Posts Tagged ‘cormac McCarthy’

The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan – review (spoilers)

March 19, 2012

This is going to be short and sweet. The Night Eternal is the third, and final, installment in a horror trilogy about vampires, co-authored by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. If you’re interested in this (and haven’t already bought/rented it), I have to assume you have read the first two parts of the trilogy and you’re probably up to speed on Del Toro and Hogan’s take on vampires being the result of parasitic worms and nuclear winter being thrown over the earth.  This picks up two years after The Master nukes the origin sites of the other ancients, quickly picking up the strings of the resistance led by the fighters we have come to know in the first two books. The primary love story takes a step to the side a bit, which wasn’t all that unexpected, and The Master is having fun raising his new host, Ephraim’s son.

The world as The Master had envisioned it has pretty much come to pass. Anyone of any power or status has been killed, massive bleeding and breeding farms have been set up, and the human race has, by and large, acquiesced. Now, does any of this really matter? Not at all. truth be told, the end doesn’t particularly matter much, either.  In general terms, the end result for everyone falls roughly into line of what you would expect to happen for everyone. In my opinion, nothing really comes out of the blue in these regards.

But that’s also not the point of the story. The real point of the story is that it is an origins story. I  get the impression that Del Toro and Hogan knew there was only so much they could do with the characters moving forward. There are only so many ways a story like this can end, and really just one way (bad guy loses).  the real meat of the story had to come from something else, and that place was the history of The Master and the other Ancients. The idea of vampires having fallen from God isn’t exactly new, but tying them directly to angels, and then tying it into the mythical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was fun and interesting. Then bringing that around at the end, with the death of The Master, was a nice way of wrapping up the trilogy.

Perhaps like any good trilogy, it also left us with the possibility of another sequal. The implications that vampires would no longer be around to pull the strings and push civilization in a direction that wouldn’t just careen out of control in an ugly death spiral was something that seems to have some legs, though it’s also ground that could just as well be covered by things like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Del Toro and Hogan do hint at a rosier outcome than the bleak trek to a dead sea that McCarthy envisioned, though.

So, if you liked the first two, go ahead, finish off the trilogy, it’s worth the few hundred pages. If you’ve held off on the trilogy and you’ve stumbled across this review, go, and check out the first two novels and get up to speed. To me, this is a pretty rare thing right now, a not-crappy horror series that manages to stay somewhat true to the genre and the subject matter, while also adding its own twists and innovations to make the work unique, special and a worthy addition to the field.

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survivor lit and the mythos of the typewriter

December 11, 2009

short post tonight, just a couple of articles i am plucking from the london times. Neither is very long (they don’t seem all that longer than my own blog posts, really) so I’m not going to quote them – really, just go read them. They’re quick.

The first is Erica Wagner having a McCarthy inspired rift on typewriters and that puts my own McCarthy inspired rift to shame. really, didn’t know Isaac Bashevis Singer was nuts…

the second is a playful slap at Survivor-lit. Admittedly, I rarely venture into the non-fiction section of bookstores any more – isn’t that was libraries are for? – but the cheapening of life stories has been something I’ve noticed in other respects as well.  Other than these stories of “survival” I’ve noticed more and more memoirs and biographies being pushed onto the public documenting the life of some 20-something (or even something-teen). Excuse, but if you can’t remember more than seven presidents, and I mean really remember, not just have some vague recollection of, you haven’t lived long enough to write a biography. Biographies for people younger than that should only be written because that person died before they reached the requisite age.

100 Best Books of the 2000s

December 4, 2009

Few things make me feel as culturally ignorant as “Best of…” lists. This wonderful list, compiled the London Times back in November, succeeds at this with distinction.  There are books I’ve read and loved, books I’ve been meaning to pick up and read, and books I’ve never heard of. Rare was the book I had read and hadn’t especially cared for (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was the standout in this regard).

There were a handful of books that I questioned.

90 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)

Meyer’s books about the schoolgirl Bella Swan and her passion for Edward Cullen, the tortured “vegetarian” vampire (doesn’t bite humans), have taken the world’s pre-pubescent females by storm. Basically, he’s a fanged Mr Darcy, with all sexual threat surgically removed.

One of the few books I haven’t finished not from lack of interest or time but from the sheer mediocrity of the craft. There’s no questioning its impact in society or its scope of influence (or its massive sales), which is what I am guessing placed it on this list but in a list of “Best Books” I would put more weight on the actual quality of the book.

73 Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (2005)

The stories of this Japanese master are sometimes little more than glimpses of a single image, a single moment — but so loaded with meaning that it speaks volumes.

The inclusion of Murakami’s collection of short stories doesn’t bother me because it is badly written or undeserving, it’s not and it is, but that it was included while Kafka on the Shore was not.  This is like making a best movies list with The Aviator at 72 and then no mention of Goodfellas.

The one entry I can’t argue with at all is Cormac McCarthy’s powerfully bleak narrative, The Road, topping the list.  It was one of those books that, from the moment it came out, was clearly a work of force. In the immortal words of Hunter Thompson, it stomped the earth.

Now to get around to finding all of the books from the list that I don’t have…

The Olivetti – Cormac McCarthy’s Original Laptop

December 1, 2009

i’m part of the last generation that might still remember the typewriter in any form. My mom owned both kinds in my life time, manual and electric, and helped type the majority of my school reports right up through high school on them – I would write them out long hand and then she would type them.  The click/clack of the keys on the manuals and the weird little hum of the electric is something that has a strange fondness for me. And, apparently, for Cormac McCarthy, too.

The NYT has a little story about McCarthy putting his portable Olivetti typewriter up for auction. The author of The Road, Suttree and other novels says the machine has probably seen upwards of five million words fall out of his finger tips and onto the page through the metal levers and letters of the mechanisms of the machine.

Thinking of writers of yesteryear, it seems the implements they used to hone and carry out their craft were as special and singular as their prose. I’m not a great historian of such matters. Other than McCarthy’s use of a portable Olivetti, I know Kerouac used an Underwood and it pretty much stops there for what I remember. But I do know I’ve heard more than a few stories of writers and their pens, their typewriters, their memo pads and everything else. It seems as if once these writers found a method for moving their thoughts from their head to the page that they never or rarely wandered from their ritual (McCarthy only agreed to give up his Olivetti when a friend of his found and bound a matching model in far better condition).

It makes me think of modern writers and our use of the computer. We might stick to a particular word processor program but we probably burn through four, five, six, or more computers over our life times and will probably bounce all over the map with who we buy them from. McCarthy mentions how young people don’t have any idea what a typewriter even is any more as a general comment about how society has moved on in the past ten years or so. But it’s also a sharper comment on the changing face of the author.

Suttree – Review

August 27, 2009

I’m not good at catching the humor so many critics laud this book for having. This isn’t to say the novel isn’t funny -it is- or that it isn’t good -it is- but that maybe my personal experience robs the novel of some of the humor and tilts it more towards the side of sadness that Stanley Booth saw within it.

I don’t doubt that much of the humor people see in it stems from the outlandishly country, poor, uneducated and simple people who populate the novel as the people Suttree calls friends and acquaintances. Are they outlandish? Yes. Are they humorous? To a degree. But these are also people that, for me, had an air of genuineness.

Which may be more of a reflection of my own rural upbringing than anything else.  Stories of people doing crazy things, being around people doing ill-advised things, people living relatively modest and simple lives are things I’m accostomed to. They are familiar. And from how Suttree has been described as semi-autobiographical, I have a feeling that McCarthy may share similar feelings.

So while I can smile at the misadventures, I don’t see them as starkly comedic that seems to be implied by the majority of reviews that I have read. This is not Cormac McCarthy doing Catch-22 or Breakfast of Champions. This is Cormac McCarthy stepping a bit outside of his norm and excelling with it.

The Faulkner comparisons are apt. Suttree reads like a Faulkner novel, though more entertainingly. Time and voice shifts throughout, characters drift to and from the action, as you read the novel nearly has the feeling of a kaleidoscope. Though it’s not the rough edged jumble of a William S. Burroughs novel, this kaleidoscope does seem to have the hand of a higher power at work, gently nudging it along to places it was destined to go at times it was destined to be there.

Suttree at Amazon

All The Pretty Horses – Review

July 28, 2009

All the Pretty Horses is the first tale in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Border Trilogy.’ It centers around the innocent but principled John Grady Cole who, with his best friend Lacey Rawlins, take their horses and head to Mexico to seek a life that is compatible with their conception for how life should be. It is 1948, WWII is over, and the world is changing and they don’t like it.  Mexico is their Big Rock Candy Mountain.

The novel is softer in tone and image than the other McCarthy novels I have read (The Road and Child of God), playing out as a coming of age story for the young protagonist. Because of this, some of the violence seems forced – largely when it involves John Grady Cole. While the violence perpetrated against the protagonists seems possible, even natural given the flow and direction of the story, it is just difficult to put some actions with the lead character.

Towards the end of the novel, Cole visits a judge who, earlier in the day, ruled in his favor in a case involving a horse Cole was trying to return to its owner and was accused of stealing. Cole expresses regret for some of the things he had to do in Mexico and some of the things he chose to do. As this is a story about growing up, where the trip to Mexico and then back to the United States plays as a rite of passage into manhood, this makes sense. What McCarthy smartly does is leave Cole unsure of the rightness of his actions while the judge effectively tell, ‘that’s life.”  While Grady is less of a child than he was when he left, it is clear he still has a ways to go yet.

Though there is something else to Grady’s innocence and lackof surity in the rightness of his actions, regardless of their necessity, that speaks to the greater evil of the world. Regardless of our personal inclinations, circumstances may push us beyond what we believe to be the limits of our abilities and the boundaries of our morals. This is something that I think is touched on in The Road but, in this latter novel, McCarthy’s protagonists use the line drawn between their unwillingness to cross certain moral boundaries (such as cannibalism) to differentiate themselves in a fundemental way. I wonder if McCarthy’s view of life and how circumstances shape our lives and how moral/physical choices shape our lives has changed.

As always, here’s the Amazon link.