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Crenellated Heat

Philip Connors: Cormac McCarthy

25 January 2007
The Road 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 241 pp., £16.99, November 2006, 9780330447539
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... CormacMcCarthy has offered us nightmares before. In Outer Dark (1968) he conjured a twisted version of the Nativity in which a child is conceived in incest, abandoned in the woods, sought for months by his mother ...

Where a man can be a man

Margaret Anne Doody

16 December 1993
All the Pretty Horses 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 302 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 330 33169 8
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... In CormacMcCarthy’s latest novel, the young hero, imprisoned in a jail in Mexico and suffering harsh conditions, has a brilliant dream – a dream calling for some very earnest writing on the part of the author ...

Where the hell?

Michael Wood

6 October 1994
The Crossing 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 426 pp., £14.99, August 1994, 9780330334624
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... CormacMcCarthy comes to us with a tremendous reputation: not only the National Book Award but a critical chorus comparing him to Melville, Shakespeare, Conrad, Faulkner, Dostoevsky. There have also been voices ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Sisters Brothers’

9 May 2019
... in a barn where the brothers’ horses flame and die. After this mess, the Commodore makes Charlie ‘the lead man’ and reduces Eli’s pay. This is because he hasn’t read enough Faulkner, or CormacMcCarthy, and doesn’t recognise the sanity that lies in bumbling. Initially it seems they are going to kill a man called Kermit Warm, very well acted by Riz Ahmed as a man who looks more helpless ...

The Hemingway Crush

Theo Tait: Kevin Powers

3 January 2013
The Yellow Birds 
by Kevin Powers.
Sceptre, 230 pp., £14.99, September 2012, 978 1 4447 5612 8
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... to All Quiet on the Western Front, A Farewell to Arms, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead, The Things They Carried: practically every classic war novel in the American canon, along with CormacMcCarthy and, for good measure, the Iliad. It was shortlisted for the National Book Award, and has won various other prizes and accolades. A lot of this, I suspect, was based on respect for the ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland

17 July 1997
Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... Western Story: A Chronological Treasury.) Good as the best works of these writers are, and despite the recent successes of ‘literary’ writers who have used the genre (notably Larry McMurtry and CormacMcCarthy), the Western still awaits its Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, or even its Georgette Heyer: that is, the writer capable of lifting its clichés into art. Elmore Leonard ...

Come Back, You Bastards!

Graham Robb: Who cut the tow rope?

5 July 2007
Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece 
by Jonathan Miles.
Cape, 334 pp., £17.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07303 5
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... in Senegal to find the castaways.) All this reheated Romantic frenzy gives Miles’s account a pleasant dash and stumble, but it requires enormous reserves of synonyms. It takes Joseph Conrad or CormacMcCarthy to prolong monotonous misery in a satisfying manner. When the tone is frantic from the start, supplies are soon exhausted, and even the narrator seems to lose interest: ‘There were … all ...

Only the crazy make it

Thomas Jones: Jim Crace

8 March 2007
The Pesthouse 
by Jim Crace.
Picador, 309 pp., £16.99, March 2007, 978 0 330 44562 7
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... are also dangerous bands of marauding horsemen, descendants of the men who cost the storyteller in The Gift of Stones his arm, but who could just as well have ridden out of the pages of a novel by CormacMcCarthy, or a film by Peckinpah. The Pesthouse is, if not exactly a Western, then a distorted reflection of one. Under attack from a group of mounted bandits, Franklin saves Margaret by pulling off ...


Will Self: My Typewriters

5 March 2015
... they were disinterred from, because, let’s face it, hardly anyone writes books on a typewriter anymore. Even so, as the technology takes its final bow there’s been quite a flurry of interest: CormacMcCarthy auctioning his Olivetti Lettera 32 for a quarter of a million bucks made big news. I was approached by Patek Phillipe to write about typewriters for an advertorial feature. I could see the ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride

8 August 2013
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... impersonality that codes itself as male (odd that you can disown personality while continuing to insist on gender). Hemingway’s style, with its anti-aestheticising aesthetic, is still influential. CormacMcCarthy dispenses with the apostrophe in shortened forms like ‘doesnt’ and ‘wouldnt’, though the need for clarity requires him to keep it in ‘can’t’, with the result that the ...
20 October 1994
Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... off building site. Artists exist not in their writing, but in their being written about: the virtual reality that overwhelms its origin. We’ve finally (post-National Book Award) got around to CormacMcCarthy, whose first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1966, but we continue to ignore William Eastlake, who worked (Go in Beauty and Portrait of an Artist with 26 Horses) a parallel seam ...

The Basic Couple

Benjamin Kunkel: Norman Rush

23 October 2013
Subtle Bodies 
by Norman Rush.
Granta, 234 pp., £14.99, October 2013, 978 1 84708 780 5
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... as well as at them, and in his fiction the possession of articulate ideas isn’t the automatic folly that it remains for American writers who prefer the national mannerism of the barbaric yawp. CormacMcCarthy, Philip Roth and Rush are exact contemporaries, born in 1933. McCarthy excels at antique dialogue and rapturous word-pictures of frontier landscapes; likes to portray violence; won’t ...


John Lanchester

6 October 1994
The Magician’s Doubts 
by Michael Wood.
Chatto, 252 pp., £18, August 1994, 0 7011 6197 3
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... of a moment when signature overcomes or forgets itself. It isn’t hard to see how the idea of signature applies to Nabokov; or, for that matter, to Bellow, Updike, Compton-Burnett, Iain Sinclair, CormacMcCarthy, Roth, Ozick, etc. (Lurking in Wood’s idea is the implication that modern critics and readers make too much of signature.) Nabokov’s signature is often both what initially attracts ...

In Hyperspace

Fredric Jameson

9 September 2015
Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative 
by David Wittenberg.
Fordham, 288 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 8232 4997 8
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... remains firm, but the arguments become more difficult to sustain, or even to articulate. Experimental literature ought to share generic features with its more popular cousins, but it doesn’t; CormacMcCarthy and Jonathan Lethem are not of the same genre as Philip K. Dick, however long Margaret Atwood managed to ‘pass’. Indeed, the solution may actually be a rather simple one, namely that ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘No Country for Old Men’

21 February 2008
No Country for Old Men 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
January 2008
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... their name written on it. In No Country for Old Men they have struck their best vein of the stuff since Fargo, and this truly is a strange effect, since the movie manages to be very different from CormacMcCarthy’s novel through an extravagant, literal fidelity to a great deal of it. The fidelity is both verbal (there are transpositions and compressions of course, but a very large number of the ...

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