(I’m gonna go out on a blasphemous limb here…)
Rating: 3 stars
I admit that The Road was the novel by McCarthy that most suggested I read. I’m a sucker for a great adventure and even moreso for tales of a parent’s undying love and courage for a child, but I refrained because the commercials for the film version of the tale made me most certain I’d spend half the movie in tears, and probably carry the down dip in mood from the book for weeks. Yet, here I am on the ass end of No Country for Old Men and a part of me wonders if McCarthy he could really gut me as a reader.
Cormac McCarthy is a master, to be sure. He uses simple language, is concise and to the point with the precision of Hemingway in some cases (though he could have brought his word count down by thousands if he’d just cut two thirds of the times he used the words ”And put it in his pocket.” Seriously, it was excessive) and his story telling can be both engaging and tense.
No Country is the story of a Texas Sheriff investigating the killing spree of a killer who fancies himself an act of fate, deciding who lives or dies with simply who he crosses paths with, or if they’re lucky, the flip of a coin. In amongst this clusterfuck is Llewelyn Moss, a regular joe who came upon some serious loot while out hunting. As a result, Moss becomes our hero and the intended prey of said lunatic, Anton Chigurh. We are given glimpses into each of these men, in the moments when Moss is hiding from the spotlight of a pickup truck on a rocky hillside, to the moments when Chigurh flips a coin and demands an innocent man calls heads or tails, but refuses to tell him what he wins or loses in the toss.
McCarthy utilizes his changes in perspective several times in the story, in a manner that some might find infuriating. He uses it to create a psychic distance from events that, in many cases, we’ve been waiting the entire book for. This writing choice leaves the reader to fill in their own blanks. We get to see characters up close and personal, chatting about life, goals, their past, then McCarthy cuts to the perspective of Bell, the main protagonist and Sheriff who is following the killing spree of the sociopathic Anton Chigurh through Texas, and we get to see Bell arrive upon the scene where those very characters we were just sitting with were gunned down on a sunny afternoon. Some might feel robbed by that transfer of perspective, but I actually loved it. Suddenly I was hearing the news like anyone else, I was allowed to imagine how it went down. Some might call it lazy writing, but man did it work for me. In reading it, I recognize my own tendency to utilize it and hope only to use it well in my own writing.
Sadly though, here’s why McCarthy got three stars from me. He’s a modern master, as they say – an older gentlemen with precise writing and storytelling skill. If I were to psychoanalyze him by the writing of this novel, I would say he had reached a very introspective point in his life of both reminiscence and nostalgia and was getting lost in his own world a bit more often than the story needed. McCarthy utilized Bell as a sort of conscience layered over the tale of Chigurh and Moss, but in doing so, he allowed Bell to have monologues of his life experience as a Sheriff at the beginning of each section. Some of these were grand, hearing tales of long past murders and crimes as seen from the perspective of the poor bastard who arrives after the carnage to poke and pick at it to try to make sense. Yet McCarthy let Bell get away from him, hardcore. The last two hours worth of reading were all from Bell’s perspective – rambling to an uncle about World War II, chatting with his wife about retiring. The World War II story would have been grand at any other time in the book, and if it was an hour shorter. McCarthy allowed the main arc of his tale to end, then dragged us through Bell’s introspective life analysis until he’d beaten that dead horse back to life, then killed it again.
By the time he said the line “And that’s another thing I haven’t talked much about my father or done him justice,” I almost groaned. It was like sitting with a Grandfather who retells the same stories over and over, with the same pinache he did the first time, even after you inform him that he’s already told you this story. I was surprised that his editor didn’t have him rein it in a bit, but I guess when you’re considered a ‘modern master,’ perhaps they let you get away with a bit of rambling.
All in all, a fantastic lesson in well written prose, as well as a lesson in self indulgent writing toward the end there. Think I might actually watch the movie now.
I saw a photograph like this online and loved it. While perusing the pages of my Galley copy of Catch My Fall, I decided to see if I could replicate it. So here is a ring I bought because it looked similar to an engagement ring I saw in a dream once, settled into the pages of the love story I wrote in which I discovered my perfect man was a black belt who liked fart jokes.
I love this photograph. It makes me smile. My ring. My love story. Here’s to getting it published so others can hear me say ‘Fuck’ a lot, while their heart swells.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Where do I begin?
Well, I’ll start with brutal honesty, I don’t read. Clearly by the fact that I am typing these words, I’m not illiterate, but nonetheless, my reading habits are a barren wasteland. I go years without picking up a work of fiction, then with the right suggestion, or bout of boredom, I pick something up and it grabs me. From there, I devour it and everything else that author has penned, followed by anything else I can get my hands on in order to keep the momentum going. It nevers stays. I always end up halfway through a crappy book, give up, and set it and all reading aside until another juggernaut comes along and demands my attention again, inspiring another manic book frenzy.
A Thousand Splendid Suns may very well have caused such a frenzy.
I was required to read Suns as an assignment for my Popular and Contemporary Fiction class (yes, I am back in school Can’t be a professor without a degree) and upon first seeing the cover, I feared I wouldn’t enjoy the read. I was so utterly misinformed.
Suns is the story of two women in Afghanistan. Their tales span from the Communist occupation to the recent Taliban regime, watching firsthand as their country crashes in on itself like a dying star. The language is simple, yet at times poetic, weaving the dust and sun of an Afghan morning, or the textures of rice and lamb kebab on the palette. The world of Afghanistan was as powerful as the characters - Mariam and Laila. Despite having never set foot in the Arab world, I was lost there within the first few pages, only released when the book finished.
The story follows Mariam, a bastard child from Herat who is given away in marriage at the age of fifteen, and Laila, the youngest child of a boisterous mother and a forward thinking father, adamant on her education and happiness. We follow their lives as simple daily life turns treacherous as the atmosphere of Afghanistan changes, tensions rise, then explode in a constant war waged by conflicting tribes and warlords. The simple childhood of Laila, growing closer and more attached to her childhood friend, Tariq; and the sorrows of married life for the older Mariam, are set against the backdrop of bombs and gunfire, increasingly, and the inner workings of a culture where many women are considered second class citizens, if even that.
These women’s stories draw you in and make you love alongside them, and love them, until you feel as trapped as Mariam in her prison, or you are longing for Tariq as passionately as Laila.
I read the novel in two days. As a result of the ease of reading – his short chapters, simple expression and attention to detail drew me in despite my fear that I might find it difficult to relate to such a tale.
My only criticism of the novel as a whole is that the end seemed to push past its natural place a bit, giving a feel of wandering toward the very end. Still, by the last page, I was grateful for the knowledge I gained in those pages – for the closure and comfort they offered me.
It is tense reading at times, tragic at others, but it finds its closure and some peace by the final page. I would readily suggest this book to anyone who wants to get lost on the other side of the world.
I’ve always hated that part of my imagination – the one that finds a way to completely rob my characters of hope.
I’m never afraid of a story unless hope is lost. Other writers, Hollywood, screenwriters the world over, they create stupid, irrational characters, spineless and incapable of realistic thought.
Not me. I would fight. Michael Myers would have found himself ina ditch with an ice cream scoop in his eye if he’d happened upon my house in the night.
Yet that is why I know how to scare people. That is why this piece of my imagination always gets to me. Because when you’re young, you don’t know how precious life is until someone tries to take it from you. You don’t know how to spot a predator until you’ve met, seen, smelled one. Once you’ve met the devil, you know his mark. You can feel it through your skin, the way microscopic water droplets hang on the air, touch the skin on a warm summer night, making the air feel heavy, somehow. Once you’ve been threatened, know what hopelessness feels like, the path there gets longer, and you don’t go down it willingly.
Not for anything.
Not without a fight.