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Unformatted text preview: 1822 Am J Psychiatry 151 :1 2, December 1994 Book Forum The books for this month are a holiday gift list: books to broaden the library and the mind, to provide pleasure and enjoyment, to give to oneself and others. LITERATURE The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy. New York, Alfred A. Knopf (hardcover), Random House (paperback), 1994, 426 pp., $23.00; $22.00 (paper). Cormac McCarthys fiction has always been able to hold the interest of the medical reader. The Crossing, the second volume of his Border Trilogy (the first volume, All the Pretty Horses , won the 1992 National Book Award), is no cx- ception. To those for whom All the Pretty Horses was an in- troduction to McCarthy, The Crossing will be a glimpse into his usual brutal universe. The reader encounters the forces of violence, desolation, and meaninglessness during the books journey, although the unrelieved bleakness and slaughter found in so many of McCarthys books and most evident in Blood Meridian (2) are absent. There is at least a touch of tenderness. The Crossing shares much with its predecessor in the tnil- ogy. Both books begin in border states-Texas in All the Pretty Horses and New Mexico in The Crossing. Both books follow competent adolescent protagonists, separated from their families, on horseback quests across the border into old Mexico, a land shown to be a proving ground of sorts, a place of blood and great beauty and of both human and inhuman nature in their elemental states. In The Crossing, McCarthy adds variations to the themes of All the Pretty Horses, which seems a relatively simple coming of age story, in which the trials ofJohn Grady Cole, at 1 6-1 7, reinforce the development of a strong, independent character. In The Crossing, Billy Parham also starts out at age 16, but his story carries him for an indefinitely longer period of time. His relationship with his brother Boyd, 2 years younger, adds complications. The brothers separate early in the book when Billy, having man- aged to trap a she-wolf, feels obligated to return her across the border to the Mexican mountains of her origin. Billy finds that this staggeningly difficult commitment changes him, and by the time he is reunited with Boyd, their lives have been altered unimaginably. From that point, not only is the plot more and more complicated, but the stories the brothers hear and the speculations about the world given by the Mexicans they meet are multiplied. By the end of the book, Billy has crossed into Mexico three times, suffered grievous losses, and heard histo- nies of the worst cruelties of men and of fate. Absurdly humor- ous incidents and luminous moments of kind human contact stand out in contrast. The story ends without the hopeful reso- lution of All the Pretty Horses, and the reader wonders with the critics about whether the third volume of the trilogy will resolve the tension between these first two....
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