Re: RARA-AVIS: No Country For Old Men

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 05 Aug 2005

Robert Elkin wrote:

Sidenote: this "florid style" is really just the voice of a nineteenth-century narrator cast in the prose of his time. Perhaps stark brutality contrasts any medium of representation?--equally polar is American Psycho, to cite only one example. By the way, & referring to an earlier post, why do you think McCarthy a "fascist," whether you love him for it or not?

***************** Your comment about his style being "really just the voice of a 19th century narrator cast in the prose of his time" is like saying Mark Twain is "just writing in the colloquial patois of the era." Even if true to a degree, it trivializes a significant and potent accomplishment in style. Here's the first three paragraphs of BLOOD MERIDIAN:

"See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves.
 His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster.
 He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.

Night of your birth. Thirty-three. The Leonids they were called. God how the stars did fall. I looked for the blackness, holes in the heavens. The Dipper stove.

The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man."

The fascist comment was somewhat in jest, but not totally. Blood Meridian portrays man as naturally violent, born to war. Rather than offer some salvation from this predicament or, at a minimum, condemn this deplorable state, McCarthy embellishes it with a savage grace.

And no, I don't think stark brutality contrasts any medium of representation. Hammett's terse style in RED HARVEST is perfectly matched to the content.


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