Beyond the Crossing

In Cities of the Plain, the final volume of McCarthy's The Border Trilogy, John Grady Cole, principal character of All the Pretty Horses, joins Billy Parham of The Crossing in the West Texas-Juarez border world, both men a few years older but still managing to get into trouble. As in the earlier works, the reader is turned every which way but loose by the emotional power of the fiction; also, as before, the English language is torqued and pressured to yield new veins of gold. I suspect McCarthy is the best novelist we have in the country now, perhaps even the best writing in the English language at the present moment.

The laconic humor, present almost on every page, only serves to sharpen the outlines of this dark story. The verbal horsing around, the cowboy give-and-take of the dialogue, is an important element in the narrative drive of the novel, whose plot centers on John Grady's overwhelming passion for a teenage epileptic Mexican whore kept virtually a captive by Eduardo, the whoremaster who is also in some way a philosopher and a seer. Complicating the plot, Eduardo too is in love with the epileptic whore, although he has strange ways of expressing his affection. As always, McCarthy is on the side of a passionately lived life, his characters bearing no resemblance to those of, say, a Huxley novel: so far as intensity is concerned, they would fit comfortably in an ancient Greek tragedy....

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