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.

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