Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy

If you want to be a writer, read the works of Cormac McCarthy. They are crisp and clean, with no extra words. As one of the review snippets on the back of the book said, “He writes prose as clean as a bullet cutting through the air . . .” 

As is true with all of his books, the story is of an actual journey, and of the things that happen along the way. The story takes place in the years just before and just after the beginning of World War II, and follows the adventures of 16 year old Billy Parham as he travels back and forth between his home in New Mexico, and various places in Mexico to accomplish various deeds. I don’t think it’s spoiling the plot to say that they end in calamity.

The writing is unbelievable. “The thin horned moon lay on its back in the west like a grail and the bright shape of Venus hung above it like a star falling into a boat.” Near the end of the book he describes an old crippled broken dog in such a way that you actually feel its pain. “[The dog] stood there inside the door with the rain falling in the weeds and gravel behind it and it was wet and wretched and so scarred and broken that it might have been patched up out of parts of dogs by demented vivisectionists.”

This is literature for a man. There is no romance, no sex. It is violent and bloody with suffering and pain for man and beast throughout. McCarthy follows rigidly the rule of never giving the protagonist what he wants. Billy finds himself in a world where there is plenty of good. Plenty of people help him along the way. But the myriad evil in the world is more powerful. The good can only huddle and quake in its shadow. In the end he is left with nothing. All is taken from him by evil men with vile and bloody ways. That is, the ending is not all sunshine and happiness. But is filled with philosophy and insight as to the nature of man and the hard and deadly world he has created for himself.

This is the second novel in “The Border Trilogy.” I have yet to read the others, but will. One of the best books I have read. The story is thoughtful and compelling. Read it. 


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