Are there any Cormac McCarthy fans out there?

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I hate to wax hyperbolic, but as an avid reader i can only come to the logical conclusion that Cormac McCarthy is the greatest living American writer today. Suttree? Blood Meridian? The vast majority of the books we read today will merely drift away into oblivion compared with these texts. Admit it. His words defy every notion of fad that presently exists. Landscapes boil with his descriptions. You can whine that All the Pretty Horses was a terrible movie and I would agree, but his books flat out grind through time and space and human silence, granting a hitherto unknown dignity to the geometry of our relations. Ah, just read it.

McDowell Crook, Friday, 5 March 2004 05:37 (twenty years ago) link

Um, yes, well it's a fine day outside isn't it? A fine day indeed. Splendid. Well.

Cormac McCarthy, Saturday, 6 March 2004 14:26 (nineteen years ago) link

Suttree's great, no question in my mind. But Blood Meridian's a bit of a slog, and I found myself agreeing with the guy who dissed it in The Reader's Manifesto. It seems like it's trying to be some kind of American Homeric epic, but unlike Homer, McCarthy's not telling a story, he's just describing episodes. There's not enough narrative momentum to make how difficult it is to appreciate the poetry of his language worthwhile. It is a beautiful day outside, by the way.

otto, Saturday, 6 March 2004 17:58 (nineteen years ago) link

When hes not getting bogged down in his weird little philosophical debates between characters (Blood Meridian and the coda of Cities of the Plain feature doozies) he often seems to me to be some sort of crazed genius. His writing - for atmosphere and description of action and landscape in particular - is unmatched in America today.
The Border trilogy is basically a set of three boys own adventure tales given a sort of mythic weight by his self-consciously epic treatment of it. That makes it sound awful ,but somehow he makes it work. All the cliches he uses - he makes them work too....

David Nolan (David N.), Sunday, 7 March 2004 03:33 (nineteen years ago) link

I've only read All the ShittyPretty Horses, and it annoyed me. I just got the impression of a guy who was absolutely in love with himself. After every bloated line I pictured him sitting back from his desk and going, "Damn, I'm good!"

Prude (Prude), Sunday, 7 March 2004 06:11 (nineteen years ago) link

I just finished Blood Meridian yesterday, the third McCarthy book I've read (after Pretty Horses and Suttree). I think several things about him: he's a hugely talented writer in certain ways, obviously -- he aims for and as often as not achieves a kind of physical, muscular rhythm in his language that really sets him apart. He loves words, and even if you sometimes picture him going through the dictionary page by page in search of something he hasn't used yet, that's not all bad -- there's a sense of discovery there, when he unearths the perfect vocabulary for whatever setting or mood he's describing. He also, of course, is self-consciously mythic, which is a dangerous thing. Even his best stuff is always in danger of teetering into self-parody, and sometimes does. I haven't read the last two books in the Border Trilogy, but I've gotten mostly negative reports on them on precisely that count.

But Suttree is pretty engaging all the way through (maybe moreso because I lived in Knoxville when I read it and knew most of the places being described). Even if the 14th description of Suttree waking up encrusted in blood and vomit doesn't have quite the visceral power of the 1st one, I never really got tired of it. And Gene Harrogate is one of my favorite characters in recent American literature.

And then there's Blood Meridian. Well. Like I said, I just finished it, so I don't have much critical distance. But it's sure not like anything else I've ever read. Yes, it doesn't have a "story" in any conventional sense of the word -- it's just a litany of horrors, one after another after another after another. I've never read anything more violent. I can't even imagine anything more violent. I can certainly see why some people find it numbing. But it somehow didn't have that effect on me -- more like hypnotic. It's true enough that the ostensible protagonist ("the kid") is barely a character at all, but that's intentional -- even though he's part of the action, he's mostly there as a witness, a surrogate for the reader. He's Dante, basically. And the judge, it seems to me, is more or less McCarthy's surrogate, kind of a combination of Virgil and Satan. He leads the book through its assorted abominations, and commits the worst of them himself, but also provides a running commentary on them. At the end, when he confronts the kid in his jail cell and accuses him of never having fully joined in the killing party's blood bond -- of participating, but sitting in moral judgment at the same time -- he's basically indicting the reader: you've come all this way, and witnessed all this, and been thrilled by it even if you won't admit it, but also pretended to a sort of moral distance from it. I'm still working on a full interpretation of the book, but I think McCarthy's central argument has to do with knowledge and violence -- that there is an inherent violence in knowledge itself, that the urge to know is bound up with the urge to dominate and destroy (cf. the judge's cataloging of the entire world, "Anything that exists without my knowledge exists without my consent"). The judge (and the book) frames all of this in terms of literal war and bloodshed, but I don't think McCarthy is arguing simply for the inescapability of real violence -- I think he's suggesting that violence takes all kinds of forms. Anyway, I need to think about it some more. But I do think it's an arguably great book.

I also want to read some of his earlier Tennessee novels. I've been told Outer Dark and The Orchard Keeper are both pretty good.

spittle (spittle), Sunday, 7 March 2004 19:52 (nineteen years ago) link

Also, if you want to know more about McCarthy himself, one of my friends wrote a good (and very entertaining) portraig of his early years, talking to his assorted friends and drinking buddies.

spittle (spittle), Sunday, 7 March 2004 20:13 (nineteen years ago) link

"portrait," that is

spittle (spittle), Sunday, 7 March 2004 20:14 (nineteen years ago) link

I've always heard how good Child Of God is. I want to read that.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 7 March 2004 22:23 (nineteen years ago) link

Child of God is the only book of his I could finish (and I like overwritten hyperbolic sentences).

anthony kyle monday (akmonday), Tuesday, 9 March 2004 19:33 (nineteen years ago) link

Spittle -- you a Knoxville person?

roxymuzak (roxymuzak), Friday, 12 March 2004 02:03 (nineteen years ago) link

Off and on. Off at the moment. Probably on again at some future date. (Knoxville's the kind of place you never really leave, once you've been there a while. Even Cormac comes back now and again.)

spittle (spittle), Friday, 12 March 2004 08:13 (nineteen years ago) link

Blood Meridian is fabulous. In a way he reminds me of Stephen Wright (Meditations in Green, M31: A family Romance and Going Native) Every single sentence is beautiful. I'm serious.

Franz Kafka, Tuesday, 23 March 2004 00:22 (nineteen years ago) link

The Border trilogy is basically a set of three boys own adventure tales given a sort of mythic weight by his self-consciously epic treatment of it. That makes it sound awful ,but somehow he makes it work

cormac mccarthy is a stylist. he's an excellent stylist relative to ILX, a decent stylist relative to his success as a contemporary author, a terrible stylist if you take the comparisons to melville seriously.

that said, if you think writing is about anything other than style he's an awful awful awful writer. i don't think mccarthy makes it work - i think his readers make it work. basically if you get off on reading self-consciously boys own adventure you could get into this. maybe you've got a taste for quentin tarantino, too, but want a little more gravitas. ok, blood meridian is right up your alley.

further note: if you take any of his ideas seriously, if you allow yourself any self-identification with the figure of john grady riding off into the sunset at the end of ATPH, sort of like don quixote if you could picture him stripped of all humor, all vulnerability and nobility and humanity, you risk severely damaging your brain and becoming a desocialized fuck-up.

vahid (vahid), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 18:23 (nineteen years ago) link

his books flat out grind through time and space and human silence

this is code for glorifying and romanticizing the conditions (the cult, really) of hetero white male isolation ... if you enjoy reification you will be happy to know that you will find yourself, as reader, grinding through endless references to leather and rawhide and denim and shaving and black coffee and whiskey and rusty metal, sort of like reading GQ or Esquire in those months when ralph lauren or tom ford are showing strong collections.

vahid (vahid), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 18:28 (nineteen years ago) link

Err, so you don't like him then...?

David Nolan (David N.), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 23:45 (nineteen years ago) link


vahid (vahid), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 01:09 (nineteen years ago) link

Oh, ok then. I suppose I must be a brain damaged desocialized fuck-up with a penchant for reification, self-conscious boys own adventure and Quentin Tarantino. I was wondering what my problem was. Thanks for clearing that up.

David Nolan (David N.), Thursday, 25 March 2004 01:44 (nineteen years ago) link

David, have you read any of the early novels, and could you make any recommendations? Like I said upthread, Blood Meridian bored me a little, but Suttree ruled my world during the reading of it. I wouldn't mind revisiting something Suttreean.

otto, Thursday, 25 March 2004 02:01 (nineteen years ago) link

I've read Child of God but not the Orchard Keeper. Child of God is good, totally different from the rest of his work in terms of theme and content and more Faulkner than Hemingway in terms of influence.

I've also read his play, I think its called the Stone Mason, which is absolutely different but interesting, if not quite whole-heartedly recommended.

David Nolan (David N.), Friday, 26 March 2004 02:06 (nineteen years ago) link

I think McCarthy's one of those novelists who works incredibly well within certain bounds. Hand him a collection of outcasts, criminals, murderers, bat-druggers and deposed children of fortune, and he's fine. Give him a solid citizen or anyone who wants to be folded up into orderly society and he loses the power to convince. I loved Suttree and Blood Meridian. Especially Suttree. The Border Trilogy veered from the boring to the unreadable for me, although I certainly haven't given Cities of the Plain a fair chance.

Although I think vahid and others aren't wrong when they point out the 'boys own' quality of his work and the uncomfortable cultural proximity of fashionable Western wear to fashionable Western literature, I believe that McCarthy's best is a lot better than an issue of Esquire.

palinode (palinode), Tuesday, 30 March 2004 18:55 (nineteen years ago) link

two years pass...
vahid should post here more.

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 10 June 2006 19:53 (seventeen years ago) link

cormac mccarthy turns out to be actually kinda good at low-key funny backchat between his characters, which was unexpected.

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 10 June 2006 22:39 (seventeen years ago) link

So far I've only read All the Pretty Horses, and unfortunately I have to agree with the people who for the most part found it to be a bore. I've been considering giving Blood Meridian a shot after seeing it pop up on those best of lists, etc. Stylisticly I wasn't impressed by the excessive use of the word "and." I would think as to future readers, they'll be more likely to look to authors who were writing about and reflecting on their own times - not some mythical superman past. Also probably authors who shot for clarity instead of needless obfuscation. I probably need to read at least one more book before I can completely disregard McCarthy, but I'm fearful more is just more of the same - which would be bad.

Is there any connection between McCarthy's border trilogy and Burroughs's western trilogy - which would seem to essentially explode said genre? Burroughs can be tiresome too, but at least he had a sense of humor. What about Gilbert Sorrentino's Gold Fools (which I've yet to read, but is sitting on my shelf)?

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Sunday, 11 June 2006 02:03 (seventeen years ago) link

have you read burroughs' western trilogy? - are we thinking of the one that starts with 'cities of the red night'? i am so totally unconvinced that that's what it's doing, although i only ever made it halfway through that book -

tom west (thomp), Sunday, 11 June 2006 08:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Right - in the sense of playing with the conventions but obviously not taking them seriously. I've only read the first two - but yes, it has been a while. Must read Western Lands someday. Also the idea of "boy's adventure."

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Sunday, 11 June 2006 15:28 (seventeen years ago) link

all i remember of it is a sex plague in south america, maybe i'm confused.

tom west (thomp), Sunday, 11 June 2006 16:53 (seventeen years ago) link

I thought I liked him for awhile, but I came to realize I was just intimidated by his pyrotechnics into assuming he actually had something to say. Now I read a few pages (a scene) here and there to admire his (magnificent) descriptive skill, but I've given up on thinking he's anything like a novelist with a story to tell or even a deep original idea to relate. I feel like his lack of ideas is what drives him to write the way he does. All hat and no horse.

steve ketchup (steve ketchup), Wednesday, 14 June 2006 13:30 (seventeen years ago) link

vahid does vitriol better than any other poster on ilx.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 14 June 2006 14:22 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm a huge fan. Blood Meridian and Child of God are two of my favorite books ever, and I'm reading Suttree right now. I can see a lot of vahid's points about hetero white male isolation, and that is the sort of thing that normally turns me right off, but I'm constantly thrilled by the language and the fact that the isolated hetero white males are just really creepy - I like books about creepy things and deranged people. I really liked what spittle said up thread about Blood Meridian, too.

I saw one of McCarthy's plays last week at the Steppenwolf called The Sunset Ltd. I was less impressed by this than by his books. Part of this was the acting - there was a lot of line flubbing that was very obvious and painful in the tiny theater. There was also a lot of yelling, and I got a suffocating sense of being in a tiny room with two people I didn't like who were being very unpleasant, which might have been the intended effect but still, I can sit in a tiny room with people I don’t like being unpleasant to each other for free if I patronize the right bars or go visit my family. My favorite part of the entire play was the end, when one of the characters launched into a soliloquy about pain and death and the worthlessness of living and the dreadfulness of mankind which was lovely and lyrical and very similar to the style of his novels.

I realized then pretty much what steve ketchup says - I'm deeply impressed by his pyrotechnics. I don’t know about his books not having much substance, though. I thought Child of God had an incredible story, and I think Blood Meridian has a story, too, albeit a lofty, not necessarily plot-driven one.

Safety First (pullapartgirl), Wednesday, 14 June 2006 14:28 (seventeen years ago) link

four months pass...
How do you dudes read the one-page epilogue to Blood Meridian? I thought it was referring the construction of the railroads, and the end of the era that could support the kind of violence and mindset that the book is about, etc. But I could be wrong?

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 10 November 2006 16:27 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...

I'm liking All The Pretty Horses. Don't find it to be a bore at all - fairly gripping, actually. Great dialogue - I enjoy that more than the poetic description really. So far I'd almost compare it to Jack London - fairly traditional adventure narrative but with finer writing.

Hurting 2, Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:53 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...

He can be sorta tedious, no?

Pylon Gnasher, Monday, 4 August 2008 18:42 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...

i'm three quarters or more through blood meridian, and if it didn't have cormac mccarthy's name on the cover then i could just as easily mistake it for one of my grandad's old western books i once found in a bag in the attic and read through one summer when i was about 15- the laboured prose style and the glee taken in the lurid violence reminds me of the 'edge' series of books in particular. i'm not at all sure where the critical acclaim has come from.

darraghmac, Saturday, 13 September 2008 02:51 (fifteen years ago) link

Cities on the Plain is fantastic.

HOOS clique iphones fool get ya steen on (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Saturday, 13 September 2008 03:03 (fifteen years ago) link

don't get me wrong- i've enjoyed both of the books of his that i've read so far. in fact, i have no country for old men waiting and i'm looking forward to it, but, i dunno, he just seems to get an awful lot of credit for what he does.

darraghmac, Saturday, 13 September 2008 03:07 (fifteen years ago) link

i love blood meridian but vahid kinda has a point.

The 69, 666, 420th Beatle (latebloomer), Saturday, 13 September 2008 16:41 (fifteen years ago) link

this is code for glorifying and romanticizing the conditions (the cult, really) of hetero white male isolation ... if you enjoy reification you will be happy to know that you will find yourself, as reader, grinding through endless references to leather and rawhide and denim and shaving and black coffee and whiskey and rusty metal, sort of like reading GQ or Esquire in those months when ralph lauren or tom ford are showing strong collections.

― vahid (vahid), Tuesday, March 23, 2004 6:28 PM (4 years ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

love this, megaroffles.

The 69, 666, 420th Beatle (latebloomer), Saturday, 13 September 2008 16:43 (fifteen years ago) link

i think of blood meridian as having a lot in common thematically with a history of violence (i mean you could even pretty much interchange their titles). they're both about the violence inherent to civilization or society or human relations or however narrowly you wanna draw the net. and not just that it's there, but that it's exciting and addictive and seductive. an old story i guess, but for me it works in the telling.

tipsy mothra, Sunday, 14 September 2008 04:55 (fifteen years ago) link

(it's also a real reactionary view of the world, and mccarthy is an unapologetic reactionary. which should make me sort of hate him, but doesn't.)

tipsy mothra, Sunday, 14 September 2008 04:56 (fifteen years ago) link

well i read no country for old men since and enjoyed it very much. blood meridian didn't get any better though, the stream-of-consciousness style just didn't bring me with it.

darraghmac, Monday, 15 September 2008 12:10 (fifteen years ago) link

boy i really didn't like no country. i think it's the phoniest book of his i read. (didn't like the movie much either.)

tipsy mothra, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 14:30 (fifteen years ago) link

i think i was just relieved to read something a little more pleasant than blood meridian, tbh

darraghmac, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 16:27 (fifteen years ago) link

And I thought everyone else had read all of McC. I finished Blood Meridian in the last week or so and was on the yea side. Okay, I am susceptible to the romanticism of male isolation, but what goes on between me and the book I'm reading is my business, right.

It was a strange book: you know there's no story, and that it's really just a relentless machine repeating a stock set of 3 or 4 scenes, but I found it compulsive material. If anything I liked it more when it stuck to its unpicturesque picaresque than when it got all mytho-allegorical at the end with the judge and the retard. In one way, it felt less like reading and more like observing a wave of something like insects swarming over a field, destroying what came into their path, getting involved in inscrutable scrapes, etc. That makes me sound like a sci-fi fan, which I'm not intending, moreso nature doco. Which is perhaps more embarrassing than the violence/male isolation admission, but there you go.

Judging from the above, I think I'll go Suttree next. Not much mention here of The Road, which is a bit funny, no? (Not that I've read it either, but my wife had it on her bedside table and I'd sneak guilty peeks when she was out of the room. Well, they were less guilt than the revulsion/fascination thing)

David Joyner, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 01:46 (fifteen years ago) link

When hes not getting bogged down in his weird little philosophical debates between characters (Blood Meridian and the coda of Cities of the Plain feature doozies) he often seems to me to be some sort of crazed genius. His writing - for atmosphere and description of action and landscape in particular - is unmatched in America today.

The philosophical debates were the only thing I really liked about Blood Meridian! I thought that book needed more ideas. So much of it was awe-inspiring, and I mean that in both a good way and a bad way: awe is nice, but it doesn't make you think -- in fact, it discourages thought. I felt like I had to turn on my brain again after prolonged periods of reading. Maybe I'd appreciate it more if I reread it, though, because the apparent aimlessness of the narrative was something I really struggled with (I probably would've given up if I hadn't had the ending spoiled for me halfway through; I was finding it impossible to believe that anything would ever happen -- again, it's just too awe-inspiring, too mind-numbing, too... inhuman).

The chapter where they're trying to make gunpowder to fight off the Indians was pretty exciting, though.

it be me, me, me and timothy (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 17 September 2008 02:57 (fifteen years ago) link

if it didn't have cormac mccarthy's name on the cover then i could just as easily mistake it for one of my grandad's old western books

this boggles my mind. I mean, I've read enough Louis L'Amour (care of MY grandad) to know that Blood Meridian is leagues ahead of the average western potboiler. Ahead in terms of the writing and characterization. Whatever you want to say about the characters in Blood Meridian, almost wholly despicable human beings, at least they're not cookie cutter cowboys n indians. Also in terms of the storytelling, the approach is quite different. Blood Meridian is much more episodic and less propulsive than the average good guy/bad guy gunfight.

Do McCarthy fans like Hall's "Warlock"?

ian, Saturday, 20 September 2008 04:07 (fifteen years ago) link

i loved loved loved Warlock

Mr. Que, Saturday, 20 September 2008 13:37 (fifteen years ago) link

the "cookie cutter cowboys'n'indians" of a men's adventure novel probably have more resemblance to actual people living or dead than most of cormac mccarthy's characters.

moonship journey to baja, Sunday, 21 September 2008 18:42 (fifteen years ago) link

yes, but i don't agree with the implied value judgment that realist characters are necessarily better.

ian, Sunday, 21 September 2008 21:02 (fifteen years ago) link

"a men's adventure novel" = should be a movie title.

ian, Sunday, 21 September 2008 21:02 (fifteen years ago) link

I read No Country for Old Men - loved it. Read The Road, it was amazing. Bought a ton of his other books - never feel like opening them.

Ismael Klata, Tuesday, 12 February 2013 11:34 (eleven years ago) link

Try the border trilogy i guess.

habemus paparazzi (darraghmac), Tuesday, 12 February 2013 11:40 (eleven years ago) link

ten months pass...

My ex-wife used her vagina as a goddamn holster. Whilst disputing with her current paramour the affections of space aliens. While wearing lingerie in New Mexico. From where it was placed in her womansparts, she retrieved it and then pointed at the man and asked Who is crazy you or me?

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 8 January 2014 22:26 (ten years ago) link


ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Thursday, 9 January 2014 01:17 (ten years ago) link

In the moonlight she had innercourse with that goddamn Colt. Heard it from the next room. She yelled again WHO IS CRAZY YOU OR ME. In her lingerie she bought from the Sears down in Yuma when she was staying with her mother. I did not answer her.

I walked in and she removed that goddamn Colt from her interior and pointed it at my head her lip quivering. Why I did not answer her. Deputy, I don't know how but I got that goddamn Colt out of her hand and took it straight to the bathroom and dropped that goddamn Colt in the toilet. Shoulda flushed it. I had had enough of this woman tonight and her goddamn crotch holster, Deputy Zook, I can't take no more of that.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 9 January 2014 06:21 (ten years ago) link


♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 9 January 2014 08:31 (ten years ago) link

My ex-wife used her vagina as a goddamn holster.

I misread this too quickly as "My ex-wife used her vagina as a goddamn lobster."

tbd (Eazy), Thursday, 9 January 2014 16:26 (ten years ago) link

not a lot in it, to be fair

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 9 January 2014 18:26 (ten years ago) link

With a gun and a lobster, I'd say it was pretty crowded.

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Thursday, 9 January 2014 23:57 (ten years ago) link

two months pass...


Mordy , Sunday, 6 April 2014 13:59 (nine years ago) link

eight years pass...
two weeks pass...

sorry, two new ones in the next eight weeks? wtf?

the late great, Wednesday, 19 October 2022 16:49 (one year ago) link

I know, right?

The Triumphant Return of Bernard & Stubbs (Raymond Cummings), Monday, 24 October 2022 20:10 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

The Atlantic has said some things.

I went through a really intense McCarthy phase a few years back, centered most of all on Suttree but also on the horsey ones.

Dunno if I need this new material, given how much mayhem is already out there in the world. For me, C McC was partly an escapist reading experience. I could get lost in his louvhe world when my own life was basically pleasant. In times when life actively sucks, however, I am less interested in gritty fiction.

Cirque de Soleil Moon Frye (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 22 December 2022 20:23 (one year ago) link


Cirque de Soleil Moon Frye (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 22 December 2022 20:23 (one year ago) link

"I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years. I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try."

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 22 December 2022 20:28 (one year ago) link

Isn’t there a rumor he’s really right wing?

Lord Pickles (Boring, Maryland), Thursday, 22 December 2022 21:23 (one year ago) link

You're thinking of James Woods.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 22 December 2022 21:31 (one year ago) link

My brother (who has a predilection for long-winded writers) gave me Suttree and the Border Trilogy years ago. I thought the former was a well-crafted piece of Southern gothic. All the Pretty Horses was a good read, but I cannot get through the books after that no matter how hard I try, and I'm someone who will generally stick with a book. There is just something about McCarthy's writing that I find . . . precious? Too in love with itself? Bleak?

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 22 December 2022 21:36 (one year ago) link

new one (the passenger at least) is a chill hangout book with some paranoid southern gothic dreamworld shit going on, also many scenes in notable new orleans restaurants and bars. haven't read stella maris yet. but the passenger is very good.

adam, Thursday, 22 December 2022 23:53 (one year ago) link

Finally messing around with chat GPT

— Elliot (@BurrNotice) December 22, 2022

Fizzles, Friday, 23 December 2022 09:14 (one year ago) link

reminds me of


And so. The day came. The alguacil asked the boy what did he wish for a last meal. The boy asked for a bowl of pasta from Olive Garden. The alguacil considered this and finally agreed saying there was indeed an Olive Garden in the next town.

That evening a mozo came back into town leading a procession of men and burros. Panniers on the animals steaming like ungulate engines. The cloying aroma of pasta sauce. The loamy musk of breadsticks. The algaucil came to them. What was he to think of this?

And a man from the restaurant came forward and said they had brought pasta for the boy and that in the tradition of their restaurant the boy’s bowl would never be allowed to empty nor would he be want for breadsticks until such time as he was sated.

The algaucil was very angry. He shouted at the men and the burros and the mozo and all cowered but none would leave. For they knew as well as the algaucil of the law of that land. That the last meal could not be denied. And so the boy was served in his cell the unending pasta bowl. Attendants from the restaurant refilling the dish as it neared empty. A train of burros plodding from restaurant to jail and back to restaurant.

The boy’s day of execution came and went. A week passed. Then another. The algaucil fuming in his shabby office. The boy grew fat eating the pasta and the breadsticks.

On the hundredth day the alguacil walked to the jail and told the jailers to leave. And then he entered the cell where the boy lay eating and he unholstered his pistol and he told the boy he would shoot him if he ate any more pasta or breadsticks. And the boy lay there lacquered in sauce and bursting from his prison rags and closed his eyes as if to consider this ultimatum. He belched thunderously and was still. And so. The boy escaped the noose.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Saturday, 24 December 2022 00:13 (one year ago) link

i think i am going to take a pass on this. i basically majored in quantum mechanics (we called it "physical chemistry") and i teach physics to high school kids now and i believe me i love physics (and chemistry)! i am not so great at math, i can manage calculus and linear algebra and euclidean geometry well, but that's easy stuff and besides i just use it to solve problems, which is pretty much what i use physics and chemistry for. i love the stuff, but largely because it's useful on a practical level, and sometimes when young people tell me they love physics and start babbling about quantum mechanics and the nature of reality i want to yell at them like yoda yells at luke in empire strikes back, but instead of saying "wars not make one great" i want to yell "math and science not make one smart" (of course neither does critical theory but that's a separate discussion)

i think the one part of my (long ago now) college education that i am still in awe of is what they call statistical mechanics, which is a fairly theoretical branch of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics (as opposed to the mechanical engineering side that's involved with making engines and plumbing work IRL) and it starts out with some very over-simplified suppositions about how things like atoms and molecules interact, and then solves some pretty hardcore calculus-based statistics problems, and magically comes out the other side with very useful conclusions about how large-scale matter (like, say, a liter of hot gas in a piston) will behave. and these conclusions are not only practical but easily confirmed with relatively simple experiments

and i guess the flipside of that is that i always cringe and want to die inside when some kook like deepak chopra takes something beautiful and practical like physics and uses it as a gross vehicle to advance his stupid half-baked hippy dippy ideas. i guess the thought of a writer i like doing the same thing is a bridge too far for me, even if he's using it as a vehicle to advance a nihilistic existential philosophy i largely agree with. i just don't have time for that!

the late great, Monday, 26 December 2022 06:37 (one year ago) link

this part of that new yorker review seems relevant to how i feel about how this stuff gets fetishized and reading it was probably the point where i realized i am not going to bother

But this only returns us to the problem. Why are Bobby and Alicia written up as mathematicians rather than, respectively, as a race-car driver and a violinist? If neither character can be caught in the act of uttering or creating an original mathematical idea, then, curiously enough, these are merely novels about the idea of mathematical ideas. Practically speaking, this means that Bobby and Alicia must sound like “geniuses” while delivering clever and diligently knowing reports (full of famous names, and so on) on twentieth-century developments in physics and mathematics aimed at ordinary, non-mathematical readers. These are novels in love with the idea of scientific and musical genius. And how do geniuses sound? They speak rapidly and gnomically, impatient with their sluggish interlocutors. They are willful, eccentric, solitary. They are in mental crisis, close to breakdown and suicide. They are imperious around success and failure: they announce that they stopped playing the violin because it was impossible to be in the world’s top ten. They are obsessed with intelligence, their own and other people’s. Of Robert Oppenheimer, Bobby says, “A lot of very smart people thought he was possibly the smartest man God ever made,” while Alicia says, “People who knew Einstein, Dirac, von Neumann, said that he was the smartest man they’d ever met.”

Do geniuses actually sound like this? Well, people who are fixated on the idea of genius perhaps sound like this.

the late great, Monday, 26 December 2022 06:47 (one year ago) link

i think that ny criticiam ia basically accurate, the siblings are cormackian superheroes for sure. but since the book is floaty and plotless it didn't bug me too much.

adam, Monday, 26 December 2022 12:39 (one year ago) link

there's also a big piece in the xmas LRB but it's sadly by christian lorentzen

mark s, Monday, 26 December 2022 13:15 (one year ago) link

I thought the lrb piece was broadly fine (and not that big compared to eg ten pages on the history of Birmingham)?!

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 26 December 2022 19:56 (one year ago) link

it's ok i guess but it's by christian lorentzen and i was reading it on my phone so it seemed big

mark s, Monday, 26 December 2022 20:22 (one year ago) link

by contrast ten pages on birmingham is not enough pages

mark s, Monday, 26 December 2022 20:23 (one year ago) link

The Birmingham piece was great don’t get me wrong. Would love to read cormac on Birmingham.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 26 December 2022 20:25 (one year ago) link

five months pass...

RIP. First time reading Blood Meridian I was in a queue at an airport and during the first battle scene my knees gave out on me. Time to read Suttree, I guess.

Stars of the Lidl (Chinaski), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 21:00 (eight months ago) link

That's the one people have been mentioning a bit rn, so..

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 21:12 (eight months ago) link

Big fan of the border trilogy. Incredible epilogue.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 21:45 (eight months ago) link

yes these are the ones

i think no country is great, a seventies airport novel that leaps off the page into the movie- i think its criticised for what it isnt, which is never valid ofc

Ár an broc a mhic (darraghmac), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 21:47 (eight months ago) link

I really liked NCFOM, maybe not quite as much as the film, but it's good stuff.

omar little, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 22:25 (eight months ago) link

When death isn't enough to cancel the guy

look i'm not a big literary brain or a contributor to the new left review or anything, but i do think poverty *is* bad? no-one should *have* to eat only beans or bathe in lakes and if i was married to a v successful writer and having to do that i'd prob be a bit salty about it

— fish tit supremacy (@tubbsOreally) June 14, 2023

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 14 June 2023 12:52 (eight months ago) link

The very notion of artistic principles is passing along with writers like McCarthy.

Chris L, Wednesday, 14 June 2023 13:10 (eight months ago) link

oddly Pretty Horses was on tv last night. i don't remember having seen it before.

koogs, Wednesday, 14 June 2023 13:19 (eight months ago) link

I never saw it but it was yet another one where people later griped that Weinstein butchered the director's cut.

Chris L, Wednesday, 14 June 2023 13:25 (eight months ago) link

I wish The Road was a better movie. The book remains my favorite of his.

I. J. Miggs (dandydonweiner), Thursday, 15 June 2023 15:32 (eight months ago) link

Quite an arc.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 19 June 2023 13:09 (eight months ago) link

Did Suttree and Blood Meridian really go out of print before 1992 and get saved by All the Pretty Horses? I seem to recall buying and reading them before AtPH was published. Maybe they went back into publication immediately beforehand.

Holly Godarkbloom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 19 June 2023 14:22 (eight months ago) link

Shortly before, as in early in 1992.

Holly Godarkbloom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 19 June 2023 14:22 (eight months ago) link

Thinking there was a build-up, a run-up.

Holly Godarkbloom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 19 June 2023 14:24 (eight months ago) link

before 1992 blood meridian existed without my knowledge and therefore without my consent

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 19 June 2023 19:15 (eight months ago) link

Suttree had a nice yuppie Vintage Contemporaries edition in the mid/late 1980s.

underwater as a compliment (Eazy), Monday, 19 June 2023 22:51 (eight months ago) link

Thanks! The ones I had were Vintage Internationals of a later, um, vintage, do u see? They had kind of a mostly black and white layout with some Guy Maddin smeared blur of a few other colors in the background overlaid by a kind of gold paint lettering design.

Holly Godarkbloom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 20 June 2023 04:50 (eight months ago) link

Which vintage did indeed seem to be early 1992.

Holly Godarkbloom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 20 June 2023 05:10 (eight months ago) link

three months pass...

The punctuation in Blood Meridian versus the punctuation in Absalom, Absalom!

— Claudia Durastanti (@CDurastanti) June 14, 2023

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 5 October 2023 08:29 (five months ago) link

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