Ahhh, Cormac McCarthy. I am very sorry to say that unlike Blood Meridian and The Road, there are no dead babies in this. But no worries! There is plenty of necrophilia, as well as the wearing of scalps, crawling around in dripping wet caves, voyeurism, and serial killing while dressed in drag. There’s also a bird that gets maimed in what is probably the most oh-god Cormac McCarthy scene I’ve read so far in my short life, and an idiot child crawling around and drooling. It doesn’t quite make up for the lack of dead babies, but it comes pretty close.
Anyway. Nobody else can write like this guy or can do what he does. No one else in this day and age can get away with sounding this Faulkneresque without being Faulkner himself. No one else has the right to never use quotation marks for dialogue (one of my professors here told me this is a huge no-no in the publishing world, which really surprised me–like, is that REALLY all it takes to seem unconventional?), or have chapters of unattributed, unidentified speakers.
I think the reason I like reading Cormac McCarthy because of his strength as a writer the level of the sentence. From individual word to word, it is just so damn strong and enjoyable, and impossible to imitate (though it definitely can be parodied–maybe that’s the mark of being a Great Writer?) . This guy writes like a mother. There’s a reason why he’s, well, y’know, CORMAC MCCARTHY, and the reason that he deserves to have his name written in capital letters is that he can write. I wish I hadn’t returned my library copy or else I would provide some examples in order to, you know, actually back up what I’m saying, but instead you’re just going to have to take my word for it.
The other intriguing thing to me about Cormac McCarthy is his fascination with the nature of evil in the world, especially in his more recent works. I wonder if you could argue that McCarthy grows more pessimistic about the world the older he gets (I haven’t read enough of his earlier works in order to make that claim with a straight face). I honestly can’t tell if he’s this conservative old fart that thinks the world is going to the dogs thanks to the Mexicans, or if he’s more of this Biblical-minded, apocalyptic dude, as in we’re all doomed and always have been. Who knows? In a way, I prefer not knowing…
The other reason I got interested in McCarthy is because of Bolaño’s interest in him, or more specifically in Blood Meridian. And I guess if I’m going to focus on writing about violence in my own fiction, there’s no way I can’t NOT read McCarthy, you know? God, am I going to have to read de Sade next?!
In summary: in terms of dead baby scenes, McCarthy falls short, but makes up for it with the bird. Party on.