By Cormac McCarthy
Reviewed by Fence
“See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves.”This may sound contradictory; I would heartily recommend this book but I have no idea what it is all about. I can tell you a basic outline of the plot, our main protagonist, who is known only as the kid, leaves home at fourteen and travels the American West, encountering violent deed after violent deed, ending up riding with the Glanton gang as they set out to “protect” people from the savage Indians.
That is the storyline, but that isn’t what this book is about. As I said, I have no idea what it is about. Violence is obviously a central theme, but whether McCarthy means that such violence is a part of all humanity and impossible to ignore, or whether he means it as a warning, or indeed something completely different I couldn’t say. So why would I recommend it?
There isn’t even a character for me to love, or to hate. It isn’t that they aren’t well written. It is simply that I felt such a distance between myself and these people. Maybe it was the levels of casual violence, but I think that it is probably the fact that we never get inside anyone’s head. There is nothing about what the characters think or feel. We simply experience what they experience, no internal perspectives to justify their actions, merely the results.
Quite simply the prose is just beautiful. It may be describing horrible acts of death and destruction, but it reads wonderfully.
“The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only be taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate. […] The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos.”I think I’ll probably have to read it again at some point, maybe with some thought thrown in, but for now I’m happy to have read it.