Friday, November 13, 2009

Attention CORMAC MCCARTHY fans

There is a really good interview with the author of THE ROAD in today's Wall Street Journal. A few snippets:

WSJ: Does [the] issue of length [of a movie] apply to books, too? Is a 1,000 page book somehow too much?

McCarthy: "For modern readers, yeah. People apparently only read mystery stories of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you're gong to write something like 'The Brother's Karamazov' or 'Moby Dick', go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don't care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different."

WSJ: How does that ticking clock affect your work? Does it make you want to write more shorter pieces, or to cap things with a large, all-encompassing work?

McCarthy: "I'm not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."

WSJ: You grew up Irish Catholic.

McCarthy: "I did, a bit. It wasn't a big issue. We went to church on Sunday. I don't even remember religion ever even being discussed."

WSJ: Is the God that you grew up with in church every Sunday the same God that the man in "The Road" questions and curses?

McCarthy: "It may be. I have a great sympathy for the spiritual view of life, and I think that it's meaningful. But am I a spiritual person? I would like to be. Not that I am thinking about some afterlife that I want to go to, but just in terms of being a better person. I have friends at the [Sante Fe] Institute. They're just really bright guys who do really difficult work solving difficult problems, who say, 'It's really more important to be good than it is to be smart.' And I agree it is more important to be good that it is to be smart. That is all I can offer you."


Well. Those of us who already knew McCarthy's work knew not to go to him for spiritual advice. He seems above all very talented at posing all of the hard questions, unflinchingly, but leaves the answers to others. There are times in his novels when he probably should have stopped typing, gone have a cup of coffee, and looked out the window. But I think he is the best writer in America today. And posing the hard questions is an important vocation.

My son Jeremy gave me a copy of THE ROAD for Christmas last year. It's time I read it.


Robin said...

"Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."

That's my favourite part.

And it IS time you read it. It is a really really good book.

Bruce Gee said...

Of course, NFJ, what he is really speaking of is...



Ethan said...

I like that quote too, whether it's parenthood or authorship (some authors will tell you the two are eerily similar).

He's dead wrong on the first point, though. There are several fantasy authors who regularly write 1000 page + volumes and have moderate to great success. And not just the pulp trash, either, but the ones who are actually writing on the level of literature: Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy, for example, three volumes at over a thousand pages; Susannah Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" clocked in at nearly a thousand and spent a couple months on the NYT best seller list; etc.

As I'm sure you're hearing from all quarters, do read The Road.

Bruce Gee said...

All right. ALL RIGHT. I'll read Da Road. I just needed a slight break from McCarthy's prose before diving into what I've been told is a "brutal" book.

As for your comment vis a vis the fantasy writers, E: I couldn't help it, it reminded me of a really funny Eddy Murphy skit from an old SNL episode, where he's trying to argue that black people are in a lot of classic movies. "Whaddayu mean black people don't make great actors??!" And then he goes on to list a hilarious compendium of really, really bad B movies that African American actors have starred in. Half way through, he cracks up and can't continue. Very funny.

Not that fantasy writers aren't REAL writers. I don't mean that at all...