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All the Pretty Horses

By Cormac McCarthy

Original Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Current Publisher:
Vintage Books
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

Harold Augenbraum writes:

There’s a line in all of Cormac McCarthy’s work, which divides particles of time and space and behavior. In All the Pretty Horses, the metaphoric line is an imaginary stop between the light and dark of language and statehood. Whosoever strays across the line will be forever changed. You can’t just nip at darkness, so when you read this book, from page one you feel a threat following you, some animistic urging that keeps you going by the way McCarthy manipulates your demonic love of the sounds of speech. It’s seductive, the way shots of tequila offer the promise of danger, the way Shakespeare convinces you that even though Macbeth is up on the stage and you’re in the audience you’re thinking and feeling along with him, his bravado, his self-convincing, his descent, his death, your fear of prolepsis. I have a friend who, when he travels to Mexico on vacation, likes to visit coffin stores (they’re simple storefronts in much of Mexico). He looks inside the coffins and imagines people in them, some of whom he knows and some of whom are just amalgams of people he has seen on the street that day. He finds it satisfying, without knowing exactly why, but he conjectures it is simply a fascination with animation of figments and disanimation of the real. That’s why I read McCarthy.

Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.

ISBN: 9780679744399

Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Dorothy Allison for Bastard out of Carolina
  • Cristina Garcia for Dreaming in Cuban
  • Edward P. Jones for Lost in the City
  • Robert Stone for Outerbridge Reach

Fiction Judges that Year:

Leonard Michaels, Toni Cade Bambara, Philip Caputo, John Leonard, Joy Williams

The Year in Literature:  

  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  •  Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

Cormac McCarthy's first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published by Random House in 1965. He chose to send the manuscript to Random House because “it was the only publisher [he] had heard of.” The manuscript landed on the desk of Albert Erskine, who was William Faulkner's editor until Faulkner's death in 1962. Erskine continued in the role of McCarthy’s editor for the next twenty years.

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