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Crenellated Heat

Philip Connors: Cormac McCarthy, 25 January 2007

The Road 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 241 pp., £16.99, November 2006, 9780330447539
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... Cormac McCarthy has offered us nightmares before. In Outer Dark (1968) he conjured a twisted version of the Nativity in which a child is conceived in incest, abandoned in the woods, sought for months by his mother, and eventually murdered in front of his father by a man who slits his throat. In Child of God (1973) McCarthy imagined a serial murderer and necrophiliac who abducts his unwitting victims mid-coitus from parked cars and drags them into an underground lair, where he lays them out on stone shelves for his nefarious pleasure ...

Where a man can be a man

Margaret Anne Doody, 16 December 1993

All the Pretty Horses 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 302 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 330 33169 8
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... In Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel, the young hero, imprisoned in a jail in Mexico and suffering harsh conditions, has a brilliant dream – a dream calling for some very earnest writing on the part of the author: That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain ... and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colours shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised ...

Where the hell?

Michael Wood, 6 October 1994

The Crossing 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 426 pp., £14.99, August 1994, 9780330334624
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... Cormac McCarthy comes to us with a tremendous reputation: not only the National Book Award but a critical chorus comparing him to Melville, Shakespeare, Conrad, Faulkner, Dostoevsky. There have also been voices crying hokum, but not many. The Crossing is McCarthy’s seventh novel, and you have only to open one of them to see what has set everyone reeling ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Sisters Brothers’, 9 May 2019

... lead man’ and reduces Eli’s pay. This is because he hasn’t read enough Faulkner, or Cormac McCarthy, and doesn’t recognise the sanity that lies in bumbling. Initially it seems they are going to kill a man called Kermit Warm, very well acted by Riz Ahmed as a man who looks more helpless than he is. He is said to have stolen money from the ...

The Hemingway Crush

Theo Tait: Kevin Powers, 3 January 2013

The Yellow Birds 
by Kevin Powers.
Sceptre, 230 pp., £14.99, September 2012, 978 1 4447 5612 8
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... The Things They Carried: practically every classic war novel in the American canon, along with Cormac McCarthy and, for good measure, the Iliad. It was shortlisted for the National Book Award, and has won various other prizes and accolades. A lot of this, I suspect, was based on respect for the writer’s experiences rather than the words on the ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland, 17 July 1997

Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... the recent successes of ‘literary’ writers who have used the genre (notably Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy), the Western still awaits its Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, or even its Georgette Heyer: that is, the writer capable of lifting its clichés into art. Elmore Leonard might have done it, had he not decided to switch to ...

Diary

Will Self: My Typewriters, 5 March 2015

... anymore. Even so, as the technology takes its final bow there’s been quite a flurry of interest: Cormac McCarthy auctioning his Olivetti Lettera 32 for a quarter of a million bucks made big news. I was approached by Patek Phillipe to write about typewriters for an advertorial feature. I could see the synchrony of watches and typewriters: both ...

Only the crazy make it

Thomas Jones: Jim Crace, 8 March 2007

The Pesthouse 
by Jim Crace.
Picador, 309 pp., £16.99, March 2007, 978 0 330 44562 7
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... The Gift of Stones his arm, but who could just as well have ridden out of the pages of a novel by Cormac McCarthy, or a film by Peckinpah. The Pesthouse is, if not exactly a Western, then a distorted reflection of one. Under attack from a group of mounted bandits, Franklin saves Margaret by pulling off her headscarf and revealing her hairless ...

Come Back, You Bastards!

Graham Robb: Who cut the tow rope?, 5 July 2007

Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece 
by Jonathan Miles.
Cape, 334 pp., £17.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07303 5
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... dash and stumble, but it requires enormous reserves of synonyms. It takes Joseph Conrad or Cormac McCarthy to prolong monotonous misery in a satisfying manner. When the tone is frantic from the start, supplies are soon exhausted, and even the narrator seems to lose interest: ‘There were … all kinds of combustible moments between half-crazed ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride, 8 August 2013

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... on gender). Hemingway’s style, with its anti-aestheticising aesthetic, is still influential. Cormac McCarthy dispenses with the apostrophe in shortened forms like ‘doesnt’ and ‘wouldnt’, though the need for clarity requires him to keep it in ‘can’t’, with the result that the impression of imperative sparseness suffers, chafing so ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... reality that overwhelms its origin. We’ve finally (post-National Book Award) got around to Cormac McCarthy, whose first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1966, but we continue to ignore William Eastlake, who worked (Go in Beauty and Portrait of an Artist with 26 Horses) a parallel seam with equal distinction. To be read, a player, a part ...

The Basic Couple

Benjamin Kunkel: Norman Rush, 24 October 2013

Subtle Bodies 
by Norman Rush.
Granta, 234 pp., £14.99, October 2013, 978 1 84708 780 5
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... folly that it remains for American writers who prefer the national mannerism of the barbaric yawp. Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Rush are exact contemporaries, born in 1933. McCarthy excels at antique dialogue and rapturous word-pictures of frontier landscapes; likes to portray violence; won’t represent ...

Unspeakability

John Lanchester, 6 October 1994

The Magician’s Doubts 
by Michael Wood.
Chatto, 252 pp., £18, August 1994, 0 7011 6197 3
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... applies to Nabokov; or, for that matter, to Bellow, Updike, Compton-Burnett, Iain Sinclair, Cormac McCarthy, Roth, Ozick, etc. (Lurking in Wood’s idea is the implication that modern critics and readers make too much of signature.) Nabokov’s signature is often both what initially attracts readers to his work, and what puts them off it, or causes ...

In Hyperspace

Fredric Jameson, 10 September 2015

Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative 
by David Wittenberg.
Fordham, 288 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 8232 4997 8
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... literature ought to share generic features with its more popular cousins, but it doesn’t; Cormac McCarthy and Jonathan Lethem are not of the same genre as Philip K. Dick, however long Margaret Atwood managed to ‘pass’. Indeed, the solution may actually be a rather simple one, namely that modernism is not a genre, while SF emphatically is ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... as a major writer, the poète maudit of black America. Like his mentor Faulkner (and later Cormac McCarthy), Himes appealed to a Parisian readership convinced of the essential savagery of American life. ‘What the great body of Americans most disliked’ about his work, Himes believed, ‘was the fact that I came too close to the truth.’ He ...

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