Cormac McCarthy is a favorite writer of mine. Some don’t prefer him because of his dark and grotesque subject matter. His book Child of God is an example of that criticism. Here are two examples of a powerful piece of writing from Child of God:
Each leaf that brushed his face deepened his sadness and dread. Each leaf he passed he’d never pass again. They rode over his face like veils, already some yellow, their veins like slender bones where the sun shone through them. He had resolved himself to ride for he could not turn back and the world that day was as lovely as any day that ever was and he was riding to his death.
In the spring of warmer weather when the snow thaws in the woods the tracks of winter reappear on slender pedestals and the snow reveals in palimpsest old buried wanderings, struggles, scenes of death. Tales of winter brought to light again like time turned back upon itself.
I admit there were times while reading that book that I was repulsed. In fact, it gave me my fill of “the grotesque” for a while. I sat to order another one of his books Suttree but after reading a sample, I realized I wasn’t up for another marathon of flawed characters. However, I will certainly read it and probably sooner than later.
If McCarthy wrote about these things just to write about them, then certainly I would find him grotesque and flawed. So it helps to understand that McCarthy is a Southern Gothic writer and that genre uses dark metaphors, flawed characters and gray and dilapidated surroundings. The HBO series, True Detective is a perfect example. Also written by a young Southern Gothic writer, who grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The point being, there is another story beyond the one written being told. It’s a story about human nature, the depravity man is capable of and how sometimes dark circumstances are a lot of times bigger than we are. He’s showing you something in all that dark blackness. He’s telling you a story that you already know is out there. That there’s a stranger in you; in all of us…that a dog is only two meals away from being a wolf.
Other works I’ve read are No Country for Old Men and The Road. Both great works of writing. The Road especially so because of its subject matter, a post apocalyptic world. He brings to life the impossible and tells it like it really happened, albeit in a dark, dreadful fashion.
Those that may be unfamiliar with his style are surprised to learn that he uses very little punctuation (except for periods and commas, the latter only when absolutely necessary) and no quotation marks. To your mind’s eye that may seem confusing but believe it or not, after a few pages you quickly become used it. In fact, it’s pleasing to the eyes as things tend to flow naturally. He considers all the punctuation in today’s writing as a distraction and in his opinion, is unneeded and unnatural to the eye. Judging from his popularity, enough people agree.
Perhaps, I’ll come back to this and give some deeper thoughts on a specific book of his I’ve read.
Perhaps, you’d like to share some of your own if you got ’em.