Cormac McCarthy Reemerges
Plus a couple thoughts on last night's Oscar slap.
Whenever I’m asked who my favorite novelists are, one of the first names out of my mouth is Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Cormac McCarthy.
His post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Road, is a book I still think about from time to time, in part because I read it when my son was very young. Its heart-wrenching story of an ailing father trying to keep his fragile son alive in an eroding, violent world tapped into a number of parental fears (including some I didn’t know I had).
The book compelled me to go back and read much of McCarthy’s earlier work, and I’d be lying if I said the ruggedness in his writing and characters didn’t influence my own (though I’m a stronger believer in punctuation than he is 😉).
The man has a legion of fans, and deservedly so, but they didn’t have much to get excited about for a long time. You see, The Road, which came out in 2006, is McCarthy’s most recent book. That was 16 years ago.
There were rumors of a new novel about a decade back, but McCarthy surprised a lot of people by instead producing a screenplay called The Counselor. It was quickly snatched up by Hollywood producers, and made into a movie that was released the following year. Though McCarthy’s style certainly came across in the film, it wasn’t a great flick and received only mixed reviews.
McCarthy fans continued to wait, and just a few weeks ago they finally heard the news they were hoping for, along with an added bonus. Before the end of the year, not one but two new McCarthy novels will be released: The Passenger, which will actually come out on my birthday in October (yay me!), and Stella Maris (a companion book) a month later.
I can’t wait.
According to the New York Times, McCarthy had completed (or at least mostly completed) both books several years ago, a fact that his publisher had kept secret up until earlier this month.
Secrecy has long been a part of McCarthy’s mystique. He’s an extremely private person, and has done very few interviews over the years. He doesn’t do speeches or signings, or really meet with his fans at all. He doesn’t even like to talk about writing or hang out with other writers.
But a few years ago, as it turns out, a couple of high school students working on an AP Language assignment did manage to get through to the reclusive author (albeit indirectly), and ask him questions about his craft. The story was recently told on Literary Hub, and if you’re a McCarthy fan like me, it’s definitely worth your time.
Though his answers weren’t particularly enlightening (at least in the traditional sense), the directness in a number of them cracked me up. Here’s a taste:
Students: Could you describe a part of your process for developing ideas into stories?
McCarthy: Writing is very subconscious and the last thing I want to do is think about it.
Students: We are being tasked with conducting a rhetorical analysis of All the Pretty Horses. As a novelist, do you think that’s even possible, or is it a good way to ruin the reading experience?
McCarthy: I think it is a good way to ruin the reading experience.
Students: Your syntax has sometimes been described as musical. This makes us wonder about what kind of music you listen to, and/or if music influences your style?
McCarthy: Everything in life influences style and therefore it is difficult if not impossible to pinpoint a specific influence.
Students: You obviously have some effect in mind by not using quotation marks and routinely attributing dialogue to speakers. Would you be willing to comment on this?
McCarthy: In an older time, writers filled pages with quotation marks, commas, semi colons, etc. supposedly to help the reader. But there comes a point where, in my opinion, they just mess up the page. I use as few diacritical marks as I can get by with.
Students: How do you feel about the movie adaptation of All the Pretty Horses?
CM: I feel I shouldn’t comment on someone else’s work, even if it is based on mine.
Students: One would think that, based on the style of your novels, that part of your purpose as a writer is to challenge your readers, and to expect more than the typical novelist. Is this intentional, or just the end result? Also, what kind of audience are you writing for?
CM: I’m not writing for a particular audience. The reader in mind is me. If someone else would write these books I could go play golf.
Amusing stuff, and endearing in its own way.
Bring on the new books!
Are you a Cormac McCarthy fan? If so, which book is your favorite? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.
Quick Thoughts on Last Night’s “Oscar Moment”
I’m not sure what compelled my family to tune into last night’s Oscars, especially since we hadn’t watched it in years, and had only seen one or two of the movies this year that were nominated for anything. But we checked it out, and we saw the live slap that everyone’s now talking about. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, you can read the story here.)
I’m not going to spend much time on this since, to be honest, I don’t care a whole lot about celebrity drama. But since I saw it live, and because I’m putting the final touches on this week’s newsletter, I figured, “Meh, I’ll go ahead and throw in my two cents.”
Here it goes:
I doubt that Chris Rock knew that Jada Pinkett Smith deals with hair-loss issues (I sure didn’t), but even if he did, the joke he made about her was relatively mundane (especially for an awards show) and would have otherwise been immediately forgotten.
The camera showed Will Smith laughing at Rock’s joke. Jada was angry, and when Will realized this, he apparently thought he needed to prove to his wife that he would defend her honor.
Will clearly took things way too far, overcompensating for whatever personal or marital insecurities he struggles with. There was no excuse for him going up on stage and assaulting Rock or anyone else.
Rock handled things extraordinarily well, given the circumstances.
The moment, of course, threw the rest of the show off, and tarnished Will’s Oscar win later that night. In his acceptance speech, he was right to apologize to the Academy and the audience, but his failure to also apologize to Rock (the guy he actually assaulted) indicated that he still didn’t understand just how squarely in the wrong he was. That’s a shame. Maybe he’ll figure it out over the next day or two.
And… that concludes this week’s TMZ-style analysis (likely forever). I now return you to your regularly scheduled newsletter…
I’ve been doing a number of book signings for “Restitution” in recent weeks, including my first one at Old Firehouse Books in downtown Fort Collins, CO last Saturday. This historic building is pretty unique-looking, as you can see, and the weather was so nice that we did it outside. I had a great time, and the store employees and readers couldn’t have been more friendly.
Upcoming author events can be found on my website.
Obligatory Dog Shot
When your wife, for some unknown reason, takes a picture of your dog wearing a lobster bib.
Have you picked up your copy of RESTITUTION?
Interested in a signed copy? You can order one (or five) here.
Already read and enjoyed it? I’d love if you could leave a review for the book on Amazon.
My 15 year-old is working on her driver’s-permit hours, and a couple weeks ago she drove the two of us up to Cheyenne, WY. I picked the destination, which wasn’t random. There’s a great used record store up there called Downtown Vinyl, and whenever I check it out (it had been a while), I find something pretty interesting.
That day, as you can see below, was no exception.
I would have never guessed there was a Sanford and Son soundtrack featuring one of my all-time favorite sitcom themes (written and composed by Quincy Jones), but there it was inside one of the bins, saying to me, “Take me home ya big dummy!”
I can’t express how great of an album this is. Its only song is the main theme, and the rest of the tracks are short pieces of classic (and hilarious) dialogue that aired on the show. It’s a lot of fun.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!