Cormac McCarthy – A Tender Love Story


Title: Outer Dark

Rating: 4 Stars

Yeah, OK, the title is a total lie.

This is classic early Cormac McCarthy.

He writes beautifully about horrifying things. In this case, a brother impregnates his sister. The sister gives birth. The brother takes the newborn and abandons it in a forest. The sister discovers this and embarks on a journey to find the baby. The brother embarks on his own journey.

Needless to say, there are no happy endings here. Death is quick and casual here. At the best, possibly, just possibly, there might be some glimpse of humanity and growth.

I’m fascinated by the language in this book. The characters are nearly all illiterate and simple in vocabulary. McCarthy captures their dialect in such a way that the simplicity of their language is expressed while at the same time you have no trouble understanding their intent.

He uses words and expressions that are clearly archaic. I find myself wondering how much research did he have to do to be able to inhabit that linguistic space? I read that he spent a lot of time in Tennessee. Did he learn it there and just happen to be blessed with a tremendous ear / memory for language?

I’ve read most of his novels now. As far as I can remember, nearly all of them involve a journey of some sort. I guess that’s probably not all that shocking since journey is clearly one of the meta-plots that literature is based upon. Perhaps because most of his novels take place in a time/place without a lot of mechanization (either turn of the century before automobiles or because characters are too poor or in the case of The Road, a post-apocalyptic world), the journey envelopes the novel. The journey isn’t moving quickly from one place to another. Usually the journey is on foot or on horse. In such a manner, on the road or in a field, characters and situations present themselves.

There are three characters that follow along the brother (Culla) that commit acts of destruction and murder in his wake. They ultimately cross his path and serve to pass judgement upon him.

Who are these men? Are they fate? Are they expressions from Culla’s mind? Regardless, they reminded me of the Tex Cobb character from Raising Arizona. In a similar manner, a rough-hewn angel of justice is out to wreak justice on behalf of a kidnapped child.  Or I could just be insane.



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