“The world has no name, he said. The names of the cerros and the sierras and the deserts exist only on maps. We name them that we do not lose our way. Yet it was because the way was lost to us already that we have made those names. The world cannot be lost. We are the ones. And it is because these names and these coordinates are our own naming that they cannot save us. That they cannot find us for the way again.” (387)
A Cormac McCarthy novel is likened to a sacred text. McCarthy has been blessed with a vision that is pure and raw and real with a prophetic voice that reveals the dark and sorrowful nature of the American spirit. In McCarthy’s world life is difficult and the journeys his characters travel are pathologically conditioned to encounter bloodshed and brutality. The violence that is inherent in a McCarthy narrative is characteristically suggestive of beauty. Through his narrative craft McCarthy uses language to transform the nihilism of death and violence towards inspired reflection and renewed perspective upon a sober evaluation of life and its questionable worth.
Take this passage from the Crossing as an example of what I am alluding to:
“The events of the world cannot have no separate life from the world. And yet the world itself can have no temporal view of things. It can have no cause to favor certain enterprises over others. The passing of armies and the passing of sands are one. There is no favoring you see, how could there be?” (148)
With my praises established, I will acknowledge that The Crossing is a unique chapter in the McCarthy ethos. This is the tale of Billy Parham’s travels back and forth between rural New Mexico and the more rural Mexico. Although Billy runs into many disappointments and troubles, the novel lacks the gruesome scenes of brutality witnessed in many of McCarthy’s novels such as Blood Meridian, or The Road. Granted, The Crossing is not entirely sterilized of violence and the image of how the blind man lost his vision will linger with me, yet the greatest losses that Billy must accept occur offstage, unwitnessed by the reader. Billy’s travels are often interrupted by strangers that he encounters along the way, and in these encounters Billy is witness to their tales of tragedy and loss. It is in these encounters of storytelling that separate The Crossing from McCarthy’s other works. The Crossing is a novel that contains within it many stories unrelated, yet universal. The stories serve to present Billy Parham’s story as a tale of one man’s inherited loneliness that is but one path among many common paths that man may walk.
I will say that this is not a fast-paced book, for it demands attention and reflection. I found that I read its Borders Trilogy predecessor, All the Pretty Horses, in just a few days, while The Crossing required nearly two weeks of my attention. However, the pace didn’t impact my enjoyment. I feel that this is one of McCarthy’s better works, for the thoughtfulness of the narrative better portrays McCarthy’s intentions as a storyteller capable of provoking consideration of life’s circumstances that exist simply because they are the inevitabilities of life.
“The notion that evil was never rewarded was greatly overspoken for if there was no advantage to it then men would shun it and then how could virtue be attached to its repudiation? It was the nature of this profession that his experience with death should be greater than for most and he said that while it is true that time heals bereavement it does so only at the cost of the slow extinction of those loved one’s from the heart’s memory which is the sole place of their abode then or now. Faces fade. Voices dim.” (288)