Cormac McCarthy book covers
In 2013 I did a series of drawings inspired by the novels of Cormac McCarthy, that I collected in the self-published and now out of print Whelmed In Dark Riot. Only now have I got around to mocking those drawings up as book covers.
McCarthy is one of my favourite authors, and the writer of my all-time favourite novel Suttree. His prose style is unique – deceptively simple and apparently easy to emulate – I say “apparently” because I’ve read quite a few examples of these stylistic facsimiles over the years, and it’s like literary karaoke, seeking applause for emulating the source without any of the intelligence and emotion that informed it. No-one uses language like McCarthy. No-one. The evidence:
Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.
All The Pretty Horses
Remember her hair in the morning before it was pinned, black, rampant, savage with loveliness. As if she slept in perpetual storm.
He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.
He looked at a world of incredible loveliness. Old distaff Celt’s blood in some back chamber of his brain moved him to discourse with the birches, with the oaks. A cool green fire kept breaking in the woods and he could hear the footsteps of the dead. Everything had fallen from him. He scarce could tell where his being ended or the world began nor did he care. He lay on his back in the gravel, the earth’s core sucking his bones, a moment’s giddy vertigo with this illusion of falling outward through blue and windy space, over the offside of the planet, hurtling through the high thin cirrus.
He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.
All The Pretty Horses
Deep in each man is the knowledge that something knows of his existence. Something knows, and cannot be fled nor hid from.
The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.
From daydreams on the road there was no waking. He plodded on. He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside him leaning forward listening to the music. Gold scrollwork and sconces and the tall columnar folds of the drapes at either side of the stage. She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.
Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he’s real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I wont do it again. I wont push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. It aint just bein older. I wish that it was. I cant say that it’s even what you are willin to do. Because I always knew that you had to be willin to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothin but you do. If you aint they’ll know it. They’ll see it in a heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I wont do that.
No Country For Old Men
My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time.