September 10, 2009

Cormac McCarthy - A Lesson in Dialogue

Out of my league and unable to articulate the immensity that is Cormac McCarthy, I'll simply post two excerpts: one a snippet of dialogue from the overwhelming Suttree, the other a segment from an impressive essay re: McCarthy's focus on the paradoxical choices in his character's day-to-day lives.

Two men stand in front of a watermelon patch, late at night, from which a third has recently fled.

Two pairs of brogans went along the rows.
You ain't goin to believe this.
Knowin' you for a born liar I most probably wont.
Somebody has been fuckin' my watermelons.
I said somebody has been...
No. No. Hell no. Damn if you aint got a warped mind.
I'm tellin' you...
I don't want to hear it.
Looky here.

They went along the outer row of the melonpatch. He stopped to nudge a melon with his toe. Yellowjackets snarled in the seepage. Some were ruined a good time past and lay soft with rot, wrinkled with imminent collapse.

It does look like it, dont it?
I'm tellin ye I seen him. I didnt know what the hell was goin on when he dropped his drawers. Then when I seen what he was up to I still didnt believe it. But yonder he lay.
What do you aim to do?
Hell, I dont know. It's about too late to do anything. He's damn near screwed the whole patch. I don't see what he couldn't of stuck to just one. Or a few.
Well, I guess he takes himself for a lover. Sort of like a sailer in a whorehouse.

From the essay: Cormac McCarthy's Paradox of Choice by Scott Esposito for The Quarterly Conversation.

From the very beginning, McCarthy has been an author fascinated by the give-and-take between modern-day humans and the multiple systems they are exposed to in day-to-day life. These systems react potently with McCarthy’s other great novelistic concern: the alienated individual and his ultimate recognition (with McCarthy it is invariable a he) that no one can stand outside of human society, and that our codes and bureaucracies decide for us far more often than we actually decide for ourselves. McCarthy’s novels are built around the rare moments of genuine decision-making when the swell and swirl of the world pulls back to relinquish agency to the individual.

In this way, the work of Cormac McCarthy strikes deep into the heart of American literature, as his books are always rooted in that most American of themes: the search for identity. In McCarthy it is often seen as an obsession with borders: of personal identity, of physical place, and of spiritual position within an existential realm of conflicting value systems.

In exploring these borders, McCarthy has carved out what is perhaps a unique place in all of American letters; he has overseen the decline of a traditional way of life in the American South while also personalizing and reframing the rise and fall of the romanticized American West. His protagonists, so similar and yet so different, have revealed the overlap between what are generally understood as two discrete historical phenomena. And in his final novel to date, McCarthy has even showed an ability to project these typical concerns into purely speculative territory, to improbably yet powerfully fuse his earthy immediacy with the lightness of fantasy. Throughout all of this, McCarthy is grounded by his interest in moments of choice and their attendant moral consequences.


Sam said...

Cormac's the guy as far as I'm concerned. Which is quite far.

Harry Tournemille said...

Strange, I thought you were a Sophie Kinsella sort of chap.

Sam said...

Hey, you're the one reading the Shack, buddy. Eckhart Tolle awaits.

Harry Tournemille said...

Damn it. Touche. I knew that'd come back and bite me in the ass.