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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses was what I read while up in Queensland, during my breaks from dealing with the parental unit. I would lie on the blue velour couch in my apartment and drift off into a dreamworld of scrubby hills and rancheros which spans two nations in the middle of the twentieth century.

A few days ago, kimbofo of the blog Reading Matters posted about her dismay at McCarthy's punctuation. Specifically, she was put off by his way of omitting apostrophes from contractions. So, for example, he'll write 'dont' instead of 'don't'. 'Wont' instead of 'won't'. And so on. It struck me, too, but I didn't find it off-putting at all. Rather, I found this method to increase the dreaminess of the prose. Especially considering that the protagonists of All the Pretty Horses are sixteen and seventeen. I thought it echoed the texture of their thoughts, they being rather unsophisticated fellows.

The fact that McCarthy uses the same method in another book, in this case The Road, suggests that it is a stylistic feature of McCarthy in general, rather than one employed for the specific purposes of one novel.

In this case, it seems that McCarthy is possibly trying to make a point about the flow of the narrative. By omitting the apostrophes, he is perhaps trying to reduce the friction experienced by the reader, speed up his or her progress through the matrix of words and ideas.

For me, All the Pretty Horses is quite a wonderful book. John Grady Cole and his mate Rawlins are plausible heroes in a world where horses are money. The way these two adolescents handle wealth in this form is fascinating. And McCarthy's quiet power brings characters and events into relief with a slight delay, so that it is only after the dramatic moment is past that you understand its full meaning.

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