Let’s Talk about Cormac McCarthy

So, I begin this conversation with the fact that I first came across a paperback written by Cormac McCarthy at Dalton Books, in the big mall right outside of Pocatello, in its sister city of Chubbuck. All The Pretty Horses was the novel I happened to see; and, ah, I thought, this fellow has won the National Book Award in fiction, and therefore it must be good. And good it was.

The next book in McCarthy’s trilogy of the plains contained a good deal of Spanish; in fact, so much so, that this subsequent novel is legitimately considered one of the emerging bi-lingual novels of the late Twentieth Century. And here it should be noted that Mr. McCarthy himself moved from his familiar roving grounds of Knoxville, Tennesse to the far different geographic realm of El Paso, Texas. What took him there, I do not know. But I suspect it was a love of horses, whose care he goes into at some length. You learn a lot about the care of horses when you read McCarthy, whom I admire deeply.

At the same time, I take exception to his thematic insistence upon violence. Granted, violence in the abstract is quite a masculine concern. But his novels are riddled with it. Utterly riddled. . . . Until in the end the judge of his magnum opus, Blood Meridian, paid homage to by many, and contracted for future screenplay rights (which have been attempted but never got off the ground financially, films being as difficult as they are to produce), crushes his dedicated opponent, the young equally nameless man, in a mere embrace within the confines of an outhouse along the perimeter of a tavern, somewhere along the border of southern Texas.

So, as you can see, I’ve already jumped into a critique of McCarthy. What I admire about him most was his early years spending life in the working class, tending orchards and repairing motorcycles. Everyone must earn a living, and that includes hopeful authors who have not come up to the attention within even the lowly ranks of the multidudinous literary agents.

During the years of Faulkner, Hemningway, and Steinbeck, a hopeful author sent his or her “carbon copy,” you hear me now, carbon copy, to the actual editor of the publishing house. Just for cultural reference, computers did not exist in 1920 through approximately 1950, at which point the mathematician from Hungary, John von Neumann, essentially invented the theoretical structure of the first working computer, dubbed ENIAC, which I belive resided in a large electrical-engineering laboratory at Harvard, in the United States. And let us not forget, that it was in the United States that the first high-level programing language, C, was invented at Bell Labororatories.

As time goes by, Time crucifies prior opinion, prior belief, prior expectation, prior theory. Only the actual and the true survive this winnowing process, not unlike sifting for gold at the edge of a California creek.