I never thought I'd read Cormac McCarthy. I'm not sure where my negative anchor to his writing came from. I suppose part of it is in the film adaptations of his novels and a violence that seemed too male for me, too blunt for it to be anything but gratuitous.
Then, a year ago, I worked with a student at a writing center in Arizona who was writing a paper in which she needed to compare/contrast the literary and film versions of No Country for Old Men.
The student was not a native English speaker, and she found the whole class - the listening, understanding, speaking and writing - overwhelming. So, as she worked on her paper over the course of several weeks, I often read along with her passages of the book to help her better understand the writing/theme/plot/etc.
In this way, I was introduced to McCarthy.
It was the first opening scene of No Country for Old Men that got me - the one written from the sheriff's perspective. The writing was so clear, the voice so strong, the length so short, I was stunned that so much could be said with so few words.
I think that's the sign of the best writing - to be able to convey a person's character and world view in just a few paragraphs, maybe even one sentence.
I still remember the first time I read The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway wrote:
But his left hand had always been a traitor and would not do what he called on it to do and he did not trust it.
There's a lot about that man in 26 words.
I bought a copy of The Road eight months ago, and it still sits on my bookshelf unread.
I'm picking it up this week. Wish me luck.
Aside from McCarthy and novels and writing - isn't that last line lovely?
This is later.
I hope everyone's weekend is off to a brilliant start. We've got soccer and ballet on the books today.