Those are good questions. As far as McCarthy goes, the criticism is aimed at lazy, imprecise language, phrases that don't mean what he thinks they they mean or wants the reader to think they mean, meaningless repetitions (that's the "bad Hemingway" part).
I think we can come to some general conclusions as to what "good style" is:
1) It should be clear. It should convey meaning. Where possible it should be direct. Grammar is not a mere affectation but a logical structure. If one feels one like departning from these principles, one should have a sound reason. 2) Descriptions should be vivid and, where possible, fresh. 3) Dialogue should sound natural, not "Bookish". 4) Prose should be evocative but not at the expense of one of the other virtues. 5) POV is tricky. Be careful. 6) Ditto for similies and metaphors.
Now, to quote The Matrix, all of those rules can be bent and some can be broken. It is easy to think of examples. Jack Bludis has mentioned two of the best examples to me.....Faulkner and Henry James. Reading either one of those guys is, to me, like stirring concrete with my eyelashes. In the case of Faulkner I find that the end result generally repays the effort. But, if seeking clarity, one just about needs to diagram their sentences and even then their structure is often (always?) idiosyncratic . Now Gibbon also has complex sentence structure because his subject matter and his irony require it. But the prose holds the reader's hand and leads the reader through the maze. In other words, there is a logic to the style. Very appropriate to a latin scholar, of course.
I may have to run out and buy a new copy of Blood Meridian to make this more specific.
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