Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Impression of Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy

Stella Maris (The Passenger #2)Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some novelists seem to write out of a kind of desperation. Life disappoints, feels meaningless. They must write in a kind of drawn-out mania, attempting to fill a void. Vonnegut. Faulkner. Melville. Kingsolver. LeGuin. Atwood, David Foster Wallace for sure. Hell, maybe all novelists, as distinguished from entertainers. You can't really ask Pynchon, Barthes, Brautigan, or maybe you can, but I can't. It's all there on the page anyhow. There's no accounting for amusement with this one.

This book is philosophy but written in a way that no philosopher ever could or would write. Cormac McCarthy conjures a character who's taken all knowledge across all time and distilled it to a kind of essence wherein nothing can be known or claimed or defended. Certainly nothing can be explained. The really cool thing is that his philosopher is a woman. No wonder she has to kill herself. Philosophy (dis)embodies manhood, doesn't it? Abstracted from all connection, the only manhood she wants is forbidden. Anyhow.

And then nothing is explained, and there is a kind of epiphany, and it's for the reader and the author both. A life in full beyond the self-exile prisonhouse studio. Then nothing. And it's enough for me. It may be over and out for Cormac. What happens when all that's difficult for everyone else is trivial for you, dear impossibly beautiful impossibly brilliant little Alicia, the Alice of 3:10 to Yuma, the name the fate, the last name generic. What happens when the art finds you and grants you no quarter? Must you starve? Too painful. Write then.

Yeah, see, that's why you nor I can write novels. By far not intelligent enough to recognize nothing for what it isn't. Detached as the rest of us are from those reaches wherof Cormac descends. Earnest doesn't begin to cover Cormac's voice.

Art crashes me on its shoals. I sputter and never catch the impulse which took me to the page. Gift or curse? No matter. I am nearly old enough to know how to read. It eases me over and out now effortlessly, holding metaphorical hands into a void now less empty.

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Monday, January 2, 2023

Goodreads Impression of Cormac McCarthy The Passenger

The Passenger (The Passenger #1)The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The novel, she dead. All the same tropes, when you're (you, the author are) too freaking brilliant. A face so pretty, attached to a body presumably, that it kills you, or kills itself when it's also so brilliant that it detaches mind from reality by way of math. DFW anyone? As though numbers were more fundamental than words. A rehearsal. Brief History of Infinity. A symbol, not a name, Squire.

Faulknerian incest, a living detective who wants to know about everybody else, and nobody wants to know about him, or maybe they already know all that they want or need to know. Not Joe Friday, but Bobby Western (This is Not a Western), who has to ditch his identity because he's more curious than the incurious cat he loses. Because he comes too close to too many things the gummint gumshoes don't want out. Dead Kennedy's. Rehearsing grammar, spelling and hallucinatory malapropisms to get it right. Those types don't want to know anything. Just doing their job.

The whole writing style here is to hint at something in a way that you, just like the author, don't quite grasp, sayeth the wizened Times. Or was that a more academic rag? He spends all his time at the Santa Fe Institute or some such place off limits to you and me. But you know it's profound, just like a beautiful face in a glimpse which never holds up, quite, under a gaze. A glimpse of the math that would destroy worlds, and with too much understanding, destroy the self. The zero cannot hold.

All the intrafamilial relations are stretched beyond all limits. What can be left apart from longing. What was it like in 'Nam? I live to long.

So OK, really, by definition almost, the reader has to be the missing and never identified Passenger. But really it's Western, and then by extension the very author himself, who yet lives, and not on some remotish isle that's home to forgers. Reconfigured and reborn souls.

Holed up in the wreck of a lighthouse, birdshit soiled tarp between him and the lighted sky, taking notes on grammar, you write the work yourself, the work writes you, until you are missing, inexplicably both within and beyond the reach of any law. I too have been a diver and a speedfreak, looking for the limits for knowledge, for control, for written sense that still wants to be read. Without consulting any guide to any grammar for sense to be made of.

Long live the novel.

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