Wednesday, May 19, 2010

like runaway suns

I’m reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. This is the third McCarthy I’ve read, following The Road and No Country for Old Men, both of which I loved.

Years ago I lived for a short time in Kansas starting up an English program for Chinese students at one of the million small colleges in the Midwest. I ran into my counterpart (rival) at a larger college once or twice and I remember him talking about McCarthy in a very haughty way, how important he was, how I’d never read anything unless I’d read McCarthy, and blah blah blah, so of course there on the spot I swore a blood oath never to read that macho McCarthy.

I’m lucky to be a disloyal kind of chump because McCarthy is sensational. Here are two gorgeous sentences from Blood Meridian...

He told how they’d taken the city of Chihuahua, an army of irregulars that fought in rags and underwear and how the cannonballs were solid copper and came loping through the grass like runaway suns and even the horses learned to sidestep or straddle them and how the dames of the city rode up into the hills in buggies and picknicked and watched the battle and how at night as they sat by the fires they could hear the moans of the dying out on the plain and see by its lantern the deadcart moving among them like a hearse from limbo.

About that fire were men whose eyes gave back the light like coals socketed hot in their skulls and men whose eyes did not, but the black man’s eyes stood as corridors for the ferrying through of naked and unrectified night from what of it lay behind to what was yet to come.

5 comments:

ArtSparker said...

I have avoided McCarthy for the reason you mention.

This is gorgeous prose- it's funny, but for me it's TOO gorgeous - it calls attention to itself. I might like it in a poem, but I am too old - or too old school - for this in fiction, still stuck on narrative.

And again, is it reactivity or legitimate (cranky) personal taste that I'm expressing? Just another unreliable narrator -

NE said...

You can't really judge Cormac by one book because each book is happy in its own way. THE ROAD, for instance, is a departure of sorts for CM. Much leaner prose. But I even see differences between BLOOD MERIDIAN and ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.

Eh. He's a mood read. You have to be in it to enjoy it.

Peter said...

I love getting lost in this kind of thing. To me, if the prose is too bare or scrubbed, it calls attention to itself. But this . . . this simply points!

SarahJane said...

I also often don't like prose that's overly poetic. I have to say that McCarthy can do it, though. He never gets pretty with it and at the same time there are these large whorling sentences, there is also plenty of sparse prose alongside it.
I occurs to me now that I've also read "All the Pretty Horses," and didn't like it that much. Whoops! Blackout.
McCarthy is a mood read in a way, but even if I'm not in the mood, the prose is hypnotic and I'm soon pulled in.

Kathleen said...

I've only read The Road, and admired it. I will have to read more.

We have a Chinese/English program like that in our town. And some snooty, uppity people--unrelated to it.

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