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3 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Crossing (Vintage International)


The Crossing (Vintage International) Cover

ISBN13: 9780679760849
ISBN10: 0679760849
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

The author biography and questions that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing. We hope that they will provide you with new ways of looking at--and talking about--the latest novel by a writer who has been compared to Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner. The Crossing is the second volume of the Border Trilogy that began with All the Pretty Horses. Like that earlier novel, The Crossing is also set in New Mexico and Mexico. The time period is somewhat earlier, between 1940 and 1944. The background, however, is the Mexican Revolution early in the century, whose campaigns and atrocities have by now become nearly legendary events.

1. What is the significance of the book's title?

2. Discuss the meaning of the observation: "The world was new each day for God so made it daily. Yet it contained within it all the evils as before" [p. 278]. How are these words applicable to the novel's action?

3. Early in the book Boyd Parham is struck by the sight of his reflection in the eyes of an Indian who asks them for food. What he sees is not so much himself as a "cognate child...windowed away in another world where the red sun sank eternally" [p. 6]. What themes do this moment of mirroring and self-estrangement suggest?

4. How would you characterize Billy's relationship with Boyd? Why does he return to Mexico to find out what happened to his brother? What else is he looking for?

5. Who do you think murdered the Parhams? Why didn't Boyd try to escape when he had the chance?

6. The people in The Crossing are characterized by a kind of psychological opaqueness. Since we rarely know their direct thoughts, we must infer their motives from their words and actions, which often seem cryptic or irrational. How do we come to know these characters? What vision of human nature does their opaqueness suggest?

7. What role do animals play in this book? Why, for example, does Billy endure such great danger and hardship for the sake of a wolf? Do any of the characters he meets in Mexico share his feelings about animals?

8. The Crossing is a book of dreams and auguries. Early in the novel Boyd has a dream of people burning on a dry lake [p. 35]; Billy dreams he sees his father wandering lost in the desert and being swallowed by darkness [p. 112]. Later in his journey, Billy is taken in by Indians whose elder calls him "huerfano"--orphan [p. 134]--thus predicting the murder of his parents. What is the role of portents--both accurate and inaccurate--in this book?

9. The Crossing is an account of three journeys. The book is also divided into four sections. Why do you think McCarthy has divided

The Crossing in this asymmetrical fashion? Does he employ a similar structure elsewhere in this book? Is its overall structure similar to that of All the Pretty Horses?

10. What role does hospitality play in this book? Is there any relation between the novel's scenes of hospitality and its moments of violence?

11. Is The Crossing a violent book? Why do you think the author has chosen to recount some of the worst instances of bloodshed (the slaughter of the opera company's mule, the blinding of the rebel soldier) secondhand? At a time when graphic and gratuitous descriptions of mayhem are standard in much popular fiction for purposes of mere shock and titillation, has McCarthy succeeded in restoring to violence its ancient qualities of pity and terror? How has he managed this?

12. What things does Billy lose in the course of this novel? Which of these losses is voluntary?

13. The Crossing is a book about human beings and their relationship with God and, in particular, about their attempt to decipher divine justice. McCarthy explores this theme with Dostoyevskian eloquence in Billy's conversations with the sexton of a ruined church [pp. 140-59] and a blind veteran of the Revolution [pp. 274-93]. What kind of God have these men come to understand? Is that God the same one that Billy and Boyd encounter?

14. In what ways does The Crossing resemble classic myths and fairy tales? How do Billy and Boyd Parham compare to the figures that Joseph Campbell describes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Mrs G, April 4, 2012 (view all comments by Mrs G)
Of the Border Trilogy, this was the most poignantly beautiful. Stunning imagery and character development frame this tome into one of the best novels of our time.

Perfect for a fan of any western, this book is a delight and yet a treachery to get through. The story is heart-wrenching and unforgettable…

Keep that Spanish-English dictionary close by!
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Mila, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Mila)
As always, Cormac McCarthy delivers an incredible book in The Crossing. It's intense, full of soul and darkness, but comforting in a way. I'll be reading this one again and again.
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Dean Westervelt, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by Dean Westervelt)
Book of the decade - I avoided Cormac McCarthy because of "All the Pretty Horses" until I stumbled onto this book. My mistake. This book is incredible.
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(3 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

McCarthy, Cormac
Vintage Books USA
New York :
Human-animal relationships
Historical fiction
Wilderness areas
Hidalgo County (N.M.) Fiction.
Hidalgo County
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Vintage International (Paperback)
Series Volume:
v. 2
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.15 x .9 in .6875 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Crossing (Vintage International) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679760849 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This is a novel so exuberant in its prose, so offbeat in its setting and so mordant and profound....None of McCarthy's previous works...quite prepares the reader for [this] singular achievement..."
"Review" by , "[B]eautifully written....[N]ever has any Western been so well told."
"Review" by , "McCarthy puts most other American writers to shame. [His] work itself repays the tight focus of his attention with its finely wrought craftsmanship and its ferocious energy."
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