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Posts Tagged ‘Cormac McCarthy’

Five Favorite Fictional Fathers

In book review on July 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

A prolific literary blogger (biblioklept) lists down five of his favorite father-child relationships in literature. He has this to say about the topic:

[It] seems like relationships between fathers and their children are somehow usually deferred, deflected, or represented in a shallow fashion. Perhaps it’s because we like our heroes to be orphans (whether it’s Moses or Harry Potter, Oliver Twist or Peter Parker) that literature tends to eschew biological fathers in favor of father figures (think of Leopold Bloom supplanting Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, or Merlin taking over Uther Pendragon’s paternal duties in the Arthur legends). At other times, the father is simply not present in the same narrative as his son or daughter (think of Telemachus and brave Odysseus, or Holden Caulfield wandering New York free from fatherly guidance).

Among the few works dealing with the relationship between a biological father and his child, he includes Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. See the full article here.

Related post:
Macbeth

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Harold Bloom on Blood Meridian

In book review, reblog on July 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm
Leonard Pierce of A.V. Club interviewed Harold Bloom about the Yale professor’s take on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Bloom confirms my observation that McCarthy is secretly indebted to William Faulkner. I have yet to read As I Lay Dying and Light in August, but based from The Sound and the Fury and the epic Absalom, Absalom! alone, one could readily trace McCarthy’s precursor. An excerpt:


The A.V. Club: Talk a bit about how you came to read Blood Meridian. You apparently had a hard time getting through it the first time.


Harold Bloom:
I read it on the recommendation of a friend, Gordon Lish, a New York book editor and a specialist in fiction. He said that it was a very splendid work, but that he was always appalled by the violence of it, and I wondered what he meant. I think I had read some earlier McCarthy, and had mixed feelings about it—it seemed to me to be Faulknerian in a way that was not really integrated in a way that made it McCarthy’s own. It may have been Suttree, in fact, a book that I haven’t read since. It was a strong book, but you had the feeling at times that it was written by William Faulkner and not by Cormac McCarthy. He tends to carry his influences on the surface, quite honestly.

The first time I read Blood Meridian, I was so appalled that while I was held, I gave up after about 60 pages. I don’t think I was feeling very well then anyway; my health was going through a bad time, and it was more than I could take. But it intrigued me, because there was no question about the quality of the writing, which is stunning. So I went back a second time, and I got, I don’t remember… 140, 150 pages, and then, I think it was the Judge who got me. He was beginning to give me nightmares just as he gives the kid nightmares. And then the third time, it went off like a shot. I went straight through it and was exhilarated. I said, “My God! This reminds me of Thomas Pynchon at his best, or Nathanael West.” It was the greatest single book since Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. In fact, I taught it for several years in a class I gave here at Yale—interestingly enough, in a sequence starting with Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, moving on to Miss Lonelyhearts, then The Crying of Lot 49, and the fourth in the sequence was Blood Meridian.
I finally wrote something about it, and I was contacted by his people at Random House; they were going to put out a nice cloth-bound library version of it, and they requested to put what I had to say about it in a book called How To Read And Why in as an introduction, and I of course consented. Certainly, the book holds up; I wish that the rest of McCarthy, both before and after, was that good. I think the Border Trilogy has its moments, especially the first volume [All The Pretty Horses], but the second [The Crossing] and third [Cities Of The Plain]—especially the third—were disappointments. I was not one of the admirers of No Country For Old Men, which I found strained and the brutality coming through it all so… Nothing really mitigated it. The negative protagonist has none of the legitimacy or grandeur that Judge Holden has. And The Road I’ll have to visit again, because it really wore me down, that book, until the last 40 or 50 pages, where the father-son bond, I felt, was conveyed with real beauty and majesty. I want to make sure my impressions of it were correct. But to have written even one book so authentically strong and allusive, and capable of the perpetual reverberation that Blood Meridian possesses more than justifies him. I don’t think McCarthy will ever match it, but still… He has attained genius with that book.

AVC: When you called it “the ultimate Western”, did you mean merely the paramount example of the genre, or its final expression?
HB: No, I meant the final one. It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have. I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it, that it essentially closes out the tradition. And in the sense that it serves as an extension of the pastoral tradition, it provides an interesting and ironic contrast with American Pastoral by my friend Philip Roth.

(Read the whole interview at A.V. Club)


Related post:
The Rhetoric of Blood Meridian

The Rhetoric of Blood Meridian

In book review on July 12, 2009 at 9:10 am

Noting the schemes and tropes helps us demystify the text and gain some measure of courage in confronting a novel that describes “times before nomenclature was”. Though it says nothing about the whole, the list is useful for a future analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s verbal techniques. I got the definition of terms from this source and Lee Jacobus’ article on the rhetoric of Milton. I plan to use Blood Meridian as a specimen for identifying as many rhetorical techniques as possible.

Schemes of Omission

1. Ellipsis.  Deliberate omission of a word (or words) which is readily implied by the context; “As well ask men what they think of stone”; “Before man was, war waited for him” (Chapter 17, Page 248)
2. Asyndeton. Deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series of related clauses; “He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt.” (Chapter 1, Page 3)
3. Polysyndeton. Deliberate use of many conjunctions; “They rode through the tracks of their dismounting and they buried their stool like cats and they barely spoke at all.” (Chapter 12, Page 151)

Schemes of Repetition

1. Epanalepsis. Repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause; “A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with.” (Chapter 2, Page 19)
2. Anaphora. Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginnings of successive clauses; “Whether his history should run concomitant with men and nations, whether it should cease.” (Chapter 17, Page 243) “Before there were paths anywhere, before there were men or suns to go upon them” (Chapter 17, Page 243)
3. Anadiplosis. Repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause; “he usurped to contain within him all that he would ever be in the world and all that the world would be to him”
4. Temporal Crescendo (my invention, since I can’t find the right term). Arrangement in order of temporal priority; “That is the way it was and will be” (Chapter 17, Page 248)

Tropes

1. Prosopoeia. Investing abstractions or inanimate objects with human qualities or abilities; “A heraldic tree that the passing storm had left afire.” (Chapter 15, Page 215)
2. Anti-prosopoeia. Anti-personification; “and be his charter written in the urstone itself”
2. Hyperbole. “She weighed nothing.” (Chapter 22, Page 315)
3. Erotesis. Rhetorical question; “In that sleep and in sleeps to follow the judge did visit. Who would come other?” (Chapter 23, Page 309)
4. Antonomasia. Use of proper nouns to stand for something; “doomed and mute as gorgons shambling”

Schemes of Breaking Rules

1. Anapodoton. Deliberately creating a sentence fragment by the omission of a clause; “Spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenellated heat.”
2. Enallage. intentionally misusing grammar to characterize a speaker or to create a memorable phrase; “When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.” (Chapter 5, Page 65)

Hyperbaton

A generic term for changing the normal or expected order of words; “But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world” (Chapter 14, Page 199) “so like an icon was he in his sitting” (Chapter 11, Page 146) “Hack away you mean red nigger” (Chapter 19, Page 275)