Child of God (Cormac McCarthy)

Cormac McCarthy makes me joyous and angry, inspired and depressed at the same time. His throwaway lines are better than anything I’ve ever written. Even when nothing is happening, the prose engrosses. His style is ornate and sparse at once:

Old woods and deep. At one time in the world there were woods that no one owned and these were like them. He passed a windfelled tulip poplar on the mountainside that held aloft in the grip of its roots two stones the size of fieldwagons, great tablets on which was writ only a tale of vanished seas with ancient shells in cameo and fishes etched in lime. (127-28)

Child of God is not his best novel but it’s still written by Cormac McCarthy so it is better than 95% of the novels out there. It IS a good example of one of his few failings as a writer, which is his lack of interesting female characters (in general, he has a few), but since much of this book concerns the protagonist’s twisted, insane relation to women this failing becomes some perverse strength.

Ever the risk-taker, McCarthy seems to have recognized this failing in his oeuvre as well:

This long book [that I’m working on now] is largely about a young woman. There are interesting scenes that cut in throughout the book, all dealing with the past. She’s committed suicide about seven years before. I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years. I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try. (From an interview at WSJ.com)

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