What is wrong with this story is that it is not a true story. Men have in their minds a picture of how the world will be. How they will be in that world. The world may be many different ways for them but there is one world that will never be and that is the world they dream of. Do you believe that? (From Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plains)
Cormac McCarthy doesn’t allow the reader a moment to breathe among the barbarous imagery of Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West.
Now driving in a wild frieze of headlong horses with eyes walled and teeth cropped and naked riders with clusters of arrows clenched in their jaws and their shields winking in the dust and up the far side of the ruined ranks in a piping of boneflutes and dropping down off the sides of their mounts with one heel hung in the withers strap and their short bows flexing beneath the outstretched necks of the ponies until they had circled the company and cut their ranks in two and then rising up again like a funhouse figures, some with nightmare faces painted on their breasts……riding down the unhorsed Saxons and spearing and clubbing them and leaping from their mounts with knives and running about on the ground with a peculiar bendylegged trot like creatures driven to alien forms of locomotion and stripping the clothes from the dead and seizing them up by the hair and passing their blades about the skulls of the living and the dead alike and snatching aloft the blood wigs and hacking and chopping the naked bodies, ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries to their fellows.
Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing is an uneven story of a young man drifting from human contact into an abstracted, shadowy world. The writing can be riveting: East and to the south there was water on the flats and two sandhill cranes stood tethered to their reflections out there in the last of the day’s light like statues of such birds in some waste of a garden where calamity had swept all else away. (171)However the prose get bogged down by McCarthy’s repetitive tendencies: His pale hair looked white. He looked fourteen going on some age that never was. He looked as if he’d been sitting there and God had made the trees and rocks around him. He looked like his own reincarnation and then his own again. Above all else he looked to be filled with a terrible sadness. (177)
In an attempt to confront our demons, we are compelled to drum up the worst we can imagine, images that terrorizes us in our dreams, and reproduce those in film for all to see. I am haunted by images of a man hurled into a pit of alligators, a woman’s head floating in a jar and a basement where evil lurks. Seeing these things doesn’t do us any good; it isn’t a relief to the images out, but instead raises the stakes, inspiring more horror to behold. As Cormac McCarthy wrote in The Road: Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever.
Every story needs its ticking bomb: Will Luke destroy the Death Star? Will Jack really kill Ralph? Will Gatsby run off with Daisy? Will Chigurgh catch Llewelyn?* We are compelled to keep reading, to find out what happens in the end.
*Yes, no, no and no.
A certain malaise descends on me at this time of year. It is not so much the growing dark – although I am sure that plays a part – so much as the descent into the ‘holiday’ season, a time of year synonymous not for giving and family but for greed and accumulation. Human nature does not have a positive connotation for a reason; it just isn’t good. We take and hoard until we can almost forget what we really are, even if is for just the briefest of moments. We say things and make promises, actually believing some of the profundities we claim…. but there is nothing of substance, just the shell of something half-built, the world always the same as before. The slogans and liquor wear off and we are as we started, creatures who want more.
Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Saramago have had a few things to write about this, but in the end they’re just words, like these, read and discarded on the road to the next thing, the next electronic gadget.
Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott’s joint project The Counselor shocks to sell. Brutal imagery and non-stop sex banter aside, a main selling angle is in the exotic cats. Offered as colorful metaphors, the cheetahs – to say nothing of the film – quickly become blunt and unwieldy. Meant to convey, as Cameron Diaz’s puerile character explains, examples of killing “a quarry with elegance”, they are realized only as gimmickry, much like Diaz’s cheetah tattoo. “It is our faintness of heart that has driven us to the edge of ruin. And the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.” Hopefully not words for a sequel.