Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunset Bloody Sunset

I've lately started reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Thirty-four pages in I'm still not sure where the extraordinary violence of thus far is leading--Mexico, by the looks of it--but I am enjoying the ride, if "enjoying" is the proper word for it, for McCarthy wields a mighty pen:

Toadvine was four steps above him and when he kicked him he caught him in the throat. The clerk sat down on the stairs. When the kid came past he hit him in the side of the head and the clerk slumped over and began to slide toward the landing. The kid stepped over him and went down to the lobby and crossed to the front door and out.

Toadvine was running down the street, waving his fists above his head crazily and laughing. He looked like a great clay voodoo doll made animate and the kid looked like another. Behind them flames were licking at the top corner of the hotel and clouds of dark smoke rose into the warm Texas morning.

O, the imagery!

The kid went out and scoured his cup and plate in the sand and came back banging the tins together as if to fend away some drygulch phantom out there in the dark.

I'm still not sure what this next passage means, but it sounds good:

Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become so remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barberous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.

Funny thing is, for the longest time I despised McCarthy after having to read All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing for an AP Literature class in high school. My interests were largely in plot mechanics back then, and so I didn't much cotton to McCarthy's contempt of standard punctuation and his marathon sentences. It took the Coen Brothers's adaptation of No Country For Old Men, some four or five years later, for me to reconsider. I think exposing young people to literature is on balance beneficial, but I can't imagine them appreciating a phrase-curve like "drygulch phantom."

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