am 14. März 2000
I am a big William Faulkner fan and after reading the great four (Absalom.., As I Lay Dying, Light In August, and The Sound...) tried All the Pretty Horses a few years ago. Everyone said it was great so like a good prisoner of the "you must read this syndrone", I started it. I found it incredibly beautiful in terms of prose style and language but after 100 or so pages I did not really care about the characters. I thought it was my fault and not McCarthy's so I left it and decided that I would reapproach it later on. It is now three years later and I figured I would read his first book before I started the now completed Border trilogy.
This is a tremendously artful and in many ways wonderful book. Nobody since Faulkner has as dense and intense a prose style. You must have an unabridged dictionary beside you to really get everything he gives you. The reason I write this review is for those who want a deep, meaningful book and are thinking of reading this like I was. If you are such a person and do not have alot of time on your hands, I would suggest going elsewhere for one reason only. Another Amazon reader talked about the plot of this novel as being extraordinarily inconsequential. I think that this is McCarthy's point. It is a story about the land and people that personify independance. It is about an age of rural Southern life that no longer exists. It is not supposed to tie it's points up in ribbons and to keep you passionately turning pages unless your there for the art of it (of which there is a considerable amount).
My frustration was that when I finished this, I got it and appreciated it but was not particularly moved in any way. I read the last three chapters again to see if I was an idiot or if this was just an erudite, muted text. I came out of it thinking that that's exactly what it was. If you haven't read the four big Faulkner's or All the Pretty Horses, start there, this is a book written by a master but it left me too lukewarm to give it more than three stars.
am 28. April 1997
In 1930s rural Tennessee, men from three generations play out their lives in ignorance of a secret that binds them together. John Wesley Rattner is a young boy aiming to make a living from trapping muskrats. Marion Sylder is the bootlegger who, years before, killed Rattner's itinerant father. Ather Ownby is the old man who alone knows where the body of Kenneth Rattner lies rotting to nothing.
McCarthy tells their story of 'profound inconsequence' in language of exotic precision. They are bound together through their relationship with nature and the land which offers up little sustenance but imbues their lives of dispossessed independence with meaning. In his prose, McCarthy elevates the everyday to a poetic significance, with some of the richest descriptions of the unforgiving natural world to be found anywhere. A bird on the wing, a wind in the trees, a car on a mountain road: he handles each image with equal skill, so that we exist with them in that place and time.
McCarthy treads the fine line between pathos and bathos, walking with sure steps, so that we feel for his subject - men hunting, the animals they hunt, the landscape as part of which they exist - but we never feel sorry. His dialogue is sparse, but loaded, with a natural rhythm you may have thought lost to the world. McCarthy finds the beauty in desperation and depicts it unsentimentally. While his story is a guiltless one of violence and resignation in the face of material poverty, his subject is 'all questions ever pressed upon humanity and beyond understanding'. Except McCarthy appears to understand them, and is able to explicate them.
am 20. April 1998
Any reader of McCarthy's work knows that he views the human condition as one of substantial adversity, but not without redeeming value. His earlier work, set in Tennessee (including this) seem to have a more affecting quality. Something seems more "true", closer to home. These books evoke an emotional reaction to the characters. His later work set on the border, reflects a world of great natural beauty and incredible human savagery. I prefer the earlier works, although this may just be a matter of personal taste. This is a really fine book, as are most of the works of this excellent writer.
am 1. September 1998
Rich, biblical prose. Set in the South. The best bar in all literature, set in a Gap, leaning out over a gorge, swaying with the wild partiers in the storm...when the porch starts to give way.... Great old hound: I bet he beats Faulkner's. Great old man: stubborn as a mule, refusing to participate in anything he considers unworthy, unmanly, not right---give me liberty or give me death---it really doesn't go out of style, even though such an orientation might get you labeled as disturbed.