Sunday, November 15, 2009

McCarthy, Interviewed

Stephen Schenkenberg notes that this otherwise interesting interview with Cormac McCarthy doesn't touch on McCarthy's 1979 novel Suttree. But perhaps we can see an indirect reference to that meandering, eddying work of nearly 500 pages in this somewhat embittered comment:

People apparently only read mystery stories of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you're going to write something like "The Brothers Karamazov" or "Moby-Dick," go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don't care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.

Like Stephen, I do prefer the luxurious density of high Cormac McCarthy, on display in this stunning consecutive trio: Suttree, Blood Meridian, and All the Pretty Horses. Yet in the next novel, The Crossing, I think McCarthy luxuriates a bit too much; the novel's density becomes leaden.

Perhaps he realized that himself. McCarthy's work has surely gotten tauter in recent years—from the screenplays turned novels Cities of the Plain and No Country for Old Men, to the "novel in dramatic form" The Sunset Limited, to the boiled-down prose of The Road.

The greatest of these, clearly, is The Road. The tautness of that novel is entirely appropriate to the novel's subject, in which nearly all human comforts and tendernesses have been burned away. The father searching for food among the ashes becomes a parallel to McCarthy the writer, inventing a plot in this barren landscape.

No comments: