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Outer Dark

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  8,847 ratings  ·  723 reviews
Outer Dark is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set is an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century.A woman bears her brother's child, a boy; he leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes.Discovering her brother's lie, she sets forth alone to find her son.Both brother and sister wander separately throug ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published June 29th 1993 by Vintage (first published 1968)
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Mike Puma

***The following review, such as it is, might be considered spoilerish.

Proceeding cautiously through my long-awaited, chronological rereading of the works of Cormac McCarthy, reading the supplemental materials I’ve picked up over the years, and marveling at things I hadn’t noticed first time around. Isn’t that why we reread anything?

This one, as dark and foreboding as anything he’s written, in several ways, seems the telling of the Anti-Nativity—not the birth of the Anti-Christ, but a birth magn

Outer Dark: Cormac McCarthy's Novel of Judgment and Responsibility


And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30, KJV

If there were ever a more unprofitable servant to appear in literature, it would be difficult to find one less so than Culla Holme. Brother to Rinthy, he has perpetrated the social taboo of incest. He fears his sin will be found out. When Rinthy's water breaks, he allows her to suffer through labor, refusing t
The ancestors had called Europeans “the orphan people” and had noted that as with orphans taken in by selfish or coldhearted clanspeople, few Europeans had remained whole. They failed to recognize the earth was their mother. Europeans were like their first parents, Adam and Eve, wandering aimlessly because the insane God who had sired them had abandoned them.

-Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead
I will always be a fan of McCarthy because of his treatment of the "Western" tradition. How
An air of ruin permeates this bleak tale of abandonment, desperation, and want. 'Hard people makes hard times.' Culla and Rinthy Holme, brother and sister, were brought up hard. They ain't never had nuthin'.

Look for a man who bares 'his orangecolored teeth in a grimace of lecherous idiocy.' Regard the 'dead gray serpentine of the river' as it flows. See the old crone with the elfin face in the woods. She won't abide a hound dog on the place, but has no qualms with a pig rooting around and sleep
Having given 5* to The Road (my review here, I was surprised and disappointed at how much I disliked this.

Like The Road, it is dark and sparse, and involves destitute people travelling on foot, looking for food, shelter and hope, but that is where the similarity ends.

This is set much longer ago (before cars) and tells several parallel and occasionally intersecting stories: a woman searching for her missing baby; her brother searching for her; a tinker t
All of the other reviews are too slavering, too worshipful, too fucking nerdy and self-referential to suggest that their authors actually read this book. I read about 15 of them, and not once did I see a comment, suggestion, reflection that added anything to my understanding of the text. Spare me the book reports. If you don't have anything to say, find a forum in which your lack of authority is expected: I suggest the rest of your life. Funny that I didn't see a single mention of its place in t ...more
I'm not a fan of nonsense lyrical language nor am I a fan of incest cannibalist nihilism or lack of punctuation so this book is probably not the book for me.
This was my second Cormac McCarthy read, having initiated myself years ago with his more Faulkneresque rookie effort, The Orchard Keeper. I really enjoyed this one—grim, brooding, spectral atmosphere, replete with three harrowing strangers, seeping violence, who dog the steps of the fraternal half of our brother-sister protagonists. The book begins with sin, and this particular stain won't wash out, regardless of how far the brother, Culla, journeys through unnamed Appalachia in an attempt to sc ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This, much more so than the Orchard Keeper, feels like McCarthy's first full work. The narrative focus is much tighter, even if the journeys that Culla and Rinthy take are every bit as shiftless and as doomed. But by the end of the book, Mccarthy has stepped well beyond the typical southern Gothic territory he spends most of his first novel treading through. Outer Dark, with it's central incestuous conflict, could easily have been just another novel about screwed-up Appalachian degenerates. Inst ...more
Larry Bassett
Who were those three men? I am sure that (view spoiler)

I have read several Cormac McCarthy books: The Road, No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian and Suttree. With the exception of Suttree I have not disliked any of those books and I even gave Suttree two stars (It Was OK) because of the stunning language that turned up regularly.

So Outer Dark was a special McCarthy experience for me. I could actually follow the story: sister has baby; brother abandons baby; s
It's been said that for writer's first novels, it is inevitable that they wear their influences on their sleeves. This is certainly the case with Cormac McCarthy's second novel, Outer Dark. Steeped in the tradition of Southern Gothic writing, this story of wandering siblings perpetually on the wrong side of luck and fortune reads like a Faulknerian nightmare.

Rinthy Holme has no sooner given birth to her first child than its father, her brother Culla, hoping to rid himself of the incestuous offsp
Sentimental Surrealist
A lunatic and disgusting novel, Outer Dark sends an incestuous, impoverished and illiterate brother and sister across a hellish landscape populated by three violent vagabonds and a mysterious tinker, none of whom seem human. The brother, who abandons the child his sister bears him, experiences the worst in people. The sister, who sets off in search of this child, gets mainly the best. There's all this talk of names and how the damned don't have them and a lot of characters without names and a fe ...more
Marco Tamborrino
Sono tempi duri.
È la gente che rende duri i tempi. Ho visto tanta cattiveria fra gli uomini che non so perché Dio non ha ancora spento il sole e non se n'è andato.

Avendo letto prima altri romanzi di McCarthy, posso dire che - secondo me - questo è il meno riuscito. Lo scrittore deve ancora raggiungere la piena maturazione letteraria e sviluppare a pieno i suoi temi. Scrive sempre benissimo, non scade mai nel raccontato ma mostra tutto, la natura emana un potere proprio e la violenza è insita n
Peycho Kanev
Like a sledgehammer of dried rose petals to your skull. Terrific book!
Another harrowing slice of americana from McCarthy. Outer Dark is a disturbing story of a brother and sister with a terrible secret that tears apart their relationship and casts them both on separate journies through the angry lands of the rural south. The setting is gritty and hard -- a land where a person can't tell a preacher from a judge from a murderer --where the heat, swamps, and forgotten towns suck the souls from the characters. Misunderstood and often caught in situations beyond their ...more
Kirk Smith
Absolute pleasure to read. Artistic perfection. The book and the author are classics!
Victoria Young
Outer Dark (1968) is Cormac McCarthy's parable-like tale of a brother and sister each wandering the Appalachian trails around the turn of the century, encountering the extremes of goodness and evil in their travels. The writing has all of McCarthy's hallmarks: a creeping foreboding and atmosphere of malevolence; visceral descriptions of man and environment, plots that concern those on the fringe of society, steep contrasts between innocence and savagery. For readers unfamiliar with McCarthy, the ...more
AmberBug **
I enjoyed the book but it didn't "WOW" me. It didn't throw me into the world or give me any emotional turmoil over the characters. Overall it is nicely written but nothing special. The mystery wasn't very suspenseful. I felt disconnected from the characters. When an emotional event occurred, I didn't feel the appropriate pang of sadness or the ping of joy. The writing is done well and the descriptions are done beautifully but the story is lacking a connectivity that brings you close to the chara ...more
Kathrin Passig
Wie schwer es wohl wäre, einen Cormac-McCarthy-Bot zu schreiben? Auf staubigen Straßen umhertaumelnde Gestalten, Mord und Totschlag, ein Scrabblewörterbuch, fertig ist die GESCHICHTE VON BIBLISCHER WUCHT UND ANTIKER UNENTRINNBARKEIT, die APOKALYPSE IM WILDEN WESTEN.
Fool's Chevalier
"E' la gente dura che rende duri i tempi. Ho visto tanta cattiveria fra gli uomini che non so perchè Dio non ha ancora spento il sole e non se n'è andato."

Sono passati ormai quasi due mesi da quando ho letto questo libro ma non posso rinunciare a scrivere un paio di righe su ciò che ne penso. Non ho letto molto di McCarthy, ho molti suoi libri e tutti sono stati letti da almeno un membro della mia famiglia, ma personalmente la mia visione della sua opera è ancora limitata. Già dopo aver letto
McCarthy was touching excellence with this one.

His early works are compared to Faulkner more than any one thing should ever be compared to another. But the names that kept popping up in my head while reading this were Beckett and Dostoyevsky. McCarthy's philosophical position seems to be a unique mixture of those two, with Beckett (in this instance) being the dominant influence. I say that because with this novel, as with Beckett's, I wasn't left with anything optimistic to take away, as I am w
I’m glad there are still these early Cormac McCarthy’s I have still to get to. He’s never been the sort of writer that I want to chain-read. McCarthy’s second novel is pure Southern Gothic horror. Culla gets his sister Rinthy with child, hides her away in their backcountry Appalachian cabin until the babe is born in a welter of pain and blood, and then runs off stumbling and desperate through the night with the infant through the swamps and hollers to leave it out in the woods for some predator ...more
"E' la gente dura che rende duri i tempi. Ho vista tanta cattiveria fra gli uomini che non so perchè Dio non ha ancora spento il sole e non se n'è andato."
Il tema è ancora e sempre la desolazione più cieca, nel mondo e negli uomini. E la disperata, irragionevole ostinazione del vivere. Nonostante, appunto, il buio fuori.
Avevo letto La Strada e qualcosa, nonostante la qualità, mi aveva infastidito. Qui meno "effetti speciali", un'eleganza più austera ed un ciglio più asciutto. Uno stile che è co
A dry run for Blood Meridian.

Started off eventful enough, a young woman pregnant from her brother's seed. And after that things turn dull and mostly uneventful for the next 170 pages. Not to say that nothing at all happens, just that these events seem like, So what? Just round after round of blah scenes. And then, at the 80% mark, things kick into high gear and remain there for the rest of the ride.

One problem, I think, is the main characters never feel completely fleshed out. They're specters
What’s a jew?
One of them old-timey people from in the bible.

This was as bleak and foreboding as each McCarthy novel I've read so far. Perhaps made all the more enjoyable as I just returned from visiting a very “Child of God like” part of Tennessee. Almost put me off BBQ meat, though...

First thing I've read by Cormac McCarthy and it was pretty great. This book takes place in the same space as Grimms' fairy tales: a timeless and permanent dark landscape where the devil lurks casually, that in this age we all strain to forget exists. It's about being human in a way that predated the Internet and television by centuries, that might outlast all this shit and keep going on.

Hopefully though, McCarthy's works will survive whatever happens along with a sturdy Oxford English Dictionary
The only issue I take with "Outer Dark" is that the trio of men remain unexplained other than that they seem to murder anyone Culla comes across, including his deformed son. I'm not sure what McCarthy is trying to convey other than setting up a universe whose people are generous with food, casual with violence, and possess a adversarial relationship with nature. It is a quick read, maybe an afternoon or two, and was perfect to read out on the porch. Enjoyable but a little lacking on resolution. ...more
Madly flip-flopping between 3 and 4 stars. I can see why this is required reading for a McCarthy fan but this book is clearly one of his earlier efforts. I find it fascinating, the differences between this and Blood Meridian, the depth displayed in the latter, depth which this book is lacking.

Maybe the most horrific scene I have ever read is included. Other books have hinted at similar scenes but this is the only book I can think of that spells it out, not an ounce of pity, just a simple fact t
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Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
More about Cormac McCarthy...
The Road No Country For Old Men Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1) The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, #2)

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“Ive seen the meanness of humans till I dont know why God aint put out the sun and gone away.” 33 likes
“Hard people make hard times. I've seen the meanness of humans till I don't know why god ain't put out the sun and gone away.” 13 likes
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