McCarthyism

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Cormac McCarthy
By Jessica Zellers

Genre:
Literary Fiction
Western

Most critics consider Cormac McCarthy to be the greatest living American writer. This may or may not be true, and Lord knows I’m not the one to say one way or the other, but please bear in mind that many critics do not know a good book from a hole in the ground. For that matter, most critics wouldn’t know a hole in the ground from a hole in the ground. They’ve forgotten what ground looks like, having not emerged from their ivory towers since Eisenhower was considering a run for the presidency.

Cormac McCarthy wrote Blood Meridian, Or, Abstruse Subtitle, and some other books, too. Blood Meridian is a Western, kind of. It’s definitely set in the West. There are cowboys and Indians and gunfights. That’s how you can tell it’s a Western. But it gets confusing. There’s this preacher, see, and he’s a bad guy. This is contrary to everything we expect. Preachers are normally good guys, but McCarthy turns him into evil incarnate. This sort of devious switcheroo is a hallmark of Literary Fiction. Regular genre writers, commonly known as “hacks,” are not capable of sophisticated plot subversions. That’s why Blood Meridian isn’t really a Western, though unworldly readers might think otherwise.

Annie Proulx is tricky like that, too. Stay away from her. You think you’re reading a Western and suddenly you realize it’s Literary Fiction, and gay Literary Fiction at that. If you’re determined to read Brokeback Mountain, just rent the movie.

Cormac McCarthy wrote a book called Outer Dark, which I was supposed to read for a Contemporary Novels class, but unfortunately I had to drop the course. I say “unfortunately” because the professor was really hot. His name is Michael Parker. You may have heard of him. He’s written some books and, though he’s not widely known, they’ve been very well received. I tried reading some of them and I couldn’t even begin to slog my way through, but like I said, this guy is really hot. It’s a shame I dropped the class.

Right. Outer Dark. I’m not going to talk about it because it’s about this brother and sister and their kid. Or maybe it’s not entirely about that. I only read the first two chapters. But still, that’s gross. Yeech.

Readers new to McCarthy should not try any of his books. They’re just too hard. Fortunately, they can fake it. Oprah’s doing The Road, so all they have to do is watch her show to pretend like they’ve read it. This is exactly the same approach they’ve taken with all of Oprah’s other picks, so why change now? (But really, Oprah, would it kill you to pick a fun book now and again? Like… something with vampires?)

Read-alikes:

My understanding of history is a bit shaky, but as best I can tell, McCarthy was responsible for hunting down Arthur Miller because—this is where it gets confusing—because he was practicing witchcraft. Maybe that is why he broke up with Marilyn Monroe. Miller, I mean, not McCarthy. Arthur Miller isn’t a read-alike for McCarthy by any stretch of the imagination, but that witch-hunt thing just wasn’t fair. You should read The Crucible, rather than Death of a Salesman, because Death of a Salesman is just depressing. The Crucible won’t exactly brighten your day, but it has witches, which I consider to be an acceptable substitute when you can’t have vampires. And the movie has Daniel Day-Lewis, who is hot.

I haven’t read The Road, but I did check it out, which is practically the same thing. Nebedchudnezzar gave me a plot summary, nearly all of which I’ve forgotten, but I do remember that it was set in the post-Apocalypse. In that vein, I suggest that fans of McCarthy try the Left Behind series, which is also set in the post-Apocalypse. Kind of. Post-Rapture, at any rate. Whereas it takes an hour of intense concentration to read and understand a chapter of McCarthy, your average tennis shoe can grasp the plot of Left Behind, to wit, fundamentalist Christians = good, Muslims and gays = bad. The ease of comprehension makes for a nice change after struggling with McCarthy.

Sometimes McCarthy sets his books in the South. The Andy Griffith show is set in the South. See the connection? The show features a likeable sheriff, his goofy sidekick, and an adorable little boy. They get into zany situations and resolve their dilemmas with good-natured, heart-warming humor. McCarthy fans will eat this stuff up.

“Cormac” is a funny name. I don’t know what it means, but it rhymes with “tarmac.” I don’t know what “tarmac” means either, so I decided to google it. I found this website: http://www.tarmac.co.uk/. This company is a “Supplier of aggregates and asphalt, also offering infrastructure maintenance, recycling environmental services.” I still don’t know what “tarmac” means, but McCarthy fans can spend a few minutes goofing around on the site.

Finally, fans of McCarthy would do well to read Neil Gaiman. I cannot argue that McCarthy and Gaiman are alike, at all, whatsoever, in any way, other than in a broad philosophical sense, i.e., they both write books. But I think fans of anybody would do well to read Neil Gaiman. He is really, really hot, and I love his books. You want zombies? Witches? Creepy undead? Funny British humor? You got it! I got to shake Neil Gaiman’s hand, did I ever mention that? Plus, my buddy Ian is friends with Neil. By extension, so am I. How cool is that?

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