Books: Thar She Moos

Cormac McCarthy's cowboys rope dogies and white whales

Cities of the Plain (Knopf; 293 pages; $24) is the concluding novel of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. Like All the Pretty Horses, winner of the 1992 National Book Award for Fiction, and The Crossing, published two years later, Cities tells the story of cowboy John Grady Cole and his trailmates as they drift south of the border to find respite from modern encroachments. The time is 1952, about when pickups started looking prettier than horses. The starting place is New Mexico, nursery to the atomic age.

Unlike Larry McMurtry, the other contemporary master of the artful oater, McCarthy is concerned more...

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