Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 9:11:01 AM
A facinating and poetic read that draws the reader into the world of inner troubles and sorrow inhabited by its characters. John Grady Cole and Billy Parham are cowboys working the stock of the Southern New Mexican ranchlands. Their encounters beyond the ranch are few and mostly consist of drinking and whoring excursions down to Juarez Mexico. There, John Grady falls in love with an epileptic 16 year old prostitute named Magdalena. John showers great personal meaning and his love on their relationship, wishing to marry her and take her back to the ranch. His attempts to free her from her pimp lead both of them to a bloody and tragic end.
The book seeks to reveal the confusion of fate and destiny that we like to call our free will. It also delves into the character of those who see people as property to be controlled and manipulated and those who seek to know the inner workings of things. John Grady's defining characteristic is that he is a horse whisperer who is sensitive to the underlying nature of the animals he tames. His aptitute for chess and patience combine to represent a man swept up in the irrational and trying to rationalize it, make it his own.
The author intends for us to understand destiny as something meaningful, as a trajectory described by the path of our ancestors. That truth is revealed to us only through pain, suffering and loss. Choice being something that is an illusion of circumstance, we act and are acted upon and determine the next action, like dominos in a line we have no choice but to fall upon those next to us. We may dream of free will, but do not act upon it. Just as John would not walk away from his knife fight with the pimp, we are bound in corporal struggle with the world as it is and the way we dream it could be. The pimp Edwardo is practical, John is a dreamer they meet, they struggle and ultimately mutually destroy each other. It is a sad, poetic book... one of Cormac McCarthy's very best.