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Inspired by various threads about The Road and the man himself.
'excuse me mr McCormac...but why do you use so much words that my dictionary doesn't have?...do you just like me to not know what you're saying, caramaC sir?'
that's what i'd ask
when there's really no need to be. At other times he ridiculously detailed when, again, there's really no need to be. The "tortilla" passage in the article is one such example.
He's a big man and I'm just a little man (albeit one with a gigantic cock) so what do I know?
You cannot land on a fraction in space, where the air blows not and coldness permeates all, yet throughout these wild and barren voids loom planets pregnant with the possibility of ghosts, of eerie whispers thrown out into nothing to be caught within the fist of some unknowing It, while onward look the flares of solar explosions vast and unfathomable yet all knowing and merciless.
^That's what it'd sound like if Gorgon Xergia of Zentron 3 was to write All The Pretty Horses 2: In Space.
Where I stopped:
"Now read this from McCarthy’s The Crossing (1994), part of the acclaimed Border Trilogy: “He ate the last of the eggs and wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate the tortilla and drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth and looked up and thanked her.”
"Thriller writers know enough to save this kind of syntax for fast-moving scenes ... In McCarthy’s sentence the unpunctuated flow of words bears no relation to the slow, methodical nature of what is being described."
Unless what's being described is a man quickly tidying up the last bit of food on his plate - you fucking prat. I'm out.
Wouldn't it be even quicker to say, I dunno, "He ate the last of his food quickly and threw back the last of his coffee and thanked her."?
Assuming that he was eating the food quickly in the first place, which I can't honestly recall if dude was?
No Country For Old Men is rife with it. Sometimes it works, more often, like you say, it's just annoying.
"Chirgurh unlocked the cuffs and placed them on the sink and turned on the tap and ran his hands under the cold water and stepped back from the sink and gazed at himself in the mirror and turned and walked out of the room."
^Not word for word, but not far from it, either.
assuming that he's written it pacily for no reason other than showiness and that what he was describing was actually slow and methodical strikes me as odd.
Briefly: The author wants the reader to know that the eggs were polished off, the residue mopped up with the tortilla, the tortilla eaten and the drink quaffed - I'm guessing the guy was hungry as fuck.
Establishing all that information in usual grammatical style would be both clumsy and have the effect of robbing all sense of speed from the activity. The ANDs were I'm guessing, his way of re-establishing that speed.
"Wouldn't it be quicker to say..." - What? Is McCarthy in a hurry or something?
Here's how I see it: If the author packs his sentences with a buttload of 'ands' where no normal person would ever think of doing so, there's no way it could be anything other than deliberate. In this instance, it was clearly done so it is established for sure in the reader's mind exactly what the character was doing and at what pace. It's so obvious, you don't even have to have read the book to know.
I don't know what books the article writer has been reader where 'and' denotes speed, but this was the point in which he lost a critical amount of credibility with me.
but I assume his character is. Therefore, a shorter description of the act would connote more tempo, in this reader's opinion.
I find all the "and's" build quite a lot of tension, which we then find is built pointlessly because it ends with the diner thanking the cook. IMO, of course.
Why would you want to build tension for a person finishing off a plate of breakfast?
To me that passage is meant to convey continuity of motion, not tension.
It was a pointless building of tension, and the "ands" helped build it.
Thanks for helping me out.
As I explained above, the ands are necessary. A shorter description would probably mean that the reader has no idea what's being eaten and/or at what pace - your interpretation would be fine for JK Rowling or a technical manual, but useless in actual literature.
Next; leaving the information about the eggs/tortillas/etc. in, but crafting the sentence in a traditionally constructed manner includes the information but leaves the pace uncertain - commas and full stops, usually used to break up a statement into processable chunks are the enemy here.
Therefore, the only option in order to convey that this character is busily mopping up his food (for whatever reason - haven't you ever noticed that sometimes you speed up at the end of a delicious meal?) in a scene that is otherwise sedate, is to have it exactly as it appears in the book - despite it sounding retarded.
I can see that. The book's editor obviously did. The writer of this article was obviously too busy being a twat to note it and would be advised to stick to something less taxing. Like my balls.
But it doesn't work for me. I just seems to be really clumsy writing.
I think they have some good points to make. I love McCarthy but he does have some faults, and quite a few of them are nailed in the original article I posted.
you could read the book and have the lecture...POW...a yale education for free.
i might do this.
McCarthy's prose seems very deliberately paced. I've always had the impression that it was meant to be read aloud; for an impressively geeky demonstration of this, you can pick up the audiobooks of the Border trilogy, which are very lovely.
I like (read: don't like) that the author there picks a mundane passage from McCarthy and one that he/she especially likes from another source. Dirty form. Blood Meridian especially contains some great examples of very delicate and precise descriptive writing.
"I doubt if McCarthy can explain any of this; he probably just likes the way it sounds."
For one thing, the bit referenced here isn't really difficult in the least; but maybe McCarthy did just like the way it sounded. So did I!
Call the police! He's not describing eating properly!
nice way to undermine every single word you've just said in one swift move
anyway...re: that particular innocuous passage....i quite liked it.
it's weired he says that McCarthy uses the ands because....“I express myself differently from you, therefore I am a Writer.”
in a way, using 'and' repeatedly makes it more real...like, it's literally a succession of actions that aren't glossed over with punctuation, just as actions in real life aren't.
you eat the egg and put down your fork and get out your chair and thank the waiter. that's it isn't it? pure banality and movement of one action to the next.
isn't that McCarthy's schtick....to go from pure base description....everyday nothingness juxstaposed with a heightened syntax and obscure biblical expressions that would be completely out of place in the everyday.
i dunno...this is ramble...i've only read the road so i'm probably talking crap.
''It is a matter of straight-on writing, a veering accumulation of compound sentences, stinginess with commas, and a witching repetition of words … Once this style is established, firm, faintly hypnotic, the crispness and sinuousness of the sentences … gather to a magic''
The Drowned in Sound forumite Stealthy, his face turned toward the constant sting of an acrid wind, smiles. He agrees with the post and reaches across the keyboard and types his agreement and presses TAB and moreover presses ENTER.
That is SATIRE, he growls. No-one hears his voice.
The naked lightbulb guides his gnarled hand even as its 80 watts ravages the pale brick and strained carpet of his living room. He greedily anticipates the reloading of the page and the opportunity to cement the agreement by THISing the post.
A hacking laugh half echoes around the dying house.
This ain't no way to go, he says.
Then he does.