Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cormac McCarthy is...different.

Today I finished my latest fiction read: "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy. This is the same gentleman who wrote "No Country for Old Men", and about ten other books. I've only read the two mentioned here. If nothing else, he's different.

I don't want to go too much into the plot in case either of the people who read my blog want to read it for themselves. I would like to point out two characteristics of "The Road" that are unusual, though: as in "No Country", and I suspect all of his novels, McCarthy doesn't use much punctuation besides paragraph breaks and periods. No quotation marks, inconsistent use of apostrophes and commas, and not much in the way of avoiding choppy sentence structure. Its all very unusual. The other factor I will comment on shortly.

At first, I wondered if there was something wrong with him, and I wondered if perhaps he shall I put it...kind of trendy as the new author to read. But then I'd come across a passage that was so brilliantly, beautifully written that I knew he was not a fool, but instead was writing exactly how he wished it to be read. "The Road" is the tale of a father and son who have no one else in the world besides each other. Of this, McCarthy writes "They were each other's world entire". The elegant simplicity of that passage is striking to me. While McCarthy does create uneven and perhaps even rough passages, I've come to realize what it is he's sculpting with them; it is both the simple and literal, and the expansive and complex. Therein lies the genius.

I was most of the way through this book before I realized that I had been given neither of the main character's names. They are both the everyman of the story, and yet, they're both completely developed, totally realized personifications. As I read, the pictures I imagined were of very definite individuals. And yet, they were referred to only as the man, the boy, the father, the son. The same method is described in the handful of other characters in the book.

While I have no doubt that some will abhor this book, and McCarthy's other writings, for its unique, quirky constitution, those that can grasp the larger significance will find his peculiar method of word-smithing refreshing, powerful, and thought provoking. For a writer, no larger praise can be given.

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