All the Pretty Horses (Border Trilogy S.)
Set in 1949, this is the tale of a teenaged Texan cowboy who decides to pack up and seek his fortune in Mexico, along with a friend. They set off on horseback, leaving behind everything they know. The people and situations they meet will test them physically, emotionally and morally.
Along with the serious moral and philosophical elements of the story, there is a wealth of darkly comic dialogue and offbeat characters. And also some of the richest and most lyrical descriptions of landscape, animals and people that I have come across.
It's a book that needs to be enjoyed slowly. Although it portrays dramatic events, the style is subtle and elliptical, and it's easy to miss important details. And the lushness and lyricism of the descriptive writing requires slow savouring. Below are some samples:
"As he turned to go he heard the train. He stopped and waited for it. he could feel it under his feet. It came boring out the east like some ribald satellite of the coming sun howling and bellowing in the distance and the long light of the headlamp running through the tangled mesquite brakes and creating out of the night the endless fenceline down the dead straight right of way and sucking it back again wire and post mile on mile into the darkness after where the boilersmoke disbanded slowly along the faint new horizon and the sound came lagging and he stood still holding his hat in this hands in the passing ground-shudder watching till it was gone. Then he turned and went back to the house."
"They rode out along the fenceline and across the open pastureland. The leather creaked in the morning cold. They pushed the horses into a lope. The lights fell away behind them. They rode out on the high prairie where they slowed the horses to a walk and the stars swarmed around them out of the blackness. They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing."
"They spread their soogans and he pulled off his boots and stood them beside him and stretched out in his blankets. The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands."
"...inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who's will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who's will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed in their articulations and of who's will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned."