Saturday, August 20, 2005
Friday, August 05, 2005
It's a long read, but it articulates many reasons why he's an important thread in my life.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Granted, the whole shebang is free and much appreciated. But I just spent about an hour trying to paste a Word document (the below post), and it still has formatting mistakes.
Any suggestions on other options or ways to improve the Blogger formatting are welcome.
Cormac McCarthy assumes you know Spanish.
McCarthy, the National Book Award-winning author of All the Pretty Horses and other dark tomes of the west and rural south, filled that novel, as well as its two sequels, with bountiful heaps of untranslated Spanish.
Readers of Pretty Horses, a book thought by many to be the Santa Fe-based writer's crowning achievement, will find the teenage runaway hero suddenly having long conversations in Spanish with some folks south of the border. You'll find yourself at the end of a page wondering what in the world those characters above were talking about.
Consider this passage from All the Pretty Horses:
At seven oclock she went out with the breakfast tray and when she returned she told him that he was invited to come to the house at ten that evening, that the senorita would see him then. He rose to go.
Quisiera un caballo, he said.
Si. Por el dia, no mas.
Momentito, she said.
When she returned she nodded. Tienes tu caballo. Esperate un momento. Sientate.
See what I mean?
You'll also notice that McCarthy has little use for commas or quotation marks. All of this is to say that McCarthy's style of writing can be maddening. While his prose is no doubt beautiful and stunning the majority of the time, it can also come across as borderline pretentious. In fact, in the 2002 book, A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose, writer B.R. Meyers accuses McCarthy of being a writer whose "…prose is unspeakable in every sense of the word." Meyers maintains that McCarthy fills his work and syntax with a seriousness unworthy of the tales he spins as well as a ridiculous "importance" of mundane scenes.
Some of McCarthy's prose, Meyers maintains, "…is meant to bully readers into thinking that the author's mind operates on a plane higher than their own…"
Read, for example, this passage from the 1985 McCarthy western epic, Blood Meridan:
They wandered the borderland for weeks seeking some sign of the Apache. Deployed upon that plain they moved in a constant elision, ordained agents of the actual dividing out the world which they encountered and leaving what had been and what would never be alike extinguished on the ground behind them. Spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenellated heat. Above all else they appeared wholly at venture, primal, provisional, devoid of order. Like beings provoked out of the absolute rock and set nameless and at no remove form their own loomings to wander ravenous and doomed and mute as gorgons shambling the brutal wastes of Gondwanaland in a time before nomenclature was and each was all.
Now, I know what you're thinking: what's so pretentious about that? Reads like a Dr. Seuss book to me.
Well, yes, but only if your brain is roughly the size of a
But…there's always something about the work of Cormac McCarthy that always draws me into his stories. As I noted, his work is mostly dark, and it's also horrifically violent, but it almost always cuts to the bone, venturing into territories of the soul and heart that make most modern writers look like Dr. Seuss. There is no doubt that portions of a novel by McCarthy can be a chore to read, but the rewards are almost always bountiful.
Which brings us to two items of interest for fans of this writer.
First, there is a new book by the 72-year-old author: No Country for Old Men. It's cause for celebration because McCarthy releases novels at about the rate we perform census counts. And this one seems worth the wait. While I try not read anything about books before I dig into them, I can tell you that this takes place in present time (rare for a McCarthy work), it concerns a Texas welder who discovers a bag of cash and heroin while hunting, and a vicious drug gang looking for that particular bag. All of this apparently unfolds through the point of view of a local sheriff.
Once I finish the book I'm reading now, I plan to jump into No Country for Old Men like a kid performing the first cannonball of the summer.
Second, the new issue of Vanity Fair features an interview with McCarthy – somewhat of a miraculous feat considering that the extremely reclusive author (think J.D. Salinger-reclusive) has, it has been noted, only agreed to one other interview in his career. The article finds that McCarthy has been a "Visiting Researcher" at the Santa Fe Institute -- which is, according to its website, "…devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multidisciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems."
In other words, it's a think tank for people with brains the size of
Some other surprising anecdotes from the Vanity Fair article include the facts that McCarthy drives a big-ass cherry red Ford diesel dual pick-up; that he seems a bit bemused that he's politically opposite most of his colleagues at the Institute yet still soaks up the papers and presentations at the Institute with passion; he types all of his work on an Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter; and he has about five or six novels more or less complete and ready for publication.
Of course, none of this stuff matters, but it's undeniably interesting to peek inside the life of such a reclusive and noted writer.
If you're interested, you can pick up the novel at the local