Author Topic: Cormac McCarthy.  (Read 7631 times)

Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2019, 10:26:07 PM »
20 pages in and it's really getting on my tits. Gah!

Captain Crunch

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #31 on: July 17, 2020, 09:34:22 PM »
I rattled through The Sunset Limited the other day.  I enjoyed it because I’m currently going through a phase of seeking out short, strange books so it scratched that itch.  That said it felt slightly smug.  Not enough to ruin it, just a whiff. 

Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #32 on: July 18, 2020, 12:00:48 AM »
Reading Blood Meridian made me feel a bit dumb, had to skitter away and learn what they hell all the spanish stuff meant, and all the cactus nomenclature, along with what the hell vadose water was. Worth the effort though.

Blinder Data

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #33 on: July 18, 2020, 12:35:45 AM »
The boy looked at the horse and the horse looked back at him and they both felt something inside, like a candle flickering out at the end of a long night, both tired out like never before but not knocked out, aware that it wasnt over for sure, they would need to be lit again and do it again, ready to ride another day on the dirt that had brought them up and kept them where they were.

There you go - proof I am Cormac McCarthy. AMA

chveik

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #34 on: July 18, 2020, 02:06:38 AM »
"there are no absolutes in human misery and things can always get worse" 

very true Cormac

kalowski

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #35 on: July 18, 2020, 10:49:52 AM »
The boy looked at the horse and the horse looked back at him and they both felt something inside, like a candle flickering out at the end of a long night, both tired out like never before but not knocked out, aware that it wasnt over for sure, they would need to be lit again and do it again, ready to ride another day on the dirt that had brought them up and kept them where they were.

There you go - proof I am Cormac McCarthy. AMA
Actually that demonstrates just how hard it is to write like McCarthy. You can't just remove a few apostrophes.
One thing he seems to do cleverly is move the verb around. So he might write your clause as "like a candle out at the end of a long night flickering" or perhaps "like a flickering candle out at the end of a long night"
My examples are weak, because I can't write like McCarthy.

Blinder Data

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #36 on: July 19, 2020, 06:46:57 PM »
Actually that demonstrates just how hard it is to write like McCarthy. You can't just remove a few apostrophes.
One thing he seems to do cleverly is move the verb around. So he might write your clause as "like a candle out at the end of a long night flickering" or perhaps "like a flickering candle out at the end of a long night"
My examples are weak, because I can't write like McCarthy.

dont tell me how to write my own stuff

kalowski

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #37 on: July 19, 2020, 07:11:47 PM »
dont tell me how to write my own stuff
Yes, sir.

sardines

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #38 on: July 23, 2020, 09:57:25 PM »
Someone once described The Road as an extended novel form of a thesaurus entry for 'grey' and 'decay'.

Hard to argue though I think it is his best book.

Anyway I mainly wanted to say that anyone tempted by the film adaption should check out 'Time of the Wolf'.
I felt like Hillcoat's adaption bottled it a bit but Haneke's movie while nothing to do with the novel feels deeply connected to Mccarthy.

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #39 on: July 26, 2020, 05:31:51 PM »
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

Can someone find me the passage in this book where the young protagonist, preparing to elope with his lover, daughter of a big time rancher in Mexico, is given advice to the effect that "it doesn't matter what you want, or what she wants, all that matters is where the power is, and the power wants you dead, and for that reason you must go" by the girl's grandmother?

Mister Six

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #40 on: July 27, 2020, 03:27:47 PM »
Really liked (inasmuch as one can) The Road and keep meaning to pick up No Country, but I like the sound of Suttree so I might plump for that next (once I've whittled down my massive "to read" pile).

That said, I can't think of McCarthy without recalling this mini-rant from A Reader's Manifesto.

Quote
The masculine counterpart to the ladies' prose poetry is a bold, Melvillean stiltedness, better known to readers of book reviews as "muscular" prose. Charles Frazier, Frederick Busch, and many other novelists write in this idiom, but the acknowledged granddaddy of them all is Cormac McCarthy. In fairness, it must be said that McCarthy's style was once very different. The Orchard Keeper (1965), his debut novel, is a masterpiece of careful and restrained writing. An excerpt from the first page:

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Far down the blazing strip of concrete a small shapeless mass had emerged and was struggling toward him. It loomed steadily, weaving and grotesque like something seen through bad glass, gained briefly the form and solidity of a pickup truck, whipped past and receded into the same liquid shape by which it came.

There's not a word too many in there, and although the tone is hardly conversational, the reader is addressed as the writer's equal, in a natural cadence and vocabulary. Note also how the figurative language (like something seen through bad glass) is fresh and vivid without seeming to strain for originality.

Now read this from McCarthy's The Crossing (1994), part of the acclaimed Border Trilogy: "He ate the last of the eggs and wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate the tortilla and drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth and looked up and thanked her."

Thriller writers know enough to save this kind of syntax for fast-moving scenes: "... and his shout of fear came as a bloody gurgle and he died, and Wolff felt nothing" (Ken Follett, The Key to Rebecca, 1980). In McCarthy's sentence the unpunctuated flow of words bears no relation to the slow, methodical nature of what is being described. And why repeat tortilla? When Hemingway wrote "small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers" ("In Another Country," 1927), he was, as David Lodge points out in The Art of Fiction (1992), creating two sharp images in the simplest way he could. The repetition of wind, in subtly different senses, heightens the immediacy of the referent while echoing other reminders of Milan's windiness in the fall. McCarthy's second tortilla, in contrast, is there, like the syntax, to draw attention to the writer himself. For all the sentence tells us, it might as well be this: "He ate the last of the eggs. He wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate it. He drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth. He looked up and thanked her." Had McCarthy written that, the critics would have taken him to task for his "workmanlike" prose. But the first version is no more informative or pleasing to the ear than the second, which can at least be read aloud in a natural fashion. (McCarthy is famously averse to public readings.) All the original does is say, "I express myself differently from you, therefore I am a Writer."

The same message is conveyed by the stern biblical tone that runs through all of McCarthy's recent novels. Parallelisms and pseudo-archaic formulations abound: "They caught up and set out each day in the dark before the day yet was and they ate cold meat and biscuit and made no fire"; "and they would always be so and never be otherwise"; "the captain wrote on nor did he look up"; "there rode no soul save he," and so forth.

The reader is meant to be carried along on the stream of language. In the New York Times review of The Crossing, Robert Hass praised the effect: "It is a matter of straight-on writing, a veering accumulation of compound sentences, stinginess with commas, and a witching repetition of words ... Once this style is established, firm, faintly hypnotic, the crispness and sinuousness of the sentences ... gather to a magic." The key word here is "accumulation." Like Proulx and so many others today, McCarthy relies more on barrages of hit-and-miss verbiage than on careful use of just the right words.

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While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who's will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who's will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations of who's will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned. (All the Pretty Horses, 1992)

This may get Hass's darkly meated heart pumping, but it's really just bad poetry formatted to exploit the lenient standards of modern prose. The obscurity of who's will, which has an unfortunate Dr. Seussian ring to it, is meant to bully readers into thinking that the author's mind operates on a plane higher than their own—a plane where it isn't ridiculous to eulogize the shifts in a horse's bowels.

As a fan of movie westerns, I refuse to quibble with the myth that a wild landscape can bestow epic significance on the lives of its inhabitants. But novels tolerate epic language only in moderation. To record with the same somber majesty every aspect of a cowboy's life, from a knife fight to his lunchtime burrito, is to create what can only be described as kitsch. Here we learn that out west even a hangover is something special.

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(They) walked off in separate directions through the chaparral to stand spraddlelegged clutching their knees and vomiting. The browsing horses jerked their heads up. It was no sound they'd ever heard before. In the gray twilight those retchings seemed to echo like the calls of some rude provisional species loosed upon that waste. Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool. (All the Pretty Horses)

It is a rare passage that can make you look up, wherever you may be, and wonder if you are being subjected to a diabolically thorough Candid Camera prank. I can just go along with the idea that horses might mistake human retching for the call of wild animals. But "wild animals" isn't epic enough: McCarthy must blow smoke about some rude provisional species, as if your average quadruped had impeccable table manners and a pension plan. Then he switches from the horses' perspective to the narrator's, though just what something imperfect and malformed refers to is unclear. The last half sentence only deepens the confusion. Is the thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace the same thing that is lodged in the heart of being? And what is a gorgon doing in a pool? Or is it peering into it? And why an autumn pool? I doubt if McCarthy can explain any of this; he probably just likes the way it sounds.

No novelist with a sense of the ridiculous would write such nonsense. Although his characters sometimes rib one another, McCarthy is among the most humorless writers in American history. In this excerpt the subject is horses.

Quote
He said that the souls of horses mirror the souls of men more closely than men suppose and that horses also love war. Men say they only learn this but he said that no creature can learn that which his heart has no shape to hold ... Lastly he said that he had seen the souls of horses and that it was a terrible thing to see. He said that it could be seen under certain circumstances attending the death of a horse because the horse shares a common soul and its separate life only forms it out of all horses and makes it mortal ... Finally John Grady asked him if it were not true that should all horses vanish from the face of the earth the soul of the horse would not also perish for there would be nothing out of which to replenish it but the old man only said that it was pointless to speak of there being no horses in the world for God would not permit such a thing. (All the Pretty Horses)

The further we get from our cowboy past, the loonier becomes the hippophilia we attribute to it. More to the point, especially considering The New York Times's praise of All the Pretty Horses for its "realistic dialogue," is the stiltedness with which the conversation is reproduced. The cowboys are supposed to be talking to a Mexican in Spanish, which is a stretch to begin with, but from the tone in which the conversation is set down you'd think it was ancient Hebrew. And shouldn't Grady satisfy our curiosity by finding out what a horse's soul looks like, instead of pursuing a hypothetical point of equine theology? You half expect him to ask how many horses' souls can fit on the head of a pin.

All the Pretty Horses received the National Book Award in 1992. "Not until now," the judges wrote in their fatuous citation, "has the unhuman world been given its own holy canon." What a difference a pseudo-biblical style makes; this so-called canon has little more to offer than the conventional belief that horses, like dogs, serve us well enough to merit exemption from an otherwise sweeping disregard for animal life. (No one ever sees a cow's soul.) McCarthy's fiction may be less fun than the "genre" western, but its world view is much the same. So is the cast of characters: the quiet cowboys, the women who "like to see a man eat," the howling savages. (In fairness to the western: McCarthy's depiction of Native Americans in Blood Meridian [1985] is far more offensive than anything in Louis L' Amour.) The critics, however, are too much impressed by the muscles of his prose to care about the heart underneath. Even The Village Voice has called McCarthy "a master stylist, perhaps without equal in American letters." Robert Hass wrote much of his review of The Crossing in an earnest imitation of McCarthy's style:

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The boys travel through this world, tipping their hats, saying "yessir" and "nosir" and "si" and "es verdad" and "claro" to all its potential malice, its half-mad philosophers, as the world washes over and around them, and the brothers themselves come to be as much arrested by the gesture of the quest as the old are by their stores of bitter wisdom and the other travelers, in the middle of life, in various stages of the arc between innocence and experience, by whatever impulses have placed them on the road.

The vagueness of that encomium must annoy McCarthy, who prides himself on the way he tackles "issues of life and death" head on. In interviews he presents himself as a man's man with no time for pansified intellectuals—a literary version, if you will, of Dave Thomas, the smugly parochial old-timer in the Wendy's commercials. It would be both unfair and a little too charitable to suggest that this is just a pose. When McCarthy says of Marcel Proust and Henry James, "I don't understand them. To me, that's not literature," I have a sinking feeling he's telling the truth.

Okay, that was rather longer than I remembered but I thought it might provide some food for conversation. Plus the bit about horses' souls made me think of Piljstaart.

QDRPHNC

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #41 on: July 30, 2020, 02:51:41 PM »
Thanks for the link to that article, it was a very good read.

Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #42 on: August 30, 2020, 04:24:19 PM »
Getting through Blood Meridian now. Bit of a slog, not because it’s bad, but it’s so relentlessly bleak and his prose is taxing. He’s a fantastic writer.

Janie Jones

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #43 on: September 15, 2020, 06:48:53 PM »
Yes this thread has prompted me to read BM. I’m not normally a fan of such Bechdel-failing desolation but the comparisons in the blurb to Flannery O’Connor, whom our Duke DeMondo recommended to me, drew me in and well, the writing is just jaw-dropping. You can’t argue with that sort of brilliance.

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #44 on: September 27, 2020, 04:22:37 PM »
If it helps, the final passages of Blood Meridian are amazing. I sometimes re-read the final 50-pages for shits and gigs.

Janie Jones

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #45 on: September 28, 2020, 03:20:50 PM »
Yes, finished it, loved it. It was utterly distressing in places but a brilliant novel. Like many readers I don’t know what to think about what actually happened in the toilets at the end.
I hope Matt Lucas would be flattered to know the descriptions of the physical appearance of the godlike Judge made me think of him.

All The Pretty Horses next, I think.

Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #46 on: September 30, 2020, 09:04:22 PM »
I read Blood Meridian pretty much in its entirety when I had a fever. The experience still haunts me.

Mobius

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #47 on: October 16, 2020, 04:23:27 AM »
I'm reading Blood Meridian. My only prior experience of Cormac McCarthy is having read The Road, and No Country For Old Men being probably my favourite movie ever.

My god, it's incredible. I just love his style of writing. Love the bleakness, the violence. His descriptions I find very vivid, can really feel the awfulness of it all.

I'm definitely going to be reading more Cormac after this! Only up to Chapter 13. The Judge is fascinating.

Mobius

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #48 on: October 20, 2020, 11:08:45 PM »
Ok I've finished Blood Meridian which was amazing and also finished No Country For Old Men which was also great but not as good as Blood Meridian although it was an easier read.

What one shall I do next? The horses one sounds a bit... well I don't really care for horses but I'm sure I'll like it?

Mobius

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Re: Cormac McCarthy.
« Reply #49 on: October 21, 2020, 03:52:11 AM »
Nevermind lads I’ve decided to read Suttree

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