Monday, August 24, 2009

Rev it up!

I know we did not really talk about Revelations all that much, but I couldn't help but notice the significance in McCarthy's novels compared to the good and evil displayed in the book of Revelations. In western conventions we usually always see the difference between good and evil; however, in some of McCarthy's novels it was hard to decipher between the two, for instance in Blood Meridian between the kid and the judge. At first I thought the kid was respectable untill he helped murder a guy in which we can compare him to the the deceitful Judge.

I think a good example of Revelations can be seen in No Country For Old Men because good and evil compete throughout the novel as compared to Revelations. Chigurh is compared to Satin, Bell and Llewelyn could be the angels in the bible. However, the end is non-comparable because good always triumphs over evil and at the end of the novel I didn't feel Chigurh got what he deserved or payed for his crimes like the evil in the book of Revelations.

I think in all of McCarthy's books we see a torrence between right and wrong/good and evil and this idea just influences me to learn more about the theory behind McCarthy's liturature.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Take a Deep Breath...

One of the things that struck me on Thursday during our discussion of The Road was when this passage was brought up after the boy had joined the family of four: “She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didn’t forget. The woman said that was all right. She said the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time” (286).

When I was working on my paper, I noticed that breath comes up in a few other places in the novel as well. The man’s wife tells him in a reflection “a person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love” (57), and it shows up again on pg. 74, “all of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms. Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them”. In all of these passages, the idea exists that breath is the creator that provides life. This concept is all throughout the novel as we watch the man explain the former world to the child, his own breath keeping these once tangible things alive in the future where even he will cease to exist.

This is similar to McCarthy’s blood theme in All The Pretty Horses. Blood played an important role in linking everything in the novel. Bloodlines of Alejandra, the DueƱa, and the horses are carefully explained to establish the idea of lineage. I think the link that runs through Blood Meridian is evil, but cannot come up with what the links might be for Child of God or No Country for Old Men. Anyone have an idea?

McCarthy's Violence

4). Even though characters' paths are perhaps the predictable, the world is a violently unpredicatable place. McCarthy writes violence better than any author I know of, as it is thematically justified, philosophically interesting, gorgeously rendered and most of all: violent. There's a suddeness and horror in the violence in his work that makes a lot of other fiction read like the Hardy Boys.

In a world where violent media is being scrutinized, I find it particularly interesting that such a renowed and popular author is able to get away with what may be some of the most violent literature that has ever been wrote. Other types of media, including video games, movies, and television are almost always being chastized for violent content that doesnt even begin to touch the violence that McCarthy depicts in the five novels that we read during this class period. In class we discussed our opinions as to why we think McCarthy is able to get away with the violence that he depicts in his novels. The best idea I could come up with is the fact that since McCarthy writes in his signature prose style, most people seem to overlook the violence.

For some reason, this idea did not sit well with me, but i can't think of any other reason why McCarthy would be able to get away with it... does anyone else have ideas?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Everything's Ephemeral

When we discussed entropy in class yesterday, citing the quote on (my edition’s) page 75:
“He’d had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat. In time to wink out forever.”
I immediately thought of the scenes in Blood Meridian where the judge would draw or write about an object and then destroy it because that made his definition of it the true one, the only one that people could possibly turn to. This, in turn, made me think of the passage (sorry, don’t know which page because I returned the book to the library) where the judge is talking about man’s meridian, and how he (man) reaches this peak and then everything is in decline, and I realized how much entropy, or at least ephemerality, is a common theme throughout McCarthy. McCarthy is making the point that very little is more ephemeral than human life, but everything is transitory in these novels, not just human life.
In Child of God, Lester is killing people off left and right. He also loses his family home. He cannot maintain a relationship with anyone.
In All the Pretty Horses John Grady Cole has to leave his family ranch. His grandfather was the last male born to his family line so the Grady family is dying out. His opportunity in Mexico is snatched away from him. His love to Alejandra ends in disappointment, and plenty of people are dying in this book, too.
In Blood Meridian whole societies are decimated and pretty much everyone except the judge dies. However, they’re all horrible, so it didn’t bother me so much that they did.
In No Country for Old Men, human life is definitely ephemeral as we watch most of the people Chigurh comes into contact with die. Bell’s ideology is ephemeral, though, too, and we start to see the idea that society is going through entropy and degenerating. This book, though, is where I felt that McCarthy started including some hope for the human race with Bell’s dream about his father carrying fire. After reading The Road, that doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.
The Road is obviously about the entropy of society, the earth, and the human race. There’s still that glimmer of hope, though, which started showing up in No Country for Old Men, that there might be something else that will carry humanity through, in the end.
I think that in the McCarthy novels that we have read, there is a definite reflection on how fleeting life and society are. We don’t see anything last. It’s here one day and then gone the next.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can't think of a good title.

I noticed something odd on page 282 of The Road. Right after the father dies, the boy walks onto the road and sees the man that he eventually joins with. The first thing the man ever says to the boy is, "Wheres the man you were with?" I thought this was strange because the man should have not known the boy was with his father. What I came up with is that the man and his family he says he has, must have been following the father and the boy. This would explain the other boy the boy sees on page 84 because the man later says he has a boy and a girl the same age as him.

McCarthy needs to borrow my baby name book

One thing I have noticed in a couple of of his writings, particularly Blood Meridian and The Road, is that McCarthy does not use names for his main characters. In Blood Meridian, there was the boy. The narrator followed his story but we knew very little about him past his actions. We were given some physical descriptions, about the scarring on his face and what not but never could we place him with an identity. In The Road, both the main characters are known as the son or boy, and the father ( also known as papa from the son) but both, again, never given a name. We are given details about their physique; such as how skinny the boy is and what their struggles have done to them. Damage to feet, or the color of their skin from lack of sun and the amount of ash.

This leaves me to question how McCarthy forms identity when the characters names are never known. To me, knowing someone or more about them starts with knowing their name; introductions and what not. I suppose it could be seen that he leaves the characters nameless to have the reader focus more on the actions or trying to decipher what they could possibly be thinking. In The Road it is easier to gather more emotion because instead of the text being written completely in third person narration, we seem to get to some of the father's thoughts concerning the well being of his son. I just noticed that when leaving someone nameless the writing has a very large amount of pronouns and while reading this book, most paragraphs started with he. Again, McCarthy's style of writing baffles me. I am hoping that after today's discussion I will have a little more understanding of it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home Stretch

As we move through the home stretch, I'd like you to take a little while to consider the relationships between the texts we've read this month. Several of you said that you thought NCOM was different and surprising after the earlier novels. This might reflect aesthetic maturity or an attempt at commercial appeal or something altogether different. I'm curious to know if you see any thematic, linguistic, aesthetic or even philosophic similarities in McCarthy's oeuvre. Some thoughts to get you started:
1). Like Faulkner, McCarthy likes portmanteau words and onomatopoeia. I think this indicates that he's very specific about the meanings of the things he writes--if an existing word doesn't capture his meaning exactly, he makes one up out of existing words or sounds.

2). There's a strong sense of fate and inevitability in McCarthy's world. John Grady Cole cannot help but go back after Alejandra and neither can Blevins (and both times, Rawlins knows that it will happen and how it will turn out). Lester's crimes seem inevitable. The kid cannot escape the judge, no matter what he tries--even the bible.

3). The characters tend to be static in the service of fate or destiny. Rather than changing themselves, events and cicumstances act on them, a la naturalism. Or cosmic irony. The narrative point of view tends to stand at a remove from the characters, and this makes the characters difficult to identify with in ways that complement their actions.

4). Even though characters' paths are perhaps the predictable, the world is a violently unpredicatable place. McCarthy writes violence better than any author I know of, as it is thematically justified, philosophically interesting, gorgeously rendered and most of all: violent. There's a suddeness and horror in the violence in his work that makes a lot of other fiction read like the Hardy Boys.

5). Like Hemingway anad Peckinpaugh, McCarthy seems to have a notion about how heroes or even humans should conduct themselves. I felt pretty secure with understanding this until Chigurh critiqued Wells' code as inadequate. Perhaps The Road will make this clearer.

That's enough for today, and this is your blog anyhow. Tell me about the things you saw as consistent or inconsistent across the works we've read.