What does the world see in Cormac McCarthy?
I've read the first and third of the books in this trilogy, so my review will apply to those parts of this collection.
First, my comments on All the Pretty Horses:
"For all the praise of McCarthy's chiseled, lapidary sentences and Oprah's recent selection of "The Road", there is something too Hemingwayesque about his body of work to take it really seriously as literary gold. Boil down the story here--and you don't have to boil too long (partly because the sentences are so short and "chiseled"), you have a western potboiler with restlessness, frustrated romance and and a father's angry violence as the plot movers. It could have come from numerous B movies--and reads a lot like one. The characters are cardboard icons--strong silent types, the cowboys of Western folklore. Why they garner so much praise is beyond me. If you want to imagine life as the mythical West, this book helps--even as it makes a few sad nods to the passing of such a blissful existence."
Cities on the Plain carries on with the same lapidary sentences, the same cardboard icons, and the same tone of poignant nostalgia for the simple verities and violence of the past (triggered mostly by desires for and rivalries about women). This third part of the trilogy, however, adds a look into the blighted future of the surviving male hero. It seems tacked on, with philosophical reflections that come across as ludicrous. Perhaps down-and-out previously violent "heroes" end up thinking such thoughts, but their content hardly matters to the rest of us--especially since the character had almost no reality in the first place.
Maybe the recently praised "The Road" is marvelously better than these books, but I doubt it.
McCarthy's legendary reclusiveness can't be harming his cult of idealization, just as J D Salinger's reputation has been inflated far too long by his refusal to contact the world. Really good literature does usually derive from some contact with a wider reality.