I just finished reading Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy. It is the final book in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and that was my second reading of it. I have read the other two books of the Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing several times. For me, Cormac McCarthy is the greatest American novelist. What is so remarkable is that in his trilogy McCarthy is writing about two countries, two people and two cultures, none of which were his birthright and which he didn’t come to know until the thirties or forties of his life.
He was born in Tennessee to an aristocratic New England family who had moved to Tennessee when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed his father the head of the TVA. He was a misfit and after a year in college, joined the Air Force. When he left the service, he spent his time living and writing four novels about Appalachia and its people.
He then moved to El Paso, Texas and the southernmost part of the state of New Mexico and spent a lot of time in the mountains of Mexico. His heroes in the Trilogy are two young cowboys who live and work on a big cattle ranch in the United States near the Mexican border. Cowhands who actually have their living quarters in the horse stable. He writes about the life of working cowboys and their culture, just as he writes about Mexican vaqueros and their culture in the mountains of Mexico. He is fluent in Spanish and writes in Spanish in the Trilogy when apparently, he thinks it is best and necessary. Cormac McCarthy is a remarkable man and writer, and the Border Trilogy is an incredible accomplishment.