December 27, 2007

I've been on this Cormac McCarthy kick recently, which I think I have written about before since I just read the Orchard Keeper back in August (beautiful book, by the way). One more book to read and I've read them all. I am moving slowly because I don't really want to run out of them to read.

I think
The Crossing is his masterpiece. It is a magnificent book in the writing (of course) but also in the story, which I think may be at least as, if not more, important. I thought of The Crossing a lot when I read Don Quixote recently, and I am convinced that McCarthy intended that. I haven't found any literary writing about that compariosn, but some must exist, no?

I will confess to only looking a little bit. Literary scholarship is such a fucking nightmare, the less I see of it the better.

Anyway, I just read Blood Meridian, which I had read when it came out and didn't liked much at the time. It is one of the reasons I hadn't bother to read his other books for so long. Maybe it was good to wait, I must be reading them as a different person nowadays.

But on Blood Meridian, I thought it was over written in parts when I first read it, and I didn't particularly care for the story. It was compelling or even especially interesting. Violent, sure, but so fucking what. Having read it again 20 years later or whatever it is, I am at least gratified that I was right in my youthful impression.

Though there are some really remarkable bits in there (which I would quote them up here but wouldn't that be annoying), but that book just does not run seamlessly. There are more than a few tone deaf moments, much over writing, and repetition repetition, even of metaphors. That seems like a no-no, over using an overrich metaphor, but there you go.

I didn't hate it, just don't think it is McCarthy's masterpiece.

This is going somewhere, just give me a moment.

After putting it down, I turned to Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, which I was glad they had in the library here. I've been inspired to read it since I have been thinking about bullfighting after reading Burro Hall's semi-regular updates on the current bullfighting scene in Mexico.

Death in the Afternoon is another book I read more or less at the same time I had read Blood Meridian, as it happens. (I had shoplifted a copy of it, can remember the day perfectly for some reason, and just loved it. Of course, I was in the midst of being some not-unserious but not-selfserious Henry Miller-Hemingway-Dos Passos wannabe undergad literary dipshit (and suceeded, kind of) but at least I did see some bullfights.)

That all said, Hemingway has something to say (very end of ch. 5) that should be read before reading Blood Meridian or, more directly, not McCarthy but almost all of the writing school type writers that read each other. Or maybe before reading anyone.

"This too to remember. If a man writes clearly enough any one can see if he fakes. If he mystifies to avoid a straight statement, which is very different from breaking so-called rules of syntax and grammar to make an effect which can be obtained in no other way, the writer takes a longer time to be known as a fake and other writers who are afflicted by the same necessity will praise him in their defense. True mysticism should not be confused with incompetence in writing which seeks to mystify where there is no mystery but is really only the necessity to fake to cover lack of knowledge or the inability to state clearly. Mysticism implies a mystery and there are many mysteries; but incompetence is no one of them; nor is overwritten journalism made literature by the injection of a false epic quality. Remember this too: all bad writers are in love with the epic."

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