Szplug's Reviews > Outer Dark

Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
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Jul 17, 11


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 scrub it. Towards the end, when the brother sits down for a distinctly uncomfortable parley with the trio who have been pouring blood into his tracks as a macabre spoor, the stage is set for the understanding that he has reached the darkest corner of his own realization of hell. And what of the tinker, that peripatetic figure of gritty creases and scrub bristles who barters with those for whom he will serve as accomplice, witness, shriver and judge?

This is southern gothic done very well. McCarthy's vision of early America is the stuff of dreams and nightmares, populated with itinerant strangers and alternately hostile and accommodating locals. Not of the same caliber as Blood Meridian, but close.
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s.penkevich "The book begins with sin, and this particular stain won't wash out"
Well said. I wish I would have read this before The Road though, as it almost felt like he borrowed much of the gems from this book and reworked them into The Road and then added a more positive message.


message 2: by Szplug (last edited Nov 30, 2011 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Szplug Thanks, sp. I loved The Road, but hadn't truthfully considered it in the light of being a more charitable, if not optimistic re-working of this somber and spooky lil' backwoods beagle. After the mighty Blood Meridian, this is my favorite work of McCarthy's—keeping in mind that, apart from The Road, I've yet to read anything he wrote after his artful apocalypse in a Gehennic southwestern desert.


s.penkevich Blood Meridian is a classic, but I'm glad you also appreciated this underappreciated McCarthy novel. The day I finished it I went out for a walk through the wilderness. As dusk fell, I realized I was constantly looking over my shoulders and feeling anxious that the three violent travelers should be somewhere afoot. This book has stuck with me ever since. I'd highly recommend Suttree if you haven't already read that yet, it is my favorite of McCarthy's.


message 4: by Szplug (last edited Nov 30, 2011 01:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Szplug Thanks for the friend request.

Outer Dark's stickiness is impressive—a novel whose horror IMO is of a kind to leave that of proclaimed masters like Koontz or Peretti in the dust. I actually began Suttree after reading OD way back in the day, but I lost my copy and never returned to it. I've heard so much acclaim for it, though, that it is high on my Get-To list—mind you, not that such a placement actually means anything when you get right down to it. :)


s.penkevich I hear you, my to-read list is always a mile long.


Drew Grauerholz As a huge Blood Meridian fan, I can usually get with any Cormac book fairly quickly, but man, after reading Outer Dark I look at Suttree and think "Sigh, maybe not just yet."


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