Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bleak, rugged, and certain (Books - The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy)


We're down here huntin some horses that was stole.

In whose charge were these horses?

No one answered.

She looked at Boyd. She spread the fan. Painted across the folded bellows of the ricepaper was a dragon with great round eyes. She folded it shut. For how long will you seek these horses? she said.

Ever how long it takes.

Podria ser un viaje largo.

Quizas.

Long voyages often lose themselves.

Mam?

You will will. It is difficult even for brothers to travel together on such a voyage. The road has its own reasons and no two travelers will have the same understanding of those reasons. If indeed they come to an understanding of them at all. Listen to the corridos of the country. They will tell you. Then you will see in your own life what is the cost of things. Perhaps it is true that nothing is hidden. Yet many do not wish to see what lies before them in plain sight. You will see. The shape of the road is the road. There is not some other road that wears that shape but only the one...

For the last 100 pages or so, this novel seemed to me a long voyage that had lost itself. But Billy does indeed come to see the cost of things. And those corridos are sung at the very end of the book, when Billy is more ready to hear them. Billy lives a bleak and rugged life but one driven by single minded purpose, and that purpose in turn, driven by love.

Five pages couldn't go by in this book when there wasn't writing to admire.

Boyd pulled the muslin cover up and lay back and looked at him. His long pale uncut hair all about his and his face so thin. What is it? he said.

Talk to me.

Go to bed.

I need for you to talk to me.

It's okay. Everything's okay.

No it aint.

You just worry about stuff. I'm all right.

I know you are, said Billy. But I aint...

I found the simplicity of that dialogue heartbreaking, but McCarthy is not a one-trick pony, not four sentences later:

He got his things from the house and saddled the horse and rode out. He said goodbye to no one. He sat the horse in the road beyond the river cottonwoods and he looked off downcountry at the mountains and he looked to the west where thunderheads were standing sheared off from the thin dark horizon and he looked at the keep cyanic sky taut and vaulted over the whole of Mexico where the antique world clung to the stones and to the spores of living things and dwelt in the blood of men. He turned the horse and set out along the road south, shadowless in the gray day, riding with the shotgun unscabbarded across the bow of the saddle. For the enmity of the world was newly plain to him that day and cold and inameliorate as it must be to all who have no longer cause except themselves to stand against it.

Who uses a word like 'inameliorate?' I love that sentence. It is so absolute, like rock - I feel certain as I read it that there is nothing more true. I got a little disconnected from this book toward the end, but I am glad I stuck with it. Here are my other thoughts about it: 1, 2.

6 comments:

TJ said...

Hi Ted--- I loved this post. You've done such a great job talking about this book. I went back and reread posts 1 and 2 on The Crossing and I find the cumulative effect of your writing about it stunning. And what a writer McCarthy is! The sections you selected as examples are just perfect. It does seem like an intense read, so maybe I'll save it for fall or winter; but I'm definitely picking up McCarthy this year. Thanks!

Ted said...

TJ
Thanks for that response. It is intense for sure, I had to keep taking breaks, but worth it. I want to read The Road too, but I need some time before I do.

verbivore said...

I read The Road last year, my first experience with McCarthy, and was absolutely blown away by his writing. I have two other novels of his waiting on the shelf, but I keep putting them off for some reason. At first I was a little afraid of the violence (since I've heard he is notoriously violent) but also because I know it will be an intense reading experience and I want to be in the right frame of mind.
The quotes you set out here are purely spectacular.

Ted said...

Verbivore - Welcome back! Hope you had a good vacation. I know what you mean w/ McCarthy. I kept putting off getting back to this one whenever I'd take a break, but then each time I did I got really involved.

frankhadley said...

Ive read almost all of McCarthy's work, and none of it has broken my heart like the part you quoted of billy asking boyd to talk and what takes place afterwords.

kmrose said...

I just finished this book, after a long time reading it. I took a long break after the wolf. I could not go on with it for a long while after that. I picked it up again this fall, reading it between other books, or rather, othre books between The Crossing, for it is an encompassing book. Perhaps a fitting read with which to end the year, and to contemplate the coming one, both creations of men.
The journey quote is one of my most savored in the book, although there are many, the portion at the end about the photographs being yet another. An amazing book, and yet a devastating read. several hours after finishing the feeling of desolation with which I am left grows heavier. I want to read it again.
Thanks for your review.