Saturday, February 23, 2008

Books Review: Cormac McCarthy and the West and Mexican Experience

Cormac McCarthy's recent book, "No Country for Old Men" & his Border Trilogy

Eric Green

A very important U.S. writer is finally finding some commercial success. His name is Cormac McCarthy and his most recent novel; "No Country for Old Men" has been made into a film, by the same name, under the direction and screenwriting of Joel and Ethan Cohen. After toiling in the world of independent filmmaking, the Cone brothers, are enjoying the commercial success, not by conforming to Hollywood's substandards, no, by Hollywood adjusting to their level. This is the same as McCarthy.

The film has been nominated for a host of Oscars.

A good next step would be for literature readers to sit down with his, "Border Trilogy." These books written by McCarthy in the 1990s trace the everyday, working class lives of the border areas between Mexico and New Mexico/Arizona in the pre World War II era through the 1950s. The geographic sites are Juarez, Mexico, El Paso and rural New Mexico, but, the universality of his work is very apparent.

McCarthy's first book, "All the Pretty Horses" received the National Book Award. His subsequent book, "The Crossing," continues the story of the horse driven world of families dealing with Post War II.

Finally, Bill Parham's life is continued in "Cities of the Plain." In this book, the characters speak about the radical changes taking place in New Mexico, especially with the US army buying up large tracks of land for defense department uses. In the Epilogue of this last book of the trilogy, Billy is in his '70s in the 1990s.

McCarthy is not the easiest writer to read, but the reading, once your hooked, is very rewarding. This is especially true for those interested in life along the Mexican/US border, i.e., between and among Mexicans nationals and their lives with people on the US side of the border. While the reader does get a view of Northern Mexico through the eyes of young, in their teens and twenties, ranch hands from across the border in the US, the insights on Mexican life are rewarding.

The McCarthy novels are not the Old West that Hollywood and major book publishers would like for us believe existed. No, McCarthy shows the greatness of the West with all its warts and difficulties. The Cone Brothers make it possible for all of us do the same; now, many other readers can delve deeper into his body of work.

McCarthy's recent doings. At 74 years old, McCarthy is not standing still. He is a Santa Fe Institute Research Fellow and winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his book, "The Road," which is bound for filming. The Santa Fe Institute is devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multi-disciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems.

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