All the Pretty Horses (book review)

Happy Monday!

all-the-pretty-horses

I have been looking forward to this review for a while now.  My first taste of McCarthy was when I saw the deeply disturbing but fantastic 2009 movie The Road staring Viggo Mortensen previously known for playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings and the star role in A History of Violence.  It would be years before I actually picked up my first two McCarthy books, two for one deal at a second hand book shop got The Road and All the Pretty Horses, and what excellent purchases they were.  Sadly I may have to re-buy my book collection since I’m in the process of beginning the naturalisation process so I can be a full UK citizen and I did not realise how steep the shipping and handling over seas is!  However I did bring some of my books, All the Pretty Horses being one of them.

Setting: 1949, San Angelo, Texas => Mexico

Three Sentence Summary:

  1. John Grady, our main character, has lost his grandfather and the novel opens with a viewing of the body and the news that the ranch he lives on will be sold.
  2. John and his friend Lacey decide to ride their horses south into Mexico in search of fun and work and pick up another companion, reluctantly, a young outlaw calling him self Jimmy Belivins.
  3. John and Lacey loose Belivins at some point and ride further south in to the Mexican landscape eventually finding work but the trouble Belivins got into catches up to John and Lacey who are put into prison and narrowly survive long enough to be bailed out when Lacey decides to ride back to Texas and John tries to find the girl he fell in love with on the ranch but ultimately gets revenge on the corrupt officials who imprisoned him and his friends, reunites with Lacey, and then rides off into the sunset.

Review:

This story is a seriously sad one.  Some main themes include isolation, loneliness, being “the stranger in a strange land”, and loss.  John Cole Grady, over the course of the book looses his grandfather in the beginning which also means that his family is selling off the ranch something he was deeply attached to, later John Grady falls in love with a young woman living on the ranch, Alejandra, whom he will later be forced to never see again, after him and Lacey are arrested they reunite with Belivins only to witness him being walked off and executed off the record, by the end of the novel John Grady’s father dies along with the longtime family caregiver (his mother has been out of the picture for a long time), and it’s somewhat implied by the ending that the strain of the journey on the friendship between John Grady and Lacey ultimately breaks them up leaving John Grady with no more ties and no home to ride off alone into the sunset with his horse and Belivins bay horse.

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For New Friends and Old Alike

Happy Friday!

NOTE: I am using [sic] to indicate that these people said these specific words to demonstrate that I’m not exaggerating the incredible rudeness I encountered.

As many of my regular readers probably know, I left my mother city of St Louis (Follow link for more information, however TL;DC [Too Lazy; Didn’t Click] St Louis is a Beer City with a Baseball problem [among other problems] that’s about 300 miles south on the mighty Mississippi River) 1st October 2016 at 4.20pm (tee-hee) central time on my first ever journey out of the United States for the University of Lancaster in the UK and the experience has been absolutely beautiful, depraved, loving, dysphoric, and already significantly life changing.

I believe in the some-what superstitious idea of synchronicity(1) and this being said, as much as I will always love St Louis as my Mother City, I believe she was giving me her blessing by fire to leave in three little flares:

Flare #1:  The Thursday before I left, I was trying run around town and finish the things I didn’t do yet because procrastination which when you’re errands depend on the public transit system in St Louis, it can take up to 4 hours round trip for less than a 20 mi/32.187km trip.  This being the case, I’m pretty used to eating on the go and being so close to leaving I was eating lots of glorious trash gas (petrol) station foods to avoid having groceries that I wouldn’t be able to eat before leaving.  I have some pretty wicked hair(2) and hair this wild was never made to play well with hats.  However I haven’t yet found a proper alternative to the skull cap for winter weather which leads to results that look kinda like this:

fin-hat-hair

So be me, sweaty from dressing for the cold morning weather that turned up to mild summer weather in the span of my transit travels and no longer wanting to be in a hot hat.  Taking it off when I arrive at the gas station and feeling self conscious but mostly hungry I made a bee-line for the junk food section and load up some slightly-burnt hot dogs and hot-dog-shaped chicken things and mildly-satisfying-for-the-price taquitos and jump in line(3) and the over middle aged cashier checks me out and says to his coworkers (as a complete non-sequitur) “…speaking of I need to get in touch with my lazy-ass [sic] barber because my hair is starting to look like absolute shit [sic].” To wit I thought “So it makes you feel good to insult boys half your age about their hair passively you fucking limp dick? Not only you insult your barber who earns an honest living unlike you’re dead end gas station attendant job?” However I’ve been trying to remember Louie’s advice “Let it go, Fin. You’ll be happier for it.” and resisted spitting sulpher and walked away letting the miserable prick marinate in his own negativity.

Flare #2: Saturday morning rolls around and I’m ready to leave this city.  I’ve had people who I considered friends ignore me completely in any respects to hang out one last time before leaving, we had been having miserable weather, and I was still a little pissed off about the hat hair comment (I mean the guy works in the HOSPITALITY industry, what kind of mum teaches their child to behave in such a manour much less at work?) however the bus stop to take me to the airport was literally less than a block from the front door of my motel room which made me pretty happy.  I packed (almost) everything I own in the world in a big roller bag that I had received as present for the first time I went off to university(4) however it was the very cheap Prestige brand of bag(5).  Before I even got to the bus stop (less than one block), the wheels broke off and the bottom of the bag was getting a friction hole exposing a structural wire. I’m convinced that Prestige brand bags are the type of bags you gift your traveler friend you’re trying to sabotage because they will not last more than one trip, if that.

Flare 3: I bought my tickets of this app I discovered via reddit (/r/budget if I remember correctly, however probably not) called Skip Lagged

Skiplagged is a pro-consumer travel website that aims to make it easier to experience the world. We expose secrets of the industry by finding airfares not found anywhere else that can easily save you up to 80%. FAQ

Regardless of how infomercial the pitch sounds, I literally got my flight here for 500$, the next cheapest being 1000$.  The itinerary I had purchased didn’t use American Airlines (instead using the appropriate “Finnair”) to get me from St Louis to Chicago and on presenting this to the boarding pass counter, the lady looks at my itinerary and says “What the fuck [sic] is this?”
Me: My itinerary?

To which she gives me a dirty look (another prime example of St Louis Hospitality) and told me to wait and went off to talk to her equally vapid and rude coworker to figure out my business.

Finally after over 30 minutes of waiting she comes back and mumbles “I guess I’ll try this again.” and when she finds my boarding pass she says to her computer screen “This was a fucking stupid [sic] way to buy a plane ticket.”   Be me (again), wheels have fallen off my 70lb/31.752kg and I’m tired from manually carrying the thing around to keep it from breaking further and for the second time in 3 days I’m being insulted passively to my face from an individual in the hospitality industry. “Let it go, Fin.”

I’ll be the first to admit, I was deeply unhappy being in St Louis long before deciding on this trip however I found it deeply bothersome to be treated with such blatant hostility from people who have jobs in an industry that is supposed to be focused on good manours.  And maybe this rubs me especially hard because I’m a food industry veteran of 13 years and I’ve fired people for less.  This sort of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable particularly when not provoked, however what bothers me the most is that both of the people from #1 and #3 I guarantee have higher wages than I’ve had at my peak regardless of my practice of loving compassionate kindness. Even now, just writing this is making me grind my teeth. “Let it go, Fin.”

Fear not, my dear reader, after 1300+ words there is a happy ending: Since touching down in the UK every single person (inc hospitality workers, flat mates, university workers, strangers, literally EVERYONE) has been radically kind, polite, and frequently even nice to the point of “sweetheart” levels.  Never have I ever encountered any place where everyone says “please, thank you, excuse me, sorry” so frequently which among other things (that I plan to cover in a future piece “Cultural Dysphoria: An American Abroad” [working title]) has made it easy to fall head over heels in love with the people of the United Kingdom.  For the first time in my life, I feel safe and accepted.

american-born-british-at-heart

 

Footnotes:

  1. I also believe in: ghosts, astrology, lucky pennies, that I can communicate with non-human living beings via deep empathy (inc trees, insects, birds, dogs, plants; in fact I had a basil plant named Bob once, he was a good plant but when he died because my thumbs are flesh coloured rather than the prerequisite green I had a funeral for em and I felt really bad which is why I don’t aspire to have pets, plants, or children in the near future; R.I.P. Bob, the basil lemon chicken I made with you was wonderful and I won’t forget it anytime soon), and that I can in fact identify as a cartoon stick-figure in real life as a legitimate claim.  This should give you a nice flavour for the sort of coconut I have on top of my stick-ish torso.
  2. fin-head
  3. Or a queue, which I’m learning is the Official British National past time, as someone in London told me “If ever in doubt, just form a queue and people will follow suit”, however I honestly wouldn’t call it a queue in the states because we’re more likely just to make an amorphis blob especially at gas stations.
  4. Straight out of high school (or college, being the English equivalent) I went off to the University of Missouri – Columbia aka Mizzou however after crushing the fuck out of my first term at 18 credit hours and a 4.0, over winter break I discovered the wonders of marijuana which lead to term two crushing the fuck out of me and leading me into what I’ve termed “7 Years of Summer Break”.
  5. Wal-mart’s “exclusive” travel bag line.  You get like a full 8 bag set for like 30$.  Avoid at all costs.