Cover image for Cormac McCarthy's western novels
Cormac McCarthy's western novels
Owens, Barcley, 1960-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Tucson : University of Arizona Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 136 pages ; 24 cm
Blood meridian's violence -- Blood meridian and the reassessment of violence -- Blood meridian and literary naturalism -- Western myths in All the pretty horses and The crossing -- The mast motifs in Cities of the plain.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.C337 Z794 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the continuing redefinition of the American West, few recent writers have left a mark as indelible as Cormac McCarthy. A favorite subject of critics and fans alike despite--or perhaps because of--his avoidance of public appearances, the man is known solely through his writing. Thanks to his early work, he is most often associated with a bleak vision of humanity grounded in a belief in man's primordial aggressiveness.

McCarthy scholar Barcley Owens has written the first book to concentrate exclusively on McCarthy's acclaimed western novels: Blood Meridian, National Book Award winner All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. In a thought-provoking analysis, he explores the differences between Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy novels and shows how those differences reflect changing conditions in contemporary American culture.

Owens captures both Blood Meridian's wanton violence and the Border Trilogy's fond remembrance of the Old West. He shows how this dramatic shift from atavistic brutality to nostalgic Americana suggests that McCarthy has finally given his readers what they most want--the stuff of their mythic dreams.

Owens's study is both an incisive look at one of our most important and demanding authors and a penetrating analysis of violence and myth in American culture. Fans of McCarthy's work will find much to consider for ongoing discussions of this influential body of work.

Author Notes

Barcley Owens teaches composition and American literature at Big Bend Community College in eastern Washington.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Since McCarthy is a trendy subject in academia, this first book treating only the violence in his four western novels is welcome but hampered. The opening chapter contains almost all of the value of the work. The following chapters detail the violence in chronological sequence, by novel. That makes reference difficult since there is no index. Instead of gathering the details by some categorizing method, Owens summarizes each novel, recording the violence as it occurs in the narratives. But Owens is exceptionally good in abstracting McCarthy's highly imaged style, which is couched in language ranging from lyrical to slaughter-house graphic. The concluding chapter neither synthesizes nor weights the cited details; it is an occasion for personal philosophizing. The book has all the right materials, and for McCarthy devotees it is a "good read"; but for library purposes most of it is mishandled. The list of works cited is superfluous in a "close reading." But the book will be useful for browsers who want to "know" McCarthy without having to read the novels. Of limited use in academic collections. J. N. Igo Jr.; emeritus, San Antonio College