe in God watching out for people, you’d have to say that Rawlins was damned lucky to survive the ordeal he and John Grady eventually go through in that Mexican prison. But if God was looking out for Rawlins, why’d He let him go to that prison in the first place?

But there were other things that I needed the book in my hands in order to pick up on. Like the way John Grady only really understood the world through his relationship with horses. Here’s a scene from early in the book when he goes into town to see his mother, recently estranged from his father, perform in a stage play.

He thanked her and went in and tendered his ticket to an usher who led him over to the red carpeted stairs and handed him the ticket back. He went up and found his seat and sat waiting with his hat in his lap. The theatre was half empty. When the lights dimmed some of the people in the balcony about him got up and moved forward to seats in front. Then the curtain rose and his mother came through a door onstage and began talking to a woman in a chair.

At the intermission he rose and put on his hat and went down to the lobby and stood in a gilded alcove and rolled a cigarette and stood smoking it with one boot hacked back against the wall behind him. He was not unaware of the glances that drifted his way from the theatergoers. He’d turned up one leg of his jeans into a small cuff and from time to time he leaned and tipped into this receptacle the soft white ash of his cigarette. He saw a few men in boots and hats and he nodded gravely to them, they to him. After a while the lights in the lobby dimmed again.

He sat leaning forward in the seat with his elbows on the empty seatback in front of him and his chin on his forearms and he watched the play with great intensity. He’d the notion that there would be something in the story itself to tell him about the way the world was or was becoming but there was not. There was nothing in it at all. When the lights came up there was applause and his mother came forward several times and all the cast assembled across the stage and held hands and bowed and then the curtain closed for good and the audience rose and made their way up the aisles. He sat for a long time in the empty theatre and then stood and put on his hat and went out into the cold.

This is not John Grady’s world. He is a stranger here, alone in a crowd of people, unable to see any truth of existence. And yet two pages later, John Grady is described as he rides a horse:

The boy who rode on slightly before him sat a horse not only as if he’d been born to it which he was but as if were he begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where horses never were he would have found them anyway. Would have known that there was something missing for the world to be right or he right in it and would have set forth to wander wherever it was needed for as long as it took until he came upon one and he would have known that that was what he sought and it would have been.

This is his truth, the only truth he will ever truly know and be able to rely upon. John Grady’s knowledge and way with horses is sensuous and other-worldly—as if their spirits rise from the same unknown place.

The horses were already moving. He took the first one that broke and rolled his loop and forefooted the colt and it hit the ground with a tremendous thump. The other horses flared and bunched and looked back wildly. Before the colt could struggle up John Grady had squatted on its neck and pulled its head up and to one side and was holding the horse by the muzzle with the long bony head pressed against his chest and the hot sweet breath of it flooding up from the dark wells of its nostrils over his face and neck like news from another world. They did not smell like horses. They smelled like what they were, wild animals. He held the horse’s face against his chest and he could feel along his inner thighs the blood pumping through the arteries and he could smell the fear and he cupped his hand over the horse’s eyes and stroked them and he did not stop talking to the horse at all, speaking in a low steady voice and telling it all that he intended to do and cupping the animal’s eyes and stroking the terror out.

And there are other places were this mystic connection between men and horses is highlighted. Here’s Alejandra’s father:

He spoke of his campaigns in the deserts of Mexico and he told them of horses killed under him and he said that the souls of horses mirror the souls of men more closely than men suppose and that horses also love war. Men say they only learn this but he said that no creature can learn that which his heart has no shape to hold. His own father said that no man who has not gone to war horseback can ever truly understand the horse and he said that he supposed he wished that this were not so but that it was so.

Indeed, McCarthy seems to portray horses as the ultimate embodiment of will. And whose will do they embody? Well, I think McCarthy wants to leave us uncertain.

While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of whose will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of whose will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations and of whose will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned.

Whose will? Horse? Rider? Both? Neither? There’s something almost Melville-ian about horses in this novel, the horse is to McCarthy what the whale was to Melville, the keeper of some inscrutable secret of the universe—except whereas Melville’s whale was indifferent to the desires of man to possess it, McCarthy’s horse is a tool through which man may gain that knowledge.

But the biggest thing I think I missed in the audiobook was how much this was a story of a boy becoming a man, and the changes he has to go through in order to make that transformation. There’s a nice little exchange between John Grady and one of the criminals in the Mexican prison that pretty well describes the difference.

Where did you learn to fight? he said.

John Grady took a deep pull on the cigarette and leaned back.

What do you want to know? he said.

Only what the world wants to know.

What does the world want to know.

The world wants to know if you have cojones. If you are brave.

And that’s the essence. The world does not often test the bravery of a young boy. But as he grows and begins to make his way in it, it will test him, and if the boy passes the test, he will no longer be a boy. Regardless of his age—and John Grady is sixteen—if he can stand up to world and hold his own, he is a man.

John Grady’s test is a difficult and multifaceted one, but even before he faces it, there are allusions to the struggle that’s to come. Here’s what the Mexican police captain tells him.

I will tell you a story, he said. Because I like you. I was young man like you. You see. And this time I tell you I was always with these older boys because I want to learn every thing. So on this night at the fiesta of San Pedro in the town of Linares in Nuevo Leon I was with these boys and they have some mescal and everything—you know what is mescal?—and there was this woman and all these boys is go out to this woman and they is have this woman. And I am the last one. And I go out to the place where is this woman and she is refuse me because she say I am too young or something like that.

What does a man do? You see. I can no go back because they will all see that I dont go with this woman. Because the truth is always plain. You see. A man cannot go out to do some thing and then he go back. Why he go back? Because he change his mind? A man does not change his mind.
Maybe they tell her to refuse to me. So they can laugh. They give her some money or something like that. But I dont let whores make trouble for me. When I come back there is no laughing. No one is laughing. You see. That has always been my way in the world. I am the one when I go someplace then there is no laughing. When I go there then they stop laughing.

I believe the allusion here is to death—that the Mexican captain killed the whore even at such a young age, with much the same kind of business-like obligation he displays when he later has Jimmy Blevins taken out and shot for the alleged crime of killing a man while trying to steal his own horse back—and John Grady’s test involves death, too. A desperate fight for survival in the Mexican prison with a young criminal who had been paid to kill him. John Grady instead kills his attacker, but is gravely wounded in the process and hovers for some time near death.

He lay there three days. He slept and woke and slept again. Someone turned off the light and he woke in the dark. He called out but no one answered. He thought of his father in Goshee. He knew that terrible things had been done to him there and he had always believed that he did not want to know about it but he did want to know. He lay in the dark thinking of all this things he did not know about his father and he realized that the father he knew was all the father he would ever know. He would not think about Alejandra because he didnt know what was coming or how bad it would be and he thought she was something he’d better save. So he thought about horses and they were always the right thing to think about. Later someone turned the light back on again and it did not go off again after that. He slept and when he woke he’d dreamt of the dead standing about in their bones and the dark sockets of this eyes that were indeed without speculation bottomed in the void wherein lay a terrible intelligence common to all but of which none would speak. When he woke he knew that men had died in that room.

In McCarthy’s talented way, there’s a lot packed into this one paragraph, including, for me, the key to the tension between him and his father that I sensed in the audiobook but which I could never understand the crux of. Turns out I shouldn’t blame myself for missing it, because McCarthy almost goes out of his way to make it cryptic and almost completely absent from the text. “Goshee,” according to a doctoral dissertation on McCarthy’s Border Trilogy I found on the Internet, was more than likely a prisoner of war camp, although no such place name was ever, in fact, documented to have been associated with such a place. If that academic interpretation is true, then my own belief is that John Grady’s father must have met and failed his own test of manhood in that camp—or at least in the unspoken horror of what John Grady imagined he must have faced, John Grady had always assumed that his father had failed—and that failure now hangs over John Grady as a kind of familial destiny that he must try doubly hard to overcome.

But I said John Grady’s test was a multifaceted one—one facet being his ability to stand up against the violence of the world and go on living in spite of it—and the other his relationship with Alejandra. Whereas the world challenges him to be brave, this second facet challenges him to be tender, but in a way that respects the differences that divide adult men and adult women. There’s an interesting exchange between John Grady and Alejandra’s grandmother that shows the difference between men and women of the world, and the gulf that John Grady will have to traverse if he is to pass this test of adulthood.

She poured their cups again.

I lost my fingers in a shooting accident, she said. Shooting live pigeons. The right barrel burst. I was seventeen. Alejandra’s age. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. People are curious. It’s only natural. I’m going to guess that the scar on your cheek was put there by a horse.

Yes mam. It was my own fault.

She watched him, not unkindly. She smiled. Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real. The events that cause them can never be forgotten, can they?

No mam.

Alejandra will be in Mexico with her mother for two weeks. Then she will be here for the summer.

He swallowed.

Whatever my appearance may suggest, I am not a particularly oldfashioned woman. Here we live in a small world. A close world. Alejandra and I disagree strongly. Quite strongly in fact. She is much like me at that age and I seem at times to be struggling with my own past self. I was unhappy as a child for reasons that are no longer important. But the thing in which we are united, my niece and I…

She broke off. She set the cup and saucer to one side. The polished wood of the table held a round shape of breath where they’d stood that diminished from the edges in and vanished. She looked up.

I had no one to advise me, you see. Perhaps I would not have listened anyway. I grew up in a world of men. I thought this would have prepared me to live in a world of men but it did not. I was also rebellious and so I recognize it in others. Yet I think that I had no wish to break things. The names of the entities that have power to constrain us change with time. Convention and authority are replaced by infirmity. But my attitude toward them has not changed. Has not changed.

You see that I cannot help but be sympathetic to Alejandra. Even at her worst. But I wont have her unhappy. I wont have her spoken ill of. Or gossiped about. I know what that is. She thinks that she can toss her head and dismiss everything. In an ideal world the gossip of the idle would be of no consequence. But I have seen the consequences in the real world and they can be very grave indeed. They can be consequences of a gravity not excluding bloodshed. Not excluding death. I saw this in my own family. What Alejandra dismissed as a matter of mere appearance or outmoded custom…

She made a whisking motion with the imperfect hand that was both a dismissal and a summation. She composed her hands again and looked at him.

Even though you are younger than she it is not proper for you to be seen riding in the campo together without supervision. Since this was carried to my ears I considered whether to speak to Alejandra about it and I have decided not to.

She leaned back. He could hear the clock ticking in the hall. There was no sound from the kitchen. She sat watching him.

What do you want me to do? he said.

I want you to be considerate of a young girl’s reputation.

I never meant not to be.

She smiled. I believe you, she said. But you must understand. This is another country. Here a woman’s reputation is all she has.

Yes mam.

There is no forgiveness, you see.


There is no forgiveness. For women. A man may lose his honor and regain it again. But a woman cannot. She cannot.

They sat. She watched him. He tapped the crown of his seated hat with the tips of his four fingers and looked up.

I guess I’d have to say that that dont seem right.

Right? she said. Oh. Yes. Well.

Men can fail their tests, and still have future trials by which they can redeem themselves. But women—women have one chance and if they lose it they are forever lost. It’s not a matter of right and wrong, as Alejandra’s grandmother will go on to say, but of who is calling the shots. The world is set up a certain way, and that’s the way it is, right or wrong.

John Grady confronts this reality head-on after getting out of the Mexican prison, returning for an Alejandra who loves him but who will no longer have him. It is, in fact, a deal she has struck with her grandmother. Get John Grady out of that prison and she will never see or pine for him again. It is presented fatalistically to John Grady—not right, not wrong, just the way things are—and John Grady undergoes his final transformation into an adult when accepts it on those terms.

He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.

The path of a child has a destination—adulthood. But the path of an adult has no destination—because to become an adult is to realize that life is just a slow slide towards death. There’s an interesting section when John Grady is traveling back to Alejandra and he encounters some children and he has to explain to them his story in terms they can understand.

By noon he was riding a farmland road where the acequias carried the water down along the foot-trodden selvedges of the fields and he stood the horse to water and walked it up and back in the shade of a cottonwood grove to cool it. He shared his lunch with children who came to sit beside him. Some of them had never eaten leavened bread and they looked to an older boy among them for guidance in the matter. They sat in a row along the edge of the path, five of them, and the sandwich halves of cured ham from the hacienda were passed to left and to right and they ate with great solemnity and when the sandwiches were gone he divided with his knife the freshbaked tarts of apple and guava.

Donde vive? said the oldest boy.

He mused on the question. They waited. I once lived at a great hacienda, he told them, but now I have no place to live.

The children’s faces studied him with great concern. Puede vivir con nosotros, they said, and he thanked them and he told them that he had a novia who was in another town and that he was riding to her to ask her to be his wife.

Es bonita, su novia? They asked, and he told them that she was very beautiful and that she had blue eyes which they could scarcely believe but he told them also that her father was a rich hacendado while he himself was very poor and they heard this in silence and were greatly cast down at his prospects. The older of the girls said that if his novia truly loved him she would marry him no matter what but the boy was not so encouraging and he said that even in families of the rich a girl could not go against the wishes of her father. The girl said that the grandmother must be consulted because she was very important in these matters and that he must take her presents and try to win her to his side for without her help little could be expected. She said that all the world knew this to be true.

John Grady nodded at the wisdom of this but he said that he had already given offense where the grandmother was concerned and could not depend upon her assistance and at this several of the children ceased to eat and stared at the earth before them.

Es un problema, said the boy.

De acuerdo.

One of the younger girls leaned forward. Que offense le dio a la abuelita? she said.

Es una historia larga, he said.

Hay tiempo, they said.

He smiled and looked at them and as there was indeed time he told them all that had happened. He told them how they had come from another country, two young horsemen riding their horses, and that they had met with a third who had no money nor food to eat nor scarcely clothes to cover himself and that he had come to ride with them and share with them in all they had. This horseman was very young and he rode a wonderful horse but among his fears was the fear that God would kill him with lightning and because of this fear he lost his horse in the desert. He then told them what had happened concerning the horse and how they had taken the horse from the village of Encantada and he told how the boy had gone back to the village of Encantada and there had killed a man and that the police had come to the hacienda and arrested him and his friend and that the grandmother had paid their fine and then forbidden the novia to see him anymore.

When he was done they sat in silence and finally the girl said that what he must do is bring the boy to the grandmother so that he would tell her that he was the one at fault and John Grady said that this was not possible because the boy was dead. When the children heard this they blessed themselves and kissed their fingers. The older boy said that the situation was a difficult one but that he must find an intercessor to speak on his behalf because if the grandmother could be made to see that he was not to blame then she would change her mind. The older girl said that he was forgetting about the problem that the family was rich and he was poor. The boy said that as he had a horse he could not be so very poor and they looked at John Grady for a decision on this question and he told them in spite of appearances he was indeed very poor and that the horse had been given to him by the grandmother herself. At this some of then drew in their breath and shook their heads. The girl said that he needed to find some wise man with whom he could discuss his difficulties or perhaps a curandera and the younger girl said that he should pray to God.

The children cannot solve John Grady’s problem, for it is not the kind of problem that children can solve. It is an adult problem—and adult problems cannot be solved. They can only be understood and accepted. John Grady cannot even tell them his story in words they will understand. The paragraph where he summarizes the events of the novel sound like a children’s story, but they are anything but.

In the end, John Grady proves himself not just to be a man, but a thinking man, a man of conscience. He has struggled, and still wrestles with some of the judgments that must be made, but the ones he does make are better ones for the reflection he gives them. In many ways, he is very much like the Judge who has to weigh his actions and determine if he is entitled to keep the horse Blevins brought with him to Mexico. After that trial, John Grady visits the Judge at his home and make another confession.

When I was in the penitentiary down there I killed a boy.

The judge sat back in his chair. Well, he said. I’m sorry to hear that.

It keeps botherin me.

You must have had some provocation.

I did. But it dont help. He tried to kill me with a knife. I just happened to get the best of him.

Why does it bother you?

I dont know. I dont know nothin about him. I never even knew his name. He could have been a pretty good old boy. I dont know. I dont know that he’s supposed to be dead.

He looked up. His eyes were wet in the firelight. The judge sat watching him.

You know he wasnt a pretty good old boy. Dont you?

Yessir. I guess.

You wouldnt want to be a judge, would you?

No sir. I sure wouldnt.

I didnt want to be a judge. I was a young lawyer practicing in San Antonio and I come back out here when my daddy was sick and I went to work for the county prosecutor. I sure didnt want to be a judge. I think I felt a lot like you do. I still do.

What made you change your mind?

I dont know as I did change it. I just saw a lot of injustice in the court system and I saw people my own age in positions of authority that I had grown up with and knew for a calcified fact didnt have one damn lick of sense. I think I just didnt have any choice. Just didnt have any choice. I sent a boy from this county to the electric chair in Huntsville in nineteen thirty-two. I think about that. I dont think he was a pretty good old boy. But I think about it. Would I do it again? Yes I would.

I almost done it again.

Done what, killed somebody?


The Mexican captain?

Yessir. Captain. Whatever he was. He was what they call a madrina. Not even a real peace officer.

But you didnt.

No sir. I didnt.

They sat. The fire had burned to coals. Outside the wind was blowing and he was going to have to go out in it pretty soon.

I hadnt made up my mind about it though. I told myself that I had. But I hadnt. I dont know what would of happened if they hadnt of come and got him. I expect he’s dead anyways.

He looked up from the fire at the judge.

I wasnt even mad at him. Or I didnt feel like I was. That boy he shot, I didnt hardly even know him. I felt bad about it. But he wasnt nothin to me.

Why do you think you wanted to kill him?

I dont know.

Well, said the judge. I guess that’s somethin between you and the good Lord. Wouldnt you say?

Yessir. I didnt mean that I expected a answer. Maybe there aint no answer. It just bothered me that you might think I was somethin special. I aint.

Well that aint a bad way to be bothered.

He picked up his hat and held it in both hands. He looked like he was about to get up but he didnt get up.

The reason I wanted to kill him was because I stood there and let him walk that boy out in the trees and shoot him and I never said nothin.

Would it have done any good?

No sir. But that dont make it right.

The judge leaned from his chair and took the poker standing on the hearth and jostled the coals and stood the poker back and folded his hands and looked at the boy.

What would you have done if I’d found against you today?

I dont know.

Well, that’s a fair answer, I guess.

It wasnt their horse. It would of bothered me.

Yes, said the judge. I expect it would.

I need to find out who the horse belongs to. It’s gotten to be like a millstone around my neck.

There’s nothin wrong with you son. I think you’ll get it sorted out.

Yessir. I guess I will. If I live.

In fact, my only critique of the book is something you’ve probably already noticed—the odd lack of punctuation and the overindulgence for run-on sentences. Sometimes it works powerfully, like in the tightly described scene I first quoted above when Alejandro and John Grady make love in his bunk. But too often it’s frankly distracting, my eyes running on over the words and losing all sense of their meaning because there is no punctuation to help me slow down and take notice.

That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesa where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.

Yeah, I get it. It’s a dream and all the images run together like these words, but I can’t get any meaning out of this without a couple of periods.

But other than that, it’s a fabulous read.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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