Friday, Jun 16, 2023
1933 - 2023
A Giant Among Modern Authors
The literary world was rocked this past Tuesday with the news of the passing of Cormac McCarthy. The New York Times printed a lengthy obituary. Literary journals spread the news far and wide. Booksellers everywhere shared stories with each other about their interactions with this brilliant, somewhat reclusive man.
Somehow I had missed reading him. My reading for pleasure was usually devoted to either the Victorian authors (English, French, Russian – I adore them all), or immersing myself into the world of Middle-Earth (I lost count after having read LOTR seven times…).
By sheer chance, I had recently acquired a collection of McCarthy’s work, all first editions and most of them signed. As with Bukowski, in researching the books and reading bits and pieces, I realized how very much I had missed by having neglected to read McCarthy.
He does not shy away from the evil side of mankind. His protagonists have grave faults. Just yesterday I was cataloguing Child of God, and shuddered at the acts committed by Lester Ballard, “a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as ‘a child of God much like yourself perhaps’.” (n.b., quote from Wiki). Ballard commits almost unspeakable acts, and yet somehow McCarthy brings us to understand that even this despicable character is, in his own twisted way, searching for love in a world so often incapable of giving such.
And the inescapable conclusion is that, to some degree or another, there exists in each of us the capacity to give way to the darker side of the soul.
A sobering thought, and one which should give each of us pause. Perhaps that encouragement towards inward reflection is Cormac McCarthy’s true gift to the world.