Cormac McCarthy

There are few authors on my "must read when a new book comes out" list. I have just added American novelist Cormac McCarthy to that list. In the meantime, I will work my way back through some of his old material, such as the National Book Award winning All The Pretty Horses eventually. For now, it's back to No Country For Old Men. In this instance, I am reading a book now of a movie I saw 18 months ago--not just any movie, but an Academy-award winning Best Picture movie. Chicken--or egg? Movie--then book? I hate doing it this way, in general, because the image of each character is already there, etched in from the movie. This is particularly poignant in the case of McCarthy because he goes to great lengths, it seems, to not describe one morsel about the character's physical appearance. He just tells the story. Simply. Movingly. Moves the plot along like a winding river carving through the Texas floodplains. A perfect pace. Ideal tone.

McCarthy is much more Ernest Hemingway than he is John Irving. Irving = humor, character thoughts, long sentences, inner meaning, painstaking physical descriptions. McCarthy = action, motion, pacing, no commas or quotations, sparse sentences with occasional hard word (keep that dictionary handy). Which is better? Each has it's purpose. When Irving slogs, as I am seeing about 1/4 way through A Widow For One Year, he's molasses. Cormac never has gum in his shoes, and that makes for fun reading. On the contrary, when Irving is "on", and I hear that the hardcover sitting next to me in the "on deck" circle, Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany, is a modern classic, I know he is truly spot on. Fun diversity in storytelling. Two styles meeting on my bedside table.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy's masterwork and Oprah pick and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Writing in 2007, will be a movie next month. Trailers and photos are out now. A shame to ruin McCarthy's unique writing style, meant to allow a reader to enjoy his own image of the players and the places, with film. Read The Road the movie never.

Oprah did the only filmed interview with Cormac, and many report that she blew it--silly questions of an author clearly uncomfortable in front of the camera. But I do agree with her about The Road being poetry. A long moving poem. The only book I have ever read that has actually made me cry.

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