The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy

book reviews

Yesterday, I made a pot of beans. This in itself isn’t unusual for me, but when you pair it with the chiles and pupusas I made the day before, you can start to see a pattern. It might not have all been authentically Mexican (the pupusas certainly weren’t), but it was all the sort of thing that you might find a cowboy enjoying. Never in my life have I had such cravings for tortillas and beans.

I suddenly find myself attracted to horses. And not just sexually. For the past two days, I’ve actually made it a point to go visit with my mother-in-law’s horse. I’ve even imagined riding him off into the desert for a few hours. My fear of being bitten by the old bastard prevents me from getting too close, but still.

Because Cormac McCarthy is an even bigger bastard than the caballo, I was especially desirous of his company today. I was chillin’ in the back yard, just reading and relaxing, when our protagonist, Billy, is accosted by some robbers whilst traveling back to the United States. On top of the really awful shit they do to Billy, they stab his horse in the chest. It was cruel and awful and wholly unnecessary. The book was almost over, for fuck’s sake. What a dick.

I can’t convey the heaviness that came attached to that scene. It was only one of many in this action-packed heartbreaker. What I can do, however, is say that it isn’t going to leave me any time soon. This was exactly what I needed to remedy my feelings toward Blood Meridian. In this book, there was plenty of really fucking cruel violence. I want to say it was done tastefully, but that’d be a goddamned lie. I guess that it just wasn’t gratuitous. McCarthy forces the reader to make an investment in these characters and doles out the requisite punishment for that trust. You’re dragged along for the good and the bad, whether that refers to a man having the eyeballs sucked out of his head or watching as a couple of dirty kids, over and over again, experience the kindness of complete strangers.

I don’t know if anyone has said this yet, but this book was like a Spanish immersion course. All of his books have phrases in Spanish peppered throughout, but this one seemed to be particularly loaded. At the beginning, I was searching for the meaning of the phrases based on their context, but, by the end, I was just blazing through them. I’ve acquired a very specific Spanish vocabulary, but that’s more than I had before.

This is a great book. If forced to criticize, I’d say that the several-page-long stories told by peripheral characters unnecessarily broke up the flow of the text. But I’m not willing to go into that because I’m pretty sure they had meaning that was applicable to the story as a whole, or even to the segment of the story they appeared in. I call that failing my own. All in all, fantastic stuff.