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Your worst book for 2009
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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:50 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

But there is a great deal of point to the lack of punctuation.  McCarthy's books would read very differently if he did use speech marks, and his deliberate decision not to use them is not, I would say, just for some arty farty effect, it is intrinsic to the atmosphere and impact of his writing.

Without speech marks, the mood of his books sustains an extraordinary laconic quality that underlines the story being told and the lives of the characters involved in it.  It means he doesn't break up the flow of the prose.  It allows him to use his prose as an intrinsic part of both the story itself and the experience of his readers.  He varies the length of his sentences as a means of creating an ebb and flow of emotion or of intensity, and this works in part because of the relative lack of punctuation.

It is not style for style's sake; it is a writer taking as much care with his style of writing as with what he is writing about.  The two are inseparable.  This is what, for me, makes him such a great writer, that the art of writing is still high on his agenda, and he practises it with great skill and care and subtlety.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That rings very true. The only McCarthy I've read is All the Pretty Horses, which I found frankly heavy going and didn't feel I could come close to appreciating on the basis of one reading. That's my shortcoming, though, not his. It never came into my head to question aspects of his style, it seemed so organic. The lack of speech marks gives an extraordinary directness to his dialogue that I can't remember seeing in any other writer. Even though I didn't really get it, I couldn't blind myself to its power. I'm not sure he is a writer one can or should read frequently, but I certainly intend to read more.


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Posts: 2104


Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the snippet I read, I actually found the lack of commas more of an impediment to easy reading than the absence of speech marks and attributes. Apparently McCarthy never uses semi-colons - he's not alone in this; Kurt Vonnegut joked that they serve no purpose other than to prove you went to college. Personally I rather like them.

I doubt McCarthy is harder to read than a book like A Clockwork Orange, or Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, where you really have to really get into the swing of the dialect before comprehension becomes automatic. Here's an example from Riddley Walker (the whole book is written in this language):

Quote:
Lorna said to me, 'You know Riddley theres some thing in us it dont have no name.'
I said, 'What thing is that?'
She said, 'Its some kind of thing it aint us but yet its in us. Its looking out thru our eye hoals. May be you dont take no noatis of it only some times. Say you get woak up suddn in the middl of the nite. 1 minim youre a sleap and the nex youre on your feet with a spear in your han. Wel it wernt you put that spear in your han it wer that other thing whats looking out thru your eye hoals. It aint you nor it don't even know your name. Its in us lorn and loan and sheltering how it can.'



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miranda



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm going to step out of this cos I'm just gonna end up annoyed.  

Fine, McCarthy is a great writer.  I'm an ignoramus, an idiot, a lazy lump and a terrible person.

So shoot me.



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MikeAlx



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Um, I believe it's possible to be an intelligent, non-lazy person and not like a Great Writer. I can't see why different tastes or differing opinions of a writer's greatness or otherwise should be construed as a personal attack on one's intellect or stamina.  Confused



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miranda



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, maybe I am overreacting but my first post was that I didn't like No Country for Old Men because the lack of punctuation made it difficult to read.  A personal opinion.   It wasn't an attack on the writer.  I never, at any point, said that McCarthy was a bad writer.  

And so far I've been told:

Quote:
To say that a book was a "struggle" is not necessarily a criticism: far from it. Most of the greatest works of literature require a "struggle".


I'm no good at reading great works of literature as I don't appreciate the 'struggle'.

Quote:
Clearly, Cormac McCarthy didn't think it was unnecessary, and when a writer of such stature writes a book in a certain way, it's up to th e reader to try to work out why.


He's a great writer (in Himadri's opinion) and I'm lazy because I don't want to put the work in to find out why the author chose to write the way he did.

Quote:
An author of McCarthy's stature requires an awful lot from the reader, and that if the reader isn't prepared to put in the necessary effort - if the reader "really can't be bothered", as you put it - then it is unfair and unreasonable to blame the author.


I didn't blame the author.  I never said the author shouldn't do it.  I said 'I' couldn't be bothered because there are lots of books out there I would enjoy more.   But again the implication of laziness.  

Look, McCarthy is a fine writer.  I get it.  I don't like him.  I put the book down without finishing it.  It's a personal thing.  It's no reflection on the author, ok?   But I am getting a little tired of being treated like a second-class citizen on this board when I say I don't like something that I'm supposed to regard as 'fine work.'    

So my opinion is not worth as much as someone who likes Dickens or McCarthy or whoever.  

So, like I said, shoot me.



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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Miranda, I take responsibility for what I said, but can’t take any responsibility at all for what you think I said.

miranda wrote:
And so far I've been told:

Quote:
To say that a book was a "struggle" is not necessarily a criticism: far from it. Most of the greatest works of literature require a "struggle".


And I stand by that.

miranda wrote:
I'm no good at reading great works of literature as I don't appreciate the 'struggle'.


I didn’t say that. I didn’t even imply that. How you can infer that from what I am quoted as saying, I cannot imagine.

miranda wrote:
Quote:
Clearly, Cormac McCarthy didn't think it was unnecessary, and when a writer of such stature writes a book in a certain way, it's up to the reader to try to work out why.


He's a great writer (in Himadri's opinion)…


No, not just my opinion.

miranda wrote:
… and I'm lazy because I don't want to put the work in to find out why the author chose to write the way he did.


Once again, I stand by what I am quoted as saying, but I did not say that you are, or that anyone else is, “lazy”. And neither can I see where I implied such a thing.

miranda wrote:
Quote:
An author of McCarthy's stature requires an awful lot from the reader, and that if the reader isn't prepared to put in the necessary effort - if the reader "really can't be bothered", as you put it - then it is unfair and unreasonable to blame the author.


I didn't blame the author.  I never said the author shouldn't do it.  


Here’s what you had said earlier:

miranda wrote:
But a book where a reader can't enjoy the story because they keep having to check who is who and who is saying what?  That struggle is unnecessary, imo.


The struggle required to read McCarthy’s book is, you think, “unnecessary”. Seems like blaming the author as far as I can see. I responded to that politely – i.e. without attacking you personally.

Let us stop this now: it is getting tiresome. If you choose to see offence where there isn’t any, then that is entirely up to you.


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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
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Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hector wrote:
The only Cormac McCarthy that I have read is Blood Meridian (or the evening redness in the west) which I thought was excellent. It's certainly not for the faint hearted as it is probably the single most bleak book that I have ever read...

Hector


I would certainly second that, Hector. I did finish it, but it left me feeling that perhaps I shouldn't have, as I was not much wiser and certainly less happy by the end.

The only other book of his I've read is All The Pretty Horses. It has rather more of a redeeming sense about the humans involved. None of the characters in Blood Meridian actually paid off my reader's sensibility of wanting to invest in a character and hoping to find something good, however small, in there. I felt that what McCarthy was saying about humanity, certainly in that time and place, was so frightening and despairing to me that I am not willing to tackle books of his like The Road or No Country For Old Men which I know are also full of his bleak vision. I'm an optimist; I might struggle to maintain that view; so I like a bit of help, rather than hindrance. But I am going to go on with the Border Trilogy.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Road has a hopeful ending - all the more hopeful *because* of the apocalyptic bleakness throughout the book that has seemed to be irreversible.  It's not exactly a bundle of joy, I grant you, but McCarthy clearly does have some faith in humanity.

John Grady Cole, hero of the Border trilogy, is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time - magnificent creation.  Few characters inhabit my inner world in quite the way he does - I often think about him, and then realise he is not real!  There is so much warmth in McCarthy's writing, despite the harshness and violence.

Sorry, this is supposed to be about our worst books of the year, isn't it?!  I can't remember reading anything awful, but I can't really remember what I did read before September...


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miranda



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I would like to apologise to everyone but especially to Himadri for losing my temper earlier.  My only excuse is that I have toothache and I really ought to know better than to get involved in debates when I'm in pain!

I'm sorry, Himadri.  This doesn't mean I agree with you because I don't.  But I did overreact.  And I did get rude, which was unneccessary.




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