border world, both men a few years olderrnbut still managing to get into trouble. Asrnin the earlier works, the reader is turnedrnevery which way but loose by the emotionalrnpower of the fiction; also, as before,rnthe English language is torqued andrnpressured to yield new veins of gold. Irnsuspect McCarthy is the best novelist wernhave in the country now, perhaps evenrnthe best writing in the English languagernat the present moment.rnThe laconic humor, present almostrnon every page, only serves to sharpen thernoutlines of this dark story. The verbalrnhorsing around, the cowboy give-andtakernof the dialogue, is an important elementrnin the narrative drive of the novel,rnwhose plot centers on John Grady’s overwhelmingrnpassion for a teenage epilepticrnMexican whore kept virtually a captivernby Eduardo, the whoremaster who is alsornin some way a philosopher and a seer.rnComplicating the plot, Eduardo too is inrnlove with the epileptic whore, althoughrnhe has strange ways of expressing his affection.rnAs always, McCarthy is on thernside of a passionately lived life, his charactersrnbearing no resemblance to thosernof, say, a Huxley novel: so far as intensityrnis concerned, they would fit comfortablyrnin an ancient Greek tragedy. As the narratorrnsays of John Grady in All the PrettyrnHorses, “All his reverence and all hisrnfondness and all the leanings of his lifernwere for the ardent hearted and theyrnwould always be so and never be otherwise.rnMcCarthy adheres to the current formularnaccording to which “Billy said” orrn”John Grady said” is thought to be superfluousrn—a technique that, given thernamount of dialogue in the book, puts thernreader quite frequently to the trouble ofrnhaving to puzzle out who is speaking,rnwithout serving any visible artistic purpose.rnAs for the ubiquitous Spanish inrnthe text, though I can read it (most of it)rnMcCarthy’s heavy use of a foreign languagernreminds me of the Russian joke:rn”Have you read War and Peace?” “No, Irndon’t read French.” Same problem.rnOne can argue hard for the artistic necessityrnof the Spanish; somehow, for instance,rnJohn Grady or the Mexicanrnwhore walking down “Calle de NochernTriste,” or having her work in a whorehouserncalled “La Esperanza del Mundo”rnmakes for a stronger ironic impact. Forrnthe average reader, however, the Spanishrnmay present a problem. But then this isrnno average novel. When a novelist writesrnlike an angel, as this one does, you findrnyou can forgive him many things.rnThe trilogy as a whole is a story of passage,rnof initiation. Billy Parham, 28rnyears old at the beginning of Cities of thernPlain, is 78 in the epilogue (a real tourdernforce) and still crossing into new worlds,rnpropelled by his “ardent heart.” The trilogyrnis also a theodicy, God being veryrnmuch on the minds of most of the characters.rnAs is appropriate to a novel of passage,rnthis one contains sages, teachers,rnand shamans—often in the form of thernmost unlikely people—who help the initiaternto interpret his experience if he isrnready to understand it, or help him tornframe his quesdons concerning the naturernof reality. A little shoeshine boy inrnJuarez tells John Grady that “If there’srnsomething I want to be a different wayrnfrom what it is then that’s how I say it is.rnWhat’s wrong with that?” —a questionrnworthy of our latter-day hermenauts andrndeeonstructionists.rnIn bargaining with Eduardo, BillyrnParham is offered another perspective onrnrealit}’. “Men have in their minds a picturernof how the world will be,” Eduardorntells him. “How they will be in thatrnworld. The world may be many differentrnways for them but there is one world thatrnwill never be and that is the world theyrndream of. Do you believe that?” Oldrnman Johnson, when asked by JohnrnGrady for advice, replies, “I think yournought to follow your heart. That’s all Irnever thought about anything.” And thernblind musician, speaking also to JohnrnGrady on the subject of destiny, tellsrnhim,rnEach act in this world from whichrnthere can be no turning back hasrnbefore it another, and it anotherrnyet. In a vast and endless net.rnMen imagine that the choices beforernthem are theirs to make. Butrnwe are free to act only upon what isrngiven. Choice is lost in the mazernof generahons and each act in thatrnmaze is itself an enslavement for itrnvoids every alternative and bindsrnone ever more fightly into the constraintsrnthat make a life.rnThe epilogue finds Billy Parham, 78rnyears old and down on his luck, sleepingrnon the ground under a concrete overpass.rnThe year is either 2001 or 2002, dependingrnon whether one counts 2000 asrnthe first year of the new millennium. Ifrnthe former, the scene resonates withrn2001: A Space Odyssey, McCarthy’s trilogyrnbeing surely an odyssey in its ownrnright. In the epilogue we find the mostrnsustained ruminations on dream and reality,rnon destiny and history. The seershamanrntells Billy about a dream he hasrnhad, which in turn is filled with arnshaman, magic rituals, masks, and arnplace of ritual sacrifice. There are resonancesrnwith many ancient stories here,rnincluding the Arthurian legends, thernGrail and Gawain. As with many of thernold stories, there is an overpoweringrnsense of fatedness, and of impotence. Irnleave to the reader the pleasure of meditatingrnon the epilogue, as well as the novelrnthat goes before.rnBuy the book and enjoy it now as a virginrnexperience before Disney makes arnmovie of it, or the literary theorists tellrnyou what they think it means.rnWilliam Mills, a novelist and poet, is therneditor of Images of Kansas City. His latestrnwork of fiction is Properties of Blood.rnPoetry Nowrnby George GarrettrnA Way of Happening:rnObservations ofrnContemporary Poetryrnby Fred ChappellrnNewYork: Picador USA;rn322 pp., $24.00rnFred Chappell’s A Way of Happeningrnis a gathering of some 17 criticalrnpieces, together with an important personalrnessay about teaching writing (“FirstrnNight Come Round Again”) and an essay-rnlength introduction (“Thanks ButrnNo Thanks”), published between 1985rnand 1997, all but three written expresslyrnfor and published by the Georgia Review.rnChappell, author of seven novels, tworncollections of short stories, 13 books ofrnpoems, and a book of essays. Plow Nakedrn(not to mention his translations fromrnclassical drama and French Renaissancernpoetry), has earned a considerable andrnenviable reputation and, as well, has receivedrnsignificant awards including thernBollingen Prize in Poetry, the IngersollrnFoundation’s T.S. Eliot Award, and thernAiken/Taylor Award from the UniversityrnOCTOBER 1998/31rnrnrn