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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