All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I’ve just finished, and really enjoyed, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.  I thought of writing a review, but lots of other people have already done this so I couldn’t see the point.

Something that struck me about the book, however, was McCarthy’s refusal to use speech marks when writing dialogue – indeed, there is a tendency towards the more literary end of the market for writers to dispense with speech marks and other punctuation.  I couldn’t help wondering, however, whether McCarthy found himself accidentally typing the odd inverted comma when he was writing the book.  After all, the habits of writing become ingrained over the years and are difficult to break.

So it occurred to me to write the Java program at the end of this entry.  It uses a regular expression to remove the speech marks from text, thus converting your writing into McCarthy’s style without having to unlearn all those habits you’ve developed over the years.

So, for example, if your plaintext read

“This is Cormac McCarthy style”  said Susan.  Susan picked up the tortilla.

The LitConvertor makes it

This is Cormac McCarthy style said Susan.  Susan picked up the tortilla.

Of course, this would be more Cormac McCarthy like if it read

This is Cormac McCarthy style said Susan and Susan picked up the tortilla.

Adding the following line after the first replaceAll should sort that out.

literaryText = literaryText.replaceAll(“\\.[^$]”, ” and”);

This is quite a nice exercise for students learning regular expressions – the next step would be a Roddy Doyle conversion

“From this,” he said

-To something like this.

Anyway, here’s the program.

package litconvertor;
import java.awt.BorderLayout;
import java.awt.event.ActionEvent;
import java.awt.event.ActionListener;
import javax.swing.JButton;
import javax.swing.JFrame;
import javax.swing.JTextArea;
* @author Tony Ballantyne
public class LitConvertor extends JFrame implements ActionListener
JTextArea text;
JButton okButton;
text = new JTextArea(“Paste your text here and press OK”);
okButton = new JButton(“OK”);
this.getContentPane().add(okButton, BorderLayout.SOUTH);
this.setSize(500, 500);
public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent e)
String plainText = text.getText();
String literaryText = plainText.replaceAll(“\””, “”);
public static void main(String[] args)
new LitConvertor();

3 Responses to All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

  1. Duracell says:

    Thanks for the program – Endless hours of fun!

    Cormac McCarthy uses a similar but more spartan style in The Road, which I would heartily recommend to anyone that has not read it yet. The movie did not do it justice in my opinion.

    Tony, are there any adaptation of any of your novels on the horizon?

    • I’ve not seen the movie of The Road yet…

      No, there are no adaptations of my novels on the horizon- I’m not sure they are filmable. Saying that, I’d love to see someone like Studio Ghibli have a go at them: I think a world of robots or lots of self replicating machines would look great animated.

      • Duracell says:

        Ghibli have done some beautiful work. They seem to have a gift for using animation to bring impossible worlds to life. I would love to see their interpretation of BVBs for example!

        However, watching Casshern on DVD radically altered my opinion as to what it would be possible to achieve using film.

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