Tuesday, January 29, 2008

cormac mccarthy is sanguine

don't think that just because someone writes a book named All the Pretty Horses he's all rainbows and flowers and shit. look at No Country for Old Men. did you see that? did you take a shower as soon as you got home, and did you crack open the raspberry body wash, a christmas present from someone who thinks you're a girl?

Blood Meridian's similarly cheery. here's a taste, but first the context:
our "protagonists" (a posse of indian hunters in the 1850s west) happen upon a long line of mules picking their way along a precipitous, switchbacked path on a mountain slope. the mules are loaded down with bags of mercury for the mines. out of sheer boredom, our band of happy travelers begins shooting the muleteers, and while bodies tumble off horses into the abyss below, the men press on, shoving their way between the mules and the mountain.

now that the scene's set:

the laden packmules were beginning to clamber white-eyed at the sheer wall of the bluff like enormous rats. The riders pushed between them and the rock and methodically rode them from the escarpment, the animals dropping silently as martyrs, turning sedately in the empty air and exploding on the rocks below in startling bursts of blood and silver as the flasks broke open and the mercury loomed wobbling in the air in great sheets and lobes and small trembling satellites and all its forms grouping below and racing in the stone arroyos like the imbreachment of some ultimate alchemic work decocted from out the secret dark of the earth's heart...
(chap xiv, p195)

at the time of reading, i really didn't like Blood Meridian; i found the endless march through waterless places dreary and fruitless and the constant inexplicable cruelty was a real downer. but i pressed on because something had to happen at the end -- and did it evah -- and you have to admit that the man can paint a scene... though it might not impact you 'til later.

because during the ride on sunday, when big don clattered through deep cracks in the shoulder off barksdale and i joked - you riding through the grand canyon? - suddenly that image of mules plummeting off the face of a mountain to explode like piggy's head on the rocks far below and the lobes of blood and silver wobbling, all that came back vivid as bruegel.

combing through the book to find that passage above, i found myself reading pages here & there, scenes i remember from the first time through: the idiot's baptism, dogs for sale, the judge's sentence on the kid: sie müssen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen (they must sleep, but i have to dance). and i thought, i have to read this again, because sometimes after an initial recoil from a book, album or painting that artist becomes one of your favorites. but later, because i'm in the middle of The Ultimates vol2, in which thor loses that dorky winged helmet and becomes a total hottie and captain america isn't so ghey.


fatmammycat said...

Oh McCarthy, I love him so. Have you read The Road yet? Bleak doesn't begin to cover it and it made me cry and I don't cry easy.

finn said...

that's his latest, yes? have heard good things about it, like "it's short.er." i can dig that.

did you like BM? on 1st reading? the last 2 pages set all the wrongs right. i wish i'd had faith at the start but alas it were my maiden mccarthy voyage. kind of like reading conrad for the first time.

fatmammycat said...

I liked it, straight off too. He's got a tricksy way of reeling you in to the nothing you think he's providing you. Then when you least expect it he sucker punches you straight in the kidneys.

The Road is a very good book, I read it almost in one sitting and felt a heavy dread the whole way through out. But it's a beautifully written novel and a helluva landscape he created. Can't say I've ever visualised anything so clearly before and he can do it in two lines too, the bastard.
Although James Lee Burke is probably the most lyrical writer for me in general. He writes straight from his soul.

finn said...

JLB is right after The Choirboys on the must-read list.