Cormac McCarthy (Re)Visited

A while back I made an off-handed and second-hand comment about the "nihilism" of Cormac McCarthy. A thoughtful reader (from Australia, as I recall) sent an email and encouraged me to suspend judgment about McCarthy until I had actually read him. Sage advice. So this past summer, while I was in Pasadena, I picked up a first edition of All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of McCarthy's acclaimed "Border Trilogy."

This post is my confession: forgive me, for I have sinned. I am, without reservation and with much devotion, a new convert to a different McCarthyism--which is, for my money, a long ways from nihilism. All the Pretty Horses is one of the most enthralling books I have read in a long time. (In fact, as soon as I put it down I immediately went to eBay and scored first editions of the next two volumes in the trilogy.) The friendship between John Grady and Rawlins is one of the most beautiful and poignant I've encountered (though, I must confess, I found that images of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal kept creeping into my head!). It is simply amazing how, in such sparse dialogue, McCarthy can make a friendship come to life so vividly. And far from nihilism, I did find in McCarthy what could be a kind of persistent hope--though, admittedly, it could also be a kind of resigned fatalism. But I'm suspending judgment until I work through the rest of the trilogy. And then hope to jump ahead to his newest novel, The Road. (Though that will take a while: I've tried to discipline myself to a bit of a reading order: a British novel, an American novel, then something "other" (e.g, French, Chinese), before moving back to British, American, etc. It's going to be hard to let those other McCarthy's sit on the shelf untouched.)