Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Border Trilogy, Part 2

The Crossing (Border Trilogy, #2)              The Enmity of the World
                       The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy

"He turned the horse and set out along the road south, shadowless in the gray day, riding with the shotgun unscabbarded across the bow of the saddle.  For the enmity of the world was newly plain to him that day and cold and inameliorate as it must be to all who have no longer cause except themselves to stand against it. (p 331)

The Crossing is filled with moments like that described above telling of Billy Parham's movements south and north through a country that seems to be perpetually gray, with little room for the sun.  This is the second novel of  The Border Trilogy. In it we are introduced to Billy Parham who is sixteen years old as the story begins, recently moved to New Mexico and fated to travel to Mexico and back - it follows Billy's travels and travails as he crosses and recrosses the border. These begin with Billy and his father setting traps for a she-wolf which has been marauding and killing their sheep.  Billy is able to catch it in one of his traps, however instead of killing it he decides to take it to Mexico presumably to let it loose. 

"Ahead an hour's ride lay Cloverdale and the road north. South lay the open country. The yellow grass heeled under the blowing wind and sunlight was running over the country before the moving clouds. The horse shook its head and stamped and stood. Damn all of it, the boy said. Just damn all of it.
He turned the horse and crossed through the ditch and rode up onto the broad plain that stretched away before him south toward the mountains of Mexico." (p 63)

 It is with this act that his adventures begin and, operating without any apparent overarching aim, Billy who is later joined by his younger brother Boyd, set out on a series of quests, all of which are doomed to failure. While the travels of Billy make up the action of the novel, like All the Pretty Horses, the first novel in the trilogy, this novel is less about achieving goals and more about larger themes of good and evil, fate and responsibility, and the nature of friendship and relationships in this gray and desolate world. Related to these themes permeating the novel is the characters' ability or inability to see the world around them.

"Between their acts and their ceremonies lies the world and in this world the storms blow and the trees twist in the wind and all the animals that God has made go to and fro yet this world men do not see. They see the acts of their own hands or they see that which they name and call out to one another but the world between is invisible to them." (p 46)

This was related by an "old man" that Billy met as he was headed to Mexico on his first trip. As in All the Pretty Horses McCarthy inserts characters like this who make pronouncements , usually in the process of relating stories about themselves.  In addition to the old man there is a Priest, a Mormon, others. These characters along with the narrator raise issues that Billy may or may not understand. Among these issues are those about story-telling itself which may be key to understanding Billy's world and ours.  McCarthy's odd narrational devices, his inimitable use of metaphor set against a background of realistic detail makes this volume the equal of the first in the trilogy.  The story is bleak and narrates a tale of preservation in a world filled with enmity, yet it is a world that has many kind people and one in which Billy survives to see visions of unusual days and nights and perhaps a future.

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@parridhlantern said...

AS I said last time I aim to read more McCarthy, after reading & thoroughly enjoyed The Sunset Ltd, but I don't think I asked if you had read it.

James said...

I think you will enjoy McCarthy's novels. I have not read Sunset Limited but it looks like it is a fascinating novella.