All the Pretty Horses, OR: I Can't Do This

Book: All the Pretty Horses

Author: Cormac McCarthy

First Published in 1992 by Vintage Books. Winner of the National Book Award.

Hey everybody. I failed yet again. I think that makes four books so far. 

I was sitting in a coffeeshop down in Shreveport, Louisiana, curled into a wingback chair in the shop's back corner, trying to read this week's book. (All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy). The fellow who'd been up at the register was walking around the room doing I don't know what and he asked what book I was reading. When I told him, he'd said he'd started it, but not finished it. "Have you read Blood Meridian?" he asked. I shook my head. "No, this is my first of McCarthy's." "Blood Meridian's good. Heavy stuff, but good." He nodded and walked off and I turned my eyes back to the Pretty Horses, lamenting that I was so far behind in my reading and wondering how I'd finish the book by Sunday. I'd been in Louisiana all week looking for work and places to live. I hadn't had downtime to just sit and soak in literature. 

About fifteen minutes later I finally looked up and the man was walking past again and I said that I was struggling with the book. "Oh yeah?" "I can't follow it well. There aren't quotation marks or speaker tags," I said. "And lots of run on sentences, right," he said. "Yeah. But it's worth it." And then he walked off again, his black apron still snug around his waist and his face all calm like the world was perfectly right. 

Beyond the windows of the shop--it was Rhino Coffee, the new branch they'd opened seven months ago in downtown Shreveport--there were banners of musicians hung on the outside of the brick building across the street. The day was sunny and the street was wide and there were hardly any cars moving one way or another. The city seemed quiet, or maybe just lazily content with itself. I had a good feeling. I had a feeling of rest. But the book was confusing me.

For as far as I've gotten (page 130, a little over halfway), the book seems to be about a young boy, John Grady, who leaves his ranch in Texas to ride down to Mexico and breed (?) horses. He goes with a friend, Rawlings, and meets a young kid along the way who also wants to ride with him. Once in Mexico he meets this Hacendado--a ranch owner--who agrees to let him ride and break and breed (?) horses. John Grady also meets a cute woman who he falls pretty quickly in love with. And she rides horses too. 

That's as much as I've gleaned, and I don't even know if that's all correct or not. 

Gah, this is one of those books that I know I should be understanding more than I am, but for the life of me it's just not seeping into my brain. OR, maybe I'm too distracted and my brain's too focused on other stuff right now. I want to say "to hell with this book-a-week thing," and just give up, but that doesn't seem like the best plan, either. I don't want to give up because I think there's a lot that I can still learn from this challenge. If anything, my awareness of authors and literature and genres will grow, whether I finish each book or not. Heck, having now half-read 130 pages of McCarthy, I know that he can write a damn good sentence. (And if I were paying closer attention, those sentences might actually rub off on me. Maybe). Take this next sentence, for example: 

He'd go to the kitchen in the dark for his coffee and saddle the horse at daybreak with only the little desert doves waking in the orchard and the air still fresh and cool and he and the stallion would come sideways out of the stable with the animal prancing and pounding the ground and arching its neck. 

I played Scrabble last night, and won. I told my opponent that I really didn't care as much about winning as I did about creating really good words. Like acquiesce and banal, and fie. I pride myself just in coming up with words that Webster maybe nodded his head at, himself. Good job, you, he'd say, for including those words in his dictionary. 

What I love about good literature--and good authors--the likes of McCarthy is that the flow of the sentences and the diction are clearly a level beyond what I write myself. There's something to be said for reading above or beyond what you're used to. The great thing about good literature is that it stretches you. It stretches me, I should say. Even if that sentence up there is a run-on, and does confuse me and makes me read it twice, HECK, at least I read it twice. And at least I can appreciate the flow of the words and the images he evokes--of the dove, and fresh, cool air, and a horse prancing. There's a deep connection between man and horse, and that does come across in that sentence. So, I can admire that. And that makes me glad. Makes this book worth reading. You know? Sometimes it's not about finishing the book, but gleaning just one thing or idea or image. 

And someday, if I ever publish a full-length manuscript, I'd hope that you'd recall at least one image from what I'd written, as well. It's something to hope for. Eh? 


Gonna go easy next week. The book will be another of Rick Bass's. (It's only 57 pages!) Called: Fiber.