Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cormac McCarthy

I just finished reading No Country for Old Men, and I loved it. I was wanting to read The Road for my first McCarthy, but it was checked out from the library. To be honest, for the first 100 pages, I wasn't sure sure. The fact that I had seen the film several months before seemed to be a real distractor--the book follows the film very, very closely. But once I was immersed into the book's world, I was still hooked--especially by Bell's monologues, which are slightly downplayed in the film (although still very important). I have a confession to make. I am now so intrigued by McCarthy's mind and world, that I actually joined Oprah's Book Club so I could see her interview with him (it's free to join!). This is the only television interview he has ever done. In the process, I found a great blog called When Cormac Met Oprah..., and it turns out that someone I vaguely knew from my distant Memphis scenester past is the author of it!
Here they are--Cormac and Oprah: what an unlikely pair.

If you are a McCarthy fan, I would love to hear your thoughts on which book I should read next and why--what's your favorite? And--confession time--are you now in the Oprah Book Club as well?! I leave you all with a great section from Bell's opening monologue in Chapter V-he's talking about the oral tradition of family history: The stories get passed on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It don't move from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that's what it is.


John B. said...

All I, as a huge fan of McCarthy, can tell you is, you're in for a treat. McCarthy is clearly one of our very best writers. Personally, I don't think No Country is among his better novels, but it has grown in my estimation as I've continued to think about it.

My blog's name is a pun on Blood Meridian--and the NY Times recently voted it the second-best American novel of the last quarter of the 20th century (after Beloved) for a reason. Read. This. Novel. It remains the most haunting novel I've ever read. It's much more violent than No Country; it also, as the theory kids like to say, "complicates" our traditional narratives of the American West. The Road is, I think, a return to form for him; what makes it stand out, though, is that it's his first sustained depiction of a father-son relationship (though I'd not go quite so far as Oprah does in saying that it's a good choice as a Fathers' Day gift--it does have cannibals in it, after all). Given your scholarly interests, I think you'll find that novel an intriguing read.

Of the Border Trilogy novels, All the Pretty Horses is, of course, the famous one and very good, though not great; The Crossing (another one I need to reread) is like a more cryptic version of AtPH; and Cities of the Plain, for me, is a disappointment. I will say this, though: McCarthy's trilogy is structured like no other I know of, which for students of the novel as a genre means that these are worth reading and thinking about. McCarthy isn't an experimental writer in the usual sense of that term, but I'd certainly call the Border Trilogy an experiment in form.

You should read his Tennessee novels, too, of course: in order, they are The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Child of God, and Suttree. Many fans swear by Suttree as his best novel, in which he does for Knoxville what Joyce does for Dublin in Ulysses, but I need to read it again--it didn't stick with me my first time through it. Outer Dark reads like an allegory, and an ominous one at that: McCarthy at his harshest, most judgmental, which is saying something. Child of God's central character is a murder and necrophiliac, so you can see, via the juxtaposition of that with the book's title, what McCarthy is about.

Writing this has been much more entertaining than grading papers, so I thank you for giving me an excuse to indulge. Enjoy your reading, Mary.

JR said...

I say The Road, Blood Meridian, and Sutree. Maybe All the Pretty Horses.

lostmoya said...

Mary, you must read The Road. It's the only McCarthy book I've read (so far), and it's absolutely devastating. I read it a while back, when I was on a post-apocalyptic reading trip.

I read it in the middle of two other genre classics (though some might consider them pulp sci-fi, but not me!), Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. The Road was the best of the bunch for me because of its sustained (and utterly harrowing) depiction of a realistically hopeless world after the fire. But it still manages to be heartwarming - sometimes - because of the depth of the relationship between the boy and his dad.

Becki said...

Mary -- for some reason, I couldn't comment on the post from today, the Bergman/Hunt article...but I wanted to post SOMEwhere about it! Very good article. Interesting point...that I will be pondering for a while. Thank you, thank you for sharing. -- Becki

Sumedh said...

Though I did not agree with the philosophical standings of the movie, I still think I might grab the book - I feel a few of the characters are worth an analysis. Hopefully the book will be better than the movie: which they usually always are, but one can only say after reading it.