Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cormac McCarthy

Okay, so the comments from my last post featured some discussion of Cormac McCarthy and his books. And when I started to reply to Swistle's comment, I realized that I was going to get way too involved for a comment, so I should just write another damn post about this fucking author that the critics love and I really hate. Big disclaimer first: I've only read two books by Cormac McCarthy, so I am hardly an expert on his writing. That will not stop me from talking about his writing as though I am.

I will give McCarthy credit for No Country for Old Men solely for creating Tommy Lee Jones' character, because I loved him. And *in the book*, his relationship with his wife is awesome. In fact, his character is the only reason I bought the book. I had been burned by The Road, which could not possibly suck worse unless it set you on fire when you opened it, and really wasn't sure about buying another book by McCarthy. So in the store, I read the first few pages of No County. It opens with some narration by TLJ's character, Ed Tom Bell, and it is well written and the character just grabs you and sucks you in. But it really feels to me like McCarthy wanted to write a story about a small town sheriff who gets involved in a situation way out of his league and how he questions what the world is coming to these days, and how he feels responsible for his townspeople. It feels like he just wanted to draw this one character, this one weathered, older man who's seen a lot but not all, who loves his wife, and who hates the situation he finds himself in because he knows he can't make it right and then he had to write a story around that character. And he had to write a villain that Ed Tom wouldn't understand (Javier Bardem's hairstyle), and an average man in trouble (the ever-present Josh Brolin). But he didn't put much time or effort into the story around Ed Tom because that's not what matters to him. So there's no big climax where the two combatants (Bardem's hair and Brolin's sneer, for those keeping track at home) clash. There are two many factions chasing Brolin (Bardem, the Mexicans, and then the one Woody Harrleson plays). And then there's the ending. Because there's no climax, the denouement makes no sense and doesn't feel satisfying. It felt like a character study, and once McCarthy had completed the character study, he ended the book. It didn't matter if that ridiculous story he concocted for his character to walk around in was finished or not.

However, McCarthy gets no credit whatsoever for writing The Road, because it is quite simply one of the worst books I have ever read. The fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize last year makes me want to sit down and cry, because there are some damn fine books that have won the Pulitzer and the fact that it will be mentioned in the same breath as some of them is a travesty. Empire Falls, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Confederacy of Dunces all kick the everliving shit out of The Road. Even Gilead, which is middling at best, and The Shipping News, with it's infuriating incomplete sentences, are both better than The Road by about seven country miles. Once again, I think McCarthy wanted to write about one thing and had to write some semblance of a story to hang his idea on. This time, it was a father/ son relationship. So he tells a post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son wandering from the mountains to the coast. Along the way, he does sort of explore the relationship between them. But other than that, there is very little plot. And the ending is just awful. A complete cop-out. I actually wrote a longer review back when I read it.

8 comments:

desperate housewife said...

My husband would've been applauding this whole post- he hated No Country with the fire of a thousand suns, and ranted about it for days.

Tessie said...

The Road was not even ABOUT the father-son relationship if you ask me, it was about Being A Downer (slash NOTHING). Ugg. I hated it SO MUCH.

Shelly said...

Des - LOL! Your hubby and I would get along *great*! If I hate a book, I can talk about it for a week! I think I ranted about The Road for at least three days.

Shelly said...

Tessie - I agree. My point was that McCarthy wanted to write about the father-son relationship, concocted a ridiculous story in which to place that relationship, and then didn't even write about that relationship well. Yes, I agree, it was about Nothing. And it sucked. SO BAD. I hated it, too. I can't think of a book I hate worse.

Pickles & Dimes said...

I gotta read The Road, just to see how awful it really is.

I loved your review of NCFOM - haven't seen it; probably never will because I've heard the ending sucks.

Shelly said...

Shauna - email me your address at sm_rl@hotmail.com and I will mail you my copy of the book for free, because no one should spend money on it. I am violently against Cormac McCarthy making another fucking dime off that book. And it will get that pig out of my house.

Thank you! In my opinion, you ain't missing much.

Michele said...

OMG, yes. I agree completely. Havent seen or read NCFOM yet, but for his previous stuff, ditto. I dont get the hype.

Shelly said...

Thanks Michele! My advice would be to read NCFOM instead of watching it. I liked the book *much* better than the movie.