A beautiful, hulking, brute of a book — a novel about life on the border between US & Mexico in pre-Civil War life. It’s tough to get through — brutal characters and plot, and very tough prose. But it’s a singular achievement — and it’s growing on me the further I get away from it. Not a happy or redeeming book in any way, really. But beautifully written, for sure. Not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like it. You can open to just about any page at random and be completely blown away by the writing.
One of the most thematic passages of the book, when The Kid (the main character) is talking with and old man, who says (punctuation is all McCarthy’s):
“The way of the transgressor is hard. God made this world, but he didn’t make it to suit everybody, did he?… A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it….”
and a particularly relevant bit from The Judge (not a nice guy) towards the end:
“As war becomes dishonored and it’s nobility called into question those honorable men who recognize the sanctity of blood will become excluded from the dance, which is the warrior’s right, and thereby will the dance become a false dance and the dancers false dancers. And yet there will be one there always who is a true dancer… There is room on the stage for one beast and one alone. All others are destined for a night that is eternal and without name. One by one they will step down into the darkness before the footlamps. Bears that dance, bears that don’t.”
A rough book on violence and war and the measure of the meanest bits of the human soul. Not for everyone, but fantastic.