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Child of God

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Falsely accused of rape, Lester Ballard – a violent, dispossessed man who haunts the hill country of East Tennessee – is released from jail and allowed to roam at will, preying on the population with his strange lusts. His everyday actions are transformed into stunning scenes of the comic and the grotesque. And as the story hurtles toward its unforgettable conclusion, McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.

197 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

Cormac McCarthy

49 books23.3k followers
Cormac McCarthy was an American novelist and playwright. He wrote twelve novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and also wrote 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 Meridian (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1925 and 2005, and he placed joint runner-up for a similar title in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner. In 2009, Cormac McCarthy won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, a lifetime achievement award given by the PEN American Center.

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Profile Image for s.penkevich.
969 reviews6,872 followers
June 16, 2023
Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.

There is a quote by David Foster Wallace that ‘good fiction's job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ Cormac McCarthy’s trim third novel, Child of God, is an optimal example of this sentiment, as it manages to provide the counterparts of the both comfortable and disturbed elements within the reader by offering them an unflinching portrait of baseness and demanding reaction. The short novel chronicles the hellish descent of Lester Ballard into the maelstroms of human depravity, from simple onanistic voyeurism to murder and necrophilia. Yet, McCarthy reminds us that Ballard is ‘a child of God much like yourself perhaps,’ and reminds us of how human we really are. Through sparse and stupendous prose, McCarthy drags the human soul through the mud and muck of this gruesome parable to show us the degradation of humanity when chased into the shadows by isolation and ostracization, showing us wickedness and making us feel,—much to the reader’s discomfort—equal parts disgust and empathy.

To open a McCarthy novel is to step into a nightmarish wasteland of the soul built out of breathtaking bricks of penetrating prose. Through language that borders on biblical and flourishes effortlessly like tangled ivy on Greek pillars, McCarthy brings the reader into the dirty dregs of a small Tennessee town and makes them practically smell the damp soil and sweaty backs and gunpowder of the novel. Broken up into three parts, each unique in style and execution, McCarthy unfolds the story of Lester Ballard through the eyes and ears of the locals as well as his omniscient narration. Each voice is a piece of the puzzle to understanding Ballard, fleshing him out by examining him from many angles and views while also constructing a penetrating look at those around him. Child of God is another impressive addition to the American mythology of darkness that McCarthy has built.

The story of Lester Ballard is not for the squeamish as McCarthy illuminates his depravity without ever shielding the readers eyes from the disgusting sights. It is what readers of McCarthy have come to expect; McCarthy is an expert in probing the depths of the human soul and rubbing in our faces all the darkest and most disturbing elements the imagination can find down there in the shadows we try to conceal and forget. Ballard does the unthinkable and inexcusable again and again, yet McCarthy does not create him as a flat, pure-evil character. He has much more in store for our souls to digest and wrestle with. Chronicling his life, McCarthy depicts Ballard as a man alienated by his community, chased like a rat into hiding because of his differences and difficulties putting on a normal persona in the world. Ostracized, isolated and with no one to turn to, Ballard has little choice but to give in to his alarmingly abominable ways. Occasionally he is called out of the darkness,
some old shed self that came yet from time to time in the name of sanity, a hand to gentle him back from the rim of his disastrous wrath
However, being so withdrawn and removed from society, the voice of civilized reason is most often lost in the wilderness of wickedness. His criminal acts seem a way he has found to give voice to a sense of impotence and alienation he has felt all his life.

'You ain't even a man. You're just a crazy thing,' a girl says to him. It is easy to just consider him a 'thing', a being removed from us so that we can despise and scorn him without inner-remorse. It keeps us safe from identifying with him, from having to understand him or see life through his eyes. But is he just a 'thing', or is he still a man? We are reminded that Lester Ballard is a ‘child of God’ and not so different from you or I. Those of the religious faith are taught to forgive and love thy brothers and sisters, as we are all cut from the same cloth. Ballard too. And to deny him of this would be to deny God’s word, and this is the skillful and wonderfully ironic moral conundrum McCarthy imposes on the reader. ‘Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone,’ is a statement from the Bible pointing out that we all bear the scars of sin, and can we really judge Ballard without then judging ourselves? Religious or not, this is a quandary that tests our moral judgment and reminds us that all of us are capable of evil.

All the bleakness aside, it is hard to not be astounded by McCarthy’s dexterity with prose styling and his way with diction. And, despite the grim context, this is actually quite a darkly comical novel at times. Ballard gets swindled trying to sell watches, bootleggers are too drunk to find their own hiding places, and other sorts of gross yet somehow humorous elements keep the book from being too flatly dark. It is not an ‘enjoyable’ read, yet there is much enjoyment to keep the reader thinking and turning pages. It is short as to not begrudge the reader with too much darkness and entertaining and engaging enough so that most can finish it in a sitting or two.

This is a bleak novel with little to nothing in the way of redemption within the book. However, this is because the redemption rests within the reader; can we look into the heart of another man and disregard him as pure evil? Is everything black or white or can we feel pity even for those who are the epitome of depravity. Lester Ballard is chased from society, eventually having to hide in caves like a wild beast or a descent into hell, and we must question if he is just an evil man or a product of his circumstances. This isn’t to say that he is to be cleared of his crimes, but it does make an interesting point about humanity. I was glad to have read this book on a bright sunny day beside a case of fine IPAs, which lasted the duration of reading this book, as the novel left me feeling cold and hard and hollow on the inside. Child of God might be my least favorite of McCarthy's novels (Suttree toping my list), but it still packs a wallop of a punch. Bleak and brutal, yet darkly funny, this book is not for everyone. But if you are willing to stare into the eyes of darkness and voyage into the deepest recesses of the human heart, McCarthy is the ideal tour guide.


What sort of meanness have you got laid out for next.

Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
December 19, 2020
”The dumpkeeper had spawned nine daughters and named them out of an old medical dictionary gleaned from the rubbish he picked. Uretha, Cerebella, Hernia Sue.
They moved like cats and like cats in heat attracted surrounding swains to their midden until the old man used to go out at night and fire a shotgun at random just to clear the air. He couldn’t tell which was the oldest or what age and he didn’t know whether they should go out with boys or not. Like cats they sensed his lack of resolution. They were coming and going all hours in all manner of degenerate cars, a dissolute carousel of rotting sedans and ni**erized convertibles with bluedot taillamps and chrome horns and foxtails and giant dice or dashboard demons of spurious fur. All patched up out of parts and lowslung and bumping over the ruts. Filled with old lanky country boys with long cocks and big feet.”

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You could say that those country boys and those daughters of the dumpkeeper are uneducated, disenfranchised, white trash, but don’t put them too far down the rungs of the evolutionary ladder because you still need room for Lester.

If you were to compose a ballad of Lester Ballard it would not be one of heroism, of self-sacrifice, or of kindness. It would be a song of the grotesque, of darkness, and of the human mind degraded to the point of madness. If Lester were an animal. He would be a dog with rabies. You’d put him down because he wouldn’t be safe walking around with normal people.

The sheriff, after yet another issue with Lester, gives him a warning that, of course, didn’t make even the slightest impression on Lester.

”Mr. Ballard, he said. You are either going to have to find some other way to live or some other place in the world to do it in.”

What the sheriff should have done, if he’d had any inkling of what was to come, was to gunnysack Lester, and throw him in a deep river. He could have tried driving him across the state line and leaving him to be someone else’s problem, but Lester is just that kind of bad penny that always turns up again.

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2013 movie poster for Child of God

It all begins when Lester’s ancestral home is put up on the auction blocks. Now it ain’t much. There is maybe some good timber on it, and getting bids is not easy, but land will always sell. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t really say, but usually when land gets sold at auction there is a back tax issue. Lester doesn’t seem like the type that would ever think paying taxes was in his best interest. What this does is make Lester into a wandering bundle of mischief.

He steals. He spies. He plots vengeance.

Not that anyone in the county seems to have any prospects to achieve prosperity (anything above the poverty line), but Lester falls into that category of negative digits. His attempts at wooing women, let me see your titties, are met with disdain and rejection. Even the dumpkeeper’s daughters, who will hump just about anything, would crush him under the heel of a calloused foot rather than give him a whiff of the pleasure of feminine kindness.
Lester is an annoyance, but comical, inspiring the shaking of matronly heads, and laughs between men over a bottle of shine. If truth be known they think he is a troubled, but relatively harmless dumbass.

It’s not like he’d have ever thought of it on his own. It just fell into his lap. He comes across a jalopy running in the woods with the radio on. A boy and a girl with clothing disarrayed are in the backseat dead. The girl...well...she is still warm and unlike other girls she ain’t saying no.

Yeah he did it.

Lester had such a good time he brought her back to an abandoned house he’d been using for shelter. He’d been lonely of course.

”Alone in the empty shell of a house the squatter watched through the moteblown glass a rimshard of bonecolored moon come cradling up over the black balsams on the ridge, ink trees a facile hand had sketched against the paler dark of winter heavens.”

Well the girl wasn’t much for conversation, but if he brought her close to the fire and warmed her up she could almost feel alive.

”He took off all her clothes and looked at her, inspecting her body carefully, as if he would see how she was made. He went outside and looked in through the window at her lying naked before the fire. When he came back in he unbuckled his trousers and stepped out of them and laid next to her. He pulled the blanket over them.”

Just as Lester is settling into his new domestic arrangement tragedy strikes. He builds the fire too big and the whole house catches on fire. He saves his beloved rifle, the bears he won at the carnaval, and his bedding, but his new plaything, kept in the attic so she would refreeze, was lost.

Except for the fickleness of fate Lester might have remained a happily contented necrophiliac for the rest of the winter. Now summer would have brought on different issues. The smell of decay might have even put a damper on Lester’s lustful stirrings. Homeless and womanless Lester decides to try and fix both those problems.

As women disappear and the law is powerless, for lack of evidence, to do anything about Lester’s predilections, the White Caps decide to take matters into their own hands. In Indiana back in 1873 farmers started forming this secret society that would violently inflict justice on people who seemed to be beyond the law. As this movement spread South the organization took on some racial overtones and started disguising themselves similarly to the KKK. Merchants who were buying up too much land and black men who had thoughts of becoming land owners were targeted in a time when poor white farmers felt they were losing everything.

They were farmers not law enforcement officers. Lester escapes.

”He’d long been wearing the underclothes of his female victims but now he took to appearing in their outerwear as well. A gothic doll in illfit clothes, its carmine mouth floating detached and bright in the white landscape.”

Lester starts out being strange, just a bit different. Not different in an Einstein pondering the universe kind of way. More like two brain cells drifting around in his head that collide once in a while creating a spark kind of guy. Once he has been banished from any center hold in the community he becomes feral, a man caught in a permanent state of flight or fight. He becomes dangerous and unhinged. The grotesque becomes as normal to him as white picket fences are to the rest of us.

 photo CormacMcCarthy2_zps8c080f88.jpg
Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy will always expose you to a form of human being that will make you uncomfortable. You will twitch in your seat. You will check the doors and windows one more time before going to bed. You will start to make a more indepth analysis of your crazy cousin Larry. You will reluctantly come away with a broader understanding of the spectrum of people making up humanity. You will question your own sanity and wonder if it is possible for you to ever be as crazy as Lester Ballard.

Would Lester have been able to stay a hair’s breadth away from insanity if he’d had one normal friend? Just one person who could give him a bead to follow. A person who could say ‘that ain’t right Lester’ at a critical moment. I do ponder questions like that late at night when I wonder if I could be stable enough and patient enough to keep someone else sane. I would probably be too practical to put myself in the path of a psychopath. We just hope the madness doesn’t find us.

I also have read and reviewed Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,719 followers
July 3, 2021
“He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.”

If someone were crazed enough to breed a descendant of Fenton Breece with that of Granville Sutter from William Gay’s Twilight, I’m pretty sure you’d end up with Lester Ballard. Except McCarthy’s Ballard was hatched more than three decades before Gay’s book. Still, it’s kind of fun to ponder. But before you start to think I’m some sort of morbid weirdo, I swear I did not deliberately read two books featuring such perversions in the span of six months! Seriously, I do not go out looking for this stuff!

Another confession. I just finished reading McCarthy’s Outer Dark just one month prior to this book. I know. But that one was a frolic to the candy store compared to this. Child of God or not, I couldn’t muster up any sort of sympathy for Lester Ballard as I did for those pitiful siblings in Outer Dark. Nope. Not even when a tear was shed. Cry, you sick monster!! Lester Ballard is the stuff of nightmares. Just when you gasp at one vile act and think it can’t get any worse – it damn sure does. And this guy is so resilient. I mean, he’s unstoppable. Maybe when someone is sunk so far to the ground already, it’s difficult to take your heel and grind him in any further.

“You could say that he’s sustained by his fellow men, like you. Has peopled the shore with them calling to him. A race that gives suck to the maimed and the crazed, that wants their wrong blood in its history and will have it.”

No. I won’t take blame for men like this. I’ve always been polite to strangers and kind to those I care for. There are no Lester Ballards roaming and terrorizing the countryside on my account. But that’s exactly what happens here in 1960s eastern Tennessee. And as grotesque as this story is, it’s told with the same startling and wonderful prose that I’ve come to expect from Cormac McCarthy. How he can weave such magical words in between such threads of horror is beyond me. It’s also why I’ll keep going back for more. But not right away. I need a break. Really, I do.

“You think people was meaner then than they are now?” “No,… I don’t. I think people are the same from the day God first made one.”
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,197 reviews1,820 followers
February 19, 2020

Questa e le due immagini che seguono sono prese dal film omonimo scritto, diretto e co-interpretato da James Franco nel 2013, mai uscito in Italia, e mai uscito in un sacco di altri paesi: il film ha partecipato a qualche festival, ma ha avuto distribuzione molto limitata.

Mi colpisce nell'opera di McCarthy il ruolo che è sempre affidato alla natura: grande coprotagonista di tutte le storie, dura, selvaggia, violenta, ostica, ma non cattiva, non maligna – racchiude la colpa e il peccato, e una sua qualche redenzione.

Uso questi termini perché le pagine di McCarthy hanno sempre una forte connotazione biblica.
Non per niente, il titolo è esplicito in questo caso.

In questo ambiente naturale, l'uomo è emarginato, in abissi di solitudine: la violenza sembra essere l'unica comunicazione possibile, l'unica condivisa.


Figli di dio fa pensare a Dostoewskij, ovvio, ma anche tanto a Jim Thompson: medesima attrazione per personaggi abietti, fuori dal coro, improvvisamente sanguinari.
Thompson in apparenza stempera il quadro con l'ironia e l'umorismo, in realtà lo rende ancora più agghiacciante e raccapricciante.

McCarthy non risparmia nulla, non mitiga, non acquerella: ma sembra che i suoi personaggi siano quasi giustificabili, comprensibili, che si riesca a sentirne le motivazioni, ad accoglierli nella confraternita umana dei figli di dio.
E questo spaventa e ammalia al contempo, perché è come guardare dentro il “cuore di tenebra”.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
May 23, 2022
Child of God, Cormac McCarthy

Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960's, Child of God tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps."

Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends literally and figuratively to the level of a cave-dweller as he falls into crime and degradation.

The novel is structured in three segments, each segment describing the advancing isolation of the protagonist from society.

*Spoiler Alert*
In the first part of the novel, a group of unidentified narrators from Sevierville describe Lester to the audience and frame him within that community's mythology and historical consciousness. The second and third parts of the novel increasingly leave culture and community behind as Lester goes from squatter to cave-dweller to serial killer and necrophile as he becomes increasingly associated with premodern and inanimate phenomena.

The novel ends with the dehumanized and mutilated Ballard dying in incarceration, his remains eventually dissected by medical students and then interred outside the city, while the long-hidden corpses of his victims are unearthed from his former subterranean haunt.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه نوامبر سال2015میلادی

عنوان: فرزند خدا؛ نویسنده: کورمک مکارتی؛ سال1993؛ در59ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

این رمان در سه بخش است، و هر بخش بازگشایی کننده ی جدایی پیشرو از جامعه است؛ در بخش نخست: گروهی از راویان ناشناس، از «سوییرویل»، «لستر» را برای خوانشگران کتاب میشناسانند، و آنها را با اساطیر و آگاهیهای آن جامعه، آشنا میکنند؛ در بخش دوم و سوم «لستر» به گونه ای فرهنگ و جامعه را پشت سر میگذارند، زیرا «لستر» از سکونت نشین، به غارنشین، قاتل زنجیره ای، و مرده دوست بدل میشود، زیرا او به گونه ای فزاینده با پدیده های پیشامدرن و بی جان رابطه پیدا میکند؛ «فرزند خدا» رمانی فشرده و هیجان آور است، که ژرفای میرایی انسان را، زیر و رو میکند؛ «لستر بالارد»، مردی جنگلی و خشن، منزوی و درونگرا، که در سرزمین پدران خود خلع ید شده، از زندان آزاد میشود، و به او اجازه داده میشود تا در تپه ی شرق «تنسی» شکار کند، «مک کارتی» سنگ تمام گذاشته اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 01/03/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,927 followers
July 23, 2014
film-of-the-book update :

None other than James (I'm handsome and I can do anything) Franco directed a version of this last year & I just saw it; and - damn, James, I hate to say this but - it was really good! And faithful! Really great performance by Scott Haze as Lester. You probably shouldn't watch it while you eat your tea nor should you be watching it with any elderly relatives but if you know what the story is about you probably would not do that. Unless you want to kill them off with shock and horror. This time round I spotted that Child of God starts just like Omensetter's Luck, with a rural auction. Kind of a really useless fact.

And now the actual review.


This was a re-read, my first for years, and once again I loved Cormac's outrageous, daring style. I gave it five stars all those years ago and I give it five now. I felt again that I was in the presence of a writer who could dip all the other American writers in his Weetabix and mush em all together and eat em up and go for another bowl of em. This guy is the real deal. Well allright! So how come I didn't like any other CMcC book if he's such a wow? Good question, you know. I had a go at "Blood Meridian", and as everyone knows, that's like reading the Bible if God was Sam Peckinpah. Beautiful beautiful writing completely squandered on an endurance-test Western with zero story and zero character. So I failed there. "All the Pretty Horses" - well, that was better, and I did finish it, but by now Cormac's style has got ever more outre, he's much more deeply in love with the conjunction and and by then he'd got too mythtastic for my taste. I still like my soap-opera, thank you, I’m just this suburban gentleman in a semi-detatched house with a cat and a bottle of real ale and a High Llamas cd. Myths? Not so much. So I think Cormac and me had a parting of the ways. But if I recall right, before we bade farewell and he took the road west, we shook hands cordially. It felt cordial, that is, although his face betrayed no expression.


As to "Child of God" - this book is a total treat, but I got to warn you, the main character is a little unsavoury. Lester Ballard, our grisly necrophile protagonist, has quite a bit of the old Ed Gein about him. Which if so would make him the fourth fictional incarnation of Ed, so inspirational was he, and that is leaving aside the biopic about him, which is called "Ed Gein". There was Hitchcock's Psycho, there was ol' Leatherface in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (was ever a film so aptly titled - it was in Texas, there was a massacre, it was done with a chainsaw) and there was the regrettable Buffalo Bill in "The Silence of the Tiny Little Baa-Lambs" with his human skin dresses. Now Barbara Gowdy, in her arresting story "We So Seldom Look On Love", makes a case that there are indeed true necrophiles, people that only love people if they're dead. (Imagine the fate of a necrophile who's looking for commitment! I guess the only solution there would be taxidermy.) But I argue that the great majority of necrophiles wind up with the dead through poor lifestyle choice and low self esteem. They are just lonely. But in a special way. You and me, we may have been through lonely times, you may still be going through those times, and I only wish I could reach my hand through this screen and give your shoulder a little squeeze, wouldn't that be nice, hmm, maybe it wouldn't, can you imagine if you booted up your computer and all these arms came out, wiggling around? Doesn't bear thinking about - I digress - this loneliness that we have suffered was still on the planet Earth, it was a recognisable, common emotion. We could have been rescued at any time. These necrophiles though, the loneliness of these guys is a cold cold moon of Pluto. They are off the scale of ordinary inabilities to communicate, to invite affection, they are the antimatter of human dalliance. They make autists look like quiz-show comperes. The only date they've been on is where they shoot em in the back of the head and lug em home. That's a date. Of sorts. Now Lester Ballard, if he could only of met a nice girl some time in his early life and could of settled down somewhat, it may have been the making of him. But he never met the right gal. And he took the wrong turn in life. The way it goes sometimes.

Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
March 5, 2018
Great day in the morning! He is making me homesick! Just the speech patterns which McCarthy nails. It reminded me of River's Edge although the movie seems mild by comparison. Maybe, I'm just grateful that it used an inflatable doll.


Dennis Hopper as Feck and Daniel Roebuck as Samson "John" Tollet from River's Edge (1987)
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews692 followers
June 17, 2016
There is something inherently wrong with Lester Ballard. As he skulks through the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee, a hunting rifle is his only companion. Ballard's skewed thinking, awkward ways, and repugnant proclivities render him unfit to be around other people. Darkly disturbing, fascinating and repellent. Another walk in the dark with Cormac McCarthy. This is his territory.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,949 reviews615 followers
September 7, 2023
Lester Ballard is a strange guy, a marginal. Armed with his rifle, which he never leaves, almost the extension of his arm, he wanders in the forest. Half-wild, a little crazy, Vagabond lives in a cave, hunting the squirrel for food. And sometimes, it takes him; he kills. He kills strangers for whom an unfortunate chance has been placed on his way without effect, emotion, or anger. He shoots, driven by his instinct, an animal instinct. And sometimes, he relieves his frustration on the corpse of a woman. But, as Lester Ballard moves away from civilization, alone and miserable, with more and more animals, he sinks into madness.
This theme treated by another person would have sunk into vulgarity and ease. But Cormac McCarthy is not just any writer. McCarthy is a demanding author.
His story is dark, gloomy, and desperate, but he never falls into secure trash and lust. There is no linear plot. Instead, the story resembles the life of Lester Ballard, a wandering, aimlessly guided by chance. McCarthy correctly handles the art of the ellipse.
McCarthy's writing is stripped-down, straightforward, and beautiful in simplicity. Yet, under his pen, ugliness is sublimated, and the sordid is born with intense poetry and violence as the nature he describes so well.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
November 13, 2013
Child of God: Cormac McCarthy's Outcast

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First edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1973

"He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.

The setting is Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s. Our protagonist is twenty-seven. He is an orphan. His life between the suicide of his father and the loss of his home is an unanswered question. We are dropped into his story in medias res in the finest Faulkner style. As the story opens, the small, unclean, unshaven man watches his home place go on the auction block.

I have a long and uncomfortable history with Cormac McCarthy. He has repeatedly held me breathless with his novels full of violence and human degradation. But he has said that these are usual conditions of life. I cannot argue with him.

Consider Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the Ted Bundys of this world. I am constantly reminded of the words of John Steinbeck from East of Eden: "You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.”

Child of God is McCarthy's third novel, published in 1973. I had read three of what I call his "Southern Quartet." However, this one remained on the shelf. Call it taking a hiatus. Or, call it a necessary breather, particularly after being wrung by the neck by Outer Dark.

It took the novel being selected for a group read by members of "On the Southern Literary Trail" to cause me to begin to turn the pages. I began last night. It was after 10:00 when I turned to the first page. I turned the last around 3:30 this morning. McCarthy had done it again. I was drained. Sleep refused to come to me. I do not know when I drifted off to sleep.

How can one like a novel about a murderer who exercises his lust on his victims? It is a testament to the craft of McCarthy. He unflinchingly portrays the life and tragedy of Lester Ballard.

 photo LeroyBallard_zpse91dbc00.jpg
Scott Haze as Leroy Ballard in James Franco's film, "Child of God," 2013

It is discomforting that he builds sympathy for this devil. However, McCarthy does not ask forgiveness for him.

In the final analysis, we confront the question,"Is man the product of nature or nurture?" While every man may be a child of God, it is the lack of, or indifference of community that unleashes a monster. Nor should that assertion be taken as an excuse for the behavior of McCarthy's Lester Ballard.

Harold Bloom named Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West the most disturbing book he ever read. Disturbing, yes. However, it is Child of God that claims that spot on the shelf for me.

How many times have you walked past a stranger and not acknowledged their presence? Or, how many times have you made assumptions about a person based on their appearance, small, uncleaned, unshaven?

Unavoidably I am drawn to a poem by Marie Howe, "The Star Market," in her collection The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems.

"The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat—
looking for cereal and spring water.

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.

If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought,
could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?"


My reviews of McCarthy's other works in his Southern Quartet may be found at, The Orchard Keeper, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Outer Dark, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and, Suttree, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... .
Profile Image for J. Kent Messum.
Author 5 books234 followers
August 17, 2021
How far can one book go? How objectionable can the subject matter be? What hellish level can a lead character descend to and still garner some sympathy from readers?

Well, take a southern degenerate raised in an abysmal state of affairs and trace his downward spiral into serial murder and necrophilia… that’s what McCarthy did in ‘Child of God’. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This novel is a descent into the darkness that can befall an uneducated and amoral man when left to his own devices; someone abandoned on the fringes of civilization and left to fend for themselves with what little they possess. When basic needs aren't met and baser desires are never addressed or fulfilled, the human reaction is often extreme and appalling. History has taught us this time and time again.

Lester Ballad is quite possibly one of the most reprehensible characters in modern literature, yet it is impossible to hate him completely. What made me squirm was Cormac’s ability to actually get me to relate to the lonely outcast and feel some sympathy for him, showing me the human side to a character we would all regard as subhuman. We are products of our environments, the results of upbringings and teachings. What happens to those who have been locked out of normality by the same societies that judge them?

'Child Of God' is like nothing you've ever read before. If you know anything about Cormac McCarthy, you'll know that the brilliant author is not known for holding back or giving a single shit about how "offended" you might be by some of the harsh realities humanity has to offer. Read this book and you will be shocked. You will be upset. But above all, you will be wading into territory very few writers have the fortitude to map and conquer. 'Child Of God' is a game-changer, a short novel that will push the limits of what you thought great content could be.

It is a must read for any avid adult reader; a book that is both brave and depraved at the same time. You have been welcomed. You have been warned.

This book was one of the '10 Books That Made Me Squirm' piece I wrote. See which other books made the list: https://jkentmessum.com/2014/04/14/10...
Profile Image for Lori  Keeton.
487 reviews122 followers
June 25, 2021
Well, that will certainly not be making my top 10 list this year or ever, but Cormac McCarthy is a genius writer who knew what he was doing when he wrote this. It’s not for the faint of heart with some very graphic horrors happening. Lester Ballard is depraved and perverted. Just know that if you’re squeamish, you might want to try something else by McCarthy. The Road is fantastic!
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,302 reviews450 followers
June 22, 2021
I have no words to describe this, except to say the title should have been Spawn of Satan. The horrifying thing about this novel is that I know there are real people like this walking around among us. It is a testament to McCarthy's talent that I kept reading till the end. Not one I will ever read again.
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
285 reviews82 followers
April 30, 2022

“You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said. The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said. I don’t. I think people are the same from the day God first made one.”

Initial Thoughts

After reading Cormac McCarthy’s sensationally bleak masterpiece The Road last month, and being absolutely blown away by it, I was desperate to read more from this highly regarded author. Having only just becoming acquainted with him, I feel like I’m now making up for lost time having finally found my soulmate. This was after initially being put off by talk of his unique style that contained almost poetic descriptions and shunned punctuation. If ever there was an example of needing to experience things for yourself, this was it. I absolutely loved his original and raw style.

Child of God is a short novel, only consisting of 186 pages, that is well known for being dark and disturbing. To be honest that’s what got me interested in the first place. Then, after listening to an interview with one of my favourite authors, Donald Ray Pollock, in which he thoroughly recommended it, I decided this would be my next McCarthy.

The Story

The story begins with our chief protagonist, Lester Ballard, raging at the auction of his recently deceased father’s property. Lester is portrayed as depraved and extremely volatile, and when rage seems to be finally getting the better of him a member of the crowd unceremoniously bonks him on the head with the blunt of an axe.

From that point events take a downward slide for Lester as he skirts around the edges of society as he lives rough and spies on his neighbours, eventually coming across an abandoned shack where he can operate from. Over the course of this story I witnessed this already marginalised individual transcend into a
feral state while committing some horrific acts.

There are some absolutely shocking moments in this, absolutely repulsive. From necrophilia to the murder of a small child. You need to be prepared for some truly awful stuff. But all this nastiness is a vehicle which McCarthy uses to drive you through some very dark themes with purpose and direction.

The Writing

As I've already said, my experience of McCarthy is limited to that amazing piece of post apocalyptic fiction...the Road. But Child of God contains that signature writing style that has a wholly unique grammatical approach. He really does his own thing and in doing so gets huge respect from me. McCarthy really does dare to be different.

"Whatever voice spoke him was no demon but some old shed self that came yet from time to time in the name of sanity, a hand to gentle him back from the rim of his disastrous wrath."

The sentences are broken up and fragmented, but layered with excellent description and some vivid imagery. McCarthy really goes out his way to make this story brutal and authentic, but at the same time hits you with some down right beautiful prose that's a fantastic contrast to the dark symbolism. There's one part where the townspeople hunt Lester through a series of catacombs and you can literally feel the claustrophobia.

Through his writing, we see that this author has a sharp insight into human psychology as he delves into the psyche of his characters. The devolution of his main character and the perception of those around him. In doing so McCarthy really works his way into your brain as he provides some shock treatment that will linger in your brain for months after you've finished this short but impactful novel.

The Characters

The main character of Lester Ballard is the focus of this one and it's a real character study. He is the furthest thing from a Child of God as we see him become an ungodly presence that commits all manner of atrocities, wreaking havoc across the land.

As the story progresses and we witness these despicable acts, McCarthy creates a transformation in his character as he becomes something more primitive. We see a psychological collapse as Lester reverts to an animalistic way of living and behaviour.

Already on the fringes of society, Lester quickly becomes a social outcast. Isolated and alone we see him give in to his dark desires and act purely on impulse as he reverts to brute force to fulfill these urges. A stark reminder of what can happen when the protective framework of a society is lost.

Final Thoughts

As you can tell I really enjoyed this shocking tale of one man's descent into the depths of darkness. There really is some shockingly horrible events but the skill McCarthy uses to weave it all together compelled me to keep reading. It's like watching a car crash and being horrified by what you see but not being able to look away.

"He had resolved himself to ride on for he could not turn back and the world that day was as lovely as any day that ever was and he was riding to his death."

As always with this author there's some clear themes contained within. The distinction between good and evil and wether they really exist. Or is there the potential for both within each of us that is in a constant balance.

We also get to see the world through the eyes of a deranged killer and it's always fascinating to have that insight. I'm always fascinated reading stories from this perspective and Child of God does not disappoint. McCarthy doesn't dress it up and sugar coated. Its brutal, it's vile and it's well worth a read. I'm convinced we have a truly great writer here and I'm excited to read more from him. Hope you feel the same. Cheers!

The one, the only...Cormac McCarthy

“McCarthy puts most other American writers to shame. His work itself repays the tight focus of his attention with its finely wrought craftsmanship and its ferocious energy.”—The New York Times Book Review
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,732 followers
July 5, 2016
“He did not know how hawks mated but he knew that all things fought.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Child of God


And HE has sent me here?*

Look, I've read a lot (ok all) of Cormac McCarthy and this is not your mother's McCarthy. I think this novel was the final pupa-state before McCarthy emerged as THE absolute dark monster of American fiction and heir to Faulkner's title of ambassador to the strange malevolence of America's soul.

It wasn't as absurdly redeeming as Suttree or as coldly beautiful as Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, but had the surreal shock and awe of both. His themes of isolation, perversity, depravity and violence make you feel like climbing into bed with Hannibal Lector or Jame Gumb for warmth and spiritual succor. A great novel, just not a novel that everyone should read. Wander into the dark, damp cave of this McCarthy novel at your own damn risk.

* Sorry, this is sorta an inside joke. There is an old Mormon children's song called "I am a Child of God." The title of this book just always reminds me of that innocent and rather wholesome nugget from my youth. The contrast and juxtaposition (for me at least) with the book is spectacular.

Profile Image for *TANYA*.
1,002 reviews313 followers
November 13, 2017
Creeeeepy!!! I couldn’t help but think of Ed Gein while reading this book. Yuck!! Very morbidly entertaining. Lol.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,487 reviews7,785 followers
September 5, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

3.5 Stars

Allow me to introduce you to my new boyfriend, Lester Ballard . . . .

Ha! Just kidding. There’s apparently even a limit to how weird I like ‘em. However, just in case you think Mitchell and I are slipping, please note that this title was added to the TBR once we discovered it was about a necrophile, which is basically our literary equivalent to . . . .

As I said before, the story here is about a man named Lester Ballard . . . .

“A child of God much like yourself perhaps.”

^ That simple little phrase might end up being one of the most thought-provoking ones I’ll ever read.

Much like other experiences with Cormac McCarthy, we readers are kind of plunked down in the middle of the goings on. With right at 200 pages, you don’t get a lot of Lester’s history. You know his mother left when he was a boy and that his father hung himself. Child of God picks up as Lester’s family home is being auctioned off – complete with the old noose still swinging in the background. To say things go downhill for Lester from there would be the understatement of the century because by Part II . . . .

The more you get into the story, the more you get acquainted with Lester’s neighbor, the dumpkeeper, and his bevy of female children and you get to meet some of Lester’s gal pals as well. Let’s just leave it with those girls are . . . .

If you don’t enjoy McCarthy’s style of writing, the shock and awe factor won’t be enough to turn you into a fan because it is still sparse and he is still allergic to quotation marks. Really, even if you do enjoy McCarthy’s style of writing, the sheer amount of shock and awe factor contained in this one might turn your stomach and turn you away from picking up his stuff in the future. As for me? I have to say McCarthy did a pretty freaking stellar job writing Lester Ballard, since I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him at times. I'm also haunted by the question that begs to be answered – was the man born a monster or was it man who turned him into a monster?

I’d normally be inclined to give this one 3 Stars but I’m going ahead and rounding it up to 4 simply for the fact that McCarthy is so ready to embrace the muses and go wherever they lead him – no matter how vile the subject matter.
Profile Image for Dez the Bookworm.
280 reviews114 followers
January 12, 2023
If you’ve read “The Road” by this author and loved it, this isn’t the same. Let me just say that right now.

This was recommended to me by the store employee and my word I wished I had not listened. Having read “The Road” and finding it interesting, I wanted to give another work by this author a try. The writing is not artistic like that novel either.

I can handle gore, but this is a WHOLE other level. Graphic and disturbing. Animal mutilation, rape, incest, necrophilia, murder of children and the entire story is laced around sex.

If you like immensely dark and disturbing, to include everything I mentioned above, you might like this. If not, steer clear.
Profile Image for Edward.
377 reviews1,013 followers
April 10, 2021
An intense and downright repulsive character study. Beautiful writing as always from McCarthy.
Profile Image for Matt.
94 reviews310 followers
August 29, 2008
'Child of God' is the third McCarthy book that I have read over the past few weeks. I usually try to stay away from any kind of review or description of a book just prior to reading, but I had recently come across the fact that this was supposed to be McCarthy's darkest work.

Boy, I'll say.

This book will make you feel like you need a long shower afterwards. I believe that this was the same affect that Ellis was going for in 'American Psycho', but I think that McCarthy out-Batemaned him on this one. This book caused many more squirmy moments for me than 'American Psycho' did. The reason for the four stars is because of McCarthy's writing style. He intrigues me as a writer because his prose seems to be very sparse, yet at the same time oddly descriptive. In any given scene he seems to focus on the things that no other writer would focus on, and this gives his work a certain eerieness.

'Child of God' evidently falls into what is known as McCarthy's "Appalachian Period". What this means as far as this book is that we get to witness the ugliness of life that is brought about by extreme poverty and ignorance with little possibility of a reprieve from either. Leading the charge is main character Lester Ballard, who is on a real redneck rampage. Imagine the character of Ernest T. Bass from the Andy Griffith show and Buffalo Bill from 'Silence of the Lambs' having a love child. Then imagine this child having all of the charm and warmth of the toothless fellow that defiled Ned Beatty and his tighty whities in 'Deliverance' and you pretty much have a composite sketch of Lester Ballard.

The tone of the story reminded me of 'No Country For Old Men' in that it is basically McCarthy saying "here's a disturbing story, let's take a closer look...". The sheriff in this one is not as fleshed out as a character as the one in 'No Country', so I didn't even pick up on any higher moral messages that may have been afoot.

Basically, if you like McCarthy beyond the sphere of Oprah, you have probably already read this book. If you like that squirmy feeling that arises during off-kilter scenes of violence and sex, by all means give this one a try.

Now it's time for a couple of tangents for my own amusement...

First, does anyone else have a fixed mental image of a writer when reading a literary work? The most obvious example of this would be the one picture everyone has seen of Poe or Emily Dickinson. My mental image of McCarthy was always that of the wisened old guy of amazing reproductive prowess. If you don't know the one I speak of, go to the quotes section and type in his name. However, I learned from the back cover of this book that back in the Seventies he was the John Holmes of reclusive, literary types. If you care to see for yourself, here's a link...

Second and more seriously, I am intrigued by the potential history of a book. If it's used or from the library I always wonder who else has held this book and what did it mean to them? Of course at the same time I am hoping against hope that it was not a nose-picker or chronic pimple-popper, and so it goes. The reason for bringing this up is because I checked this book out from the same library that I often frequented as a small child. The copyright is 1973 and the library stamp is 1974, so the book has been there almost as long as i've been alive. I'm just curious how many times I may have tottered past the shelf on my way to play with the puppets or check out 'The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins' for the twenty-seventh time completely unaware of this little seething slab of darkness that awaited. Also, this town is the epitome of conservatism and fundamentalism (rush limbaugh grew up here, if that gives you a clue) so what the heck is this book doing in our library? The only other McCarthy books that they have in stock are the "Big Three" from the last few years. Was the person in charge of ordering books in '74 simply unaware, or was it all a part of a plan to throw a monkey wrench in the system? Alas, some questions can never be answered and all self-indulgences (including this one) must come to an end.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book565 followers
June 22, 2021
Lester Ballard is one sick puppy.

This is so sick you almost hate to like it. But it is masterfully written and you cannot deny the skill and genius behind it. It is Cormac McCarthy. Don't read it with a full stomach. Enough said.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
September 2, 2021
Such a Cute Little Novel about a Cave-Dwelling Necrophiliac Murderer

The narrator of this short novel describes the main character, Lester Ballard, as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." A 27-year-old hillbilly outcast in 1960s, Sevier County (Smoky Mountains), Tennessee. He had no parents, recently lost his home and cannot carry on normal relationships with women. When he finds a couple dead in a parked car, he takes the woman with him to be his necro-concubine in a house in which he's squatting. When the house burns down, along with the woman's corpse, he goes out to harvest other women to meet his needs by shooting/killing them and taking their corpses to a cave in which he takes up residence.

The writing was good, covering themes of violent cruelty, sexual deviancy and moral degradation., but it's a difficult read because McCarthy experimented with various styles and didn't use quotation marks.

I cannot recommend this unless you feel compelled to read the entire McCarthy collection.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cody.
536 reviews192 followers
October 9, 2021
Per the proposed new GR rating system: 4 goatheads; 4 pentagramatical swords; color: heliotrope!


Goddamn, look at me feeling all sentimental! Maybe it’s because I hadn’t read this book in nearly 20-years, or because I’ve just generally been on a Southern Gothic kick as of late, but I’m giving this bastard a grade it really doesn’t deserve. Why? Why not! It’s just all so much fun, so obviously intended to pick up the impossible legacy that Flannery O’Connor left behind. Had O’Connor’s preternaturally-attenuated hand penned the same story, it would have been one for the ages—this breed of Southern arboreal satyr was her default tonic key, F(uckingNuts)#maj. Make no mistake: McCarthy is stealing from the Mistress here and the fruit is largely ripe. That isn’t meant as a swipe; this was the last necessary growing pain that enabled Suttree, and McCarthy with it, to emerge so masterfully a few more blood drops down that willow-canopied road.

McCarthy does come up with some fantastic framing devices, interstitial chapterettes that read like bad true crime television interviews (‘I mean, shoot, Wilbur and Wilma loved my Jell-O molds…and boiling people alive, apparently.’) There’s no point getting into the plot, as this review is already threatening to have a higher word count than the novel itself (let’s just say Random House paginated generously). You honestly could have read twenty-five percent of the book by the time you finish this sentence. Now twenty-seven percent.

So I’ll say this: if you think, like I certainly do, that more books could benefit from hillbilly ghouls ticking scratchscratchscratch against the lens of your eyeball with the yellowed filepoints of their fingertips, then Child of God be with you. But first ask yourself this: are you prepared to never conceptualize stuffed animals innocently again? Good. Then I leave you with the greatest metaphysical/ontological question that the inestimable and epoch-defining German philosopher Glenn-heinz Danzig challenged the 20th century with: “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?”
Profile Image for Melody.
1,194 reviews337 followers
May 2, 2009
This is one of those books that, when you read it, and really like it, it makes you wonder if you should be worried about yourself.

I mean it’s kind of like finding something brown and wondering if it might be chocolate and tasting it and discovering that it really is something vile and disgusting. But then you should have known better. I mean you found the brown thing on the floor, so there was no way you REALLY could have been expecting chocolate and then, Oh look! There’s another something brown and you taste it again!

I mean this book is written by Cormac McCarthy – so I knew what it would be like. The main character is like those people you try to avoid in The Road but this book takes place before whatever catastrophic happening brings down civilization. There’s necrophilia, incest, cross-dressing with a creepy twist and plenty of stinky bathroom references. But I might just read it again.

If you like this you should also read And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave and Ironweed by William Kennedy.
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
529 reviews284 followers
September 17, 2021
Going up a track of a road through the quarry woods where all about lay enormous blocks and tablets of stone weathered gray and grown with deep green moss, toppled monoliths among the trees and vines like traces of an older race of man. This rainy summer day. He passed a dark lake of silent jade where the moss walls rose sheer and plumb and a small blue bird sat slant upon a guywire in the void.

Ballard leveled the rifle at the bird but something of an old foreboding made him hold. Mayhaps the bird felt it too. It flew. Small. Tiny. Gone.

Some of us are born luckless. It makes us rot.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
905 reviews136 followers
March 31, 2022
Not My Cup of Tea

If this had not been a McCarthy book I would not have read it, not because it was violent, but because it took on a different kind of sickness, that of killing women in order to have sex with them. At least they can’t complain to their rapist. Thank God the audio was only 3 hours long. And I must say, the writing was not the best, nothing like “The Road: or “Suttree, or even “No Country for Old Men,” which means, to me, it had no artistic value. And now I can say that I have read every McCarthy book outside of his plays, which I do not plan to read.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews865 followers
November 7, 2013
There was two main reasons for re-reading this novel in the month of October 2012, one was due to reading William Gay's novel The provinces of night of which the title is taken from the opening sentence of a chapter from this novel. The second reason was Donald Ray Pollock's recommendation to read this in a recent interview I had with him.
I am now more convinced that we have in our midst a great writer. In the first read of this and The Road I payed less attention to the prose and the whole way it was presented, and due to this it did not fare as well as it did now.

This story is the opposite to what the title may lead you to believe it is about, the main character is ungodly almost like he is a devilish entity creating havoc across the land.
McCarthy has crafted together a story successfully with master craftsmanship, containing a subject matter that is at times one of the most brutal and gruesome you would read of in a story.
This story reads like it was penned as a collaborative work by Jim Thompson and William Faulkner. Reminiscent of a recent good story with a similar darkness, The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.

The main protagonist is a an individual whose disturbed, a sociopath, who does the unspeakable with the dead.
There are shocking moments, repulsive and bizarre, in one place in the story he carried off a dead woman, along with the squirrels he hunted, to a resting place to partake in unspeakable acts.
He also has the murder of a child to his name, there is yonder much toil, blood, and darkness.
The tale is shockingly, vivid, and terrible in content, but told in great sentences, with words in the right places.
Told by an author who can make the groutesque and terrible beautiful with his lyrical craftmanship.
The right length of novel that would linger in your mind either in shock or awe.

"To watch these things issuing from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps. Wasps pass in a through the laddered light from the barnslats in a succession of strobic moments, gold and trembling between black and black, like fireflies in the serried upper gloom."

"Among the pines on the ridge the sound of the autioneer's voice echoed muted, redundant. An illusion of multiple voices, a ghost chorus among old ruins."

"Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them. Lying with his fingers plugged in the bores of his ears against the strident cheeping of the myriad black crickets with which he kept household in the barren cabin. One night on his pallet while half asleep he heard something scamper through the room and vault ghostly (he saw, struggling erect) through the open window. He sat there looking after it but it was gone. He could hear foxhounds in full cry, tortured wails and yelps nigh unto agony coming up the creek, up the valley. They flooded into the cabin yard in a pandemonium of soprano howls and crashing brush."

"Going up a track of a road through the quarry woods where all about lay enormous blocks and tablets of stone weathered gray and grown with deep green mots, toppled monoliths among the trees and vines like traces of an older race of man. This rainy summer day. He passed a dark lake of silent fade where the moss walls rose sheer and plumb and a small blue bird sat slant upon a guywire in the void."

" He had that rifle from when he was just almost a boy. He worked for old man Whaley settln fenceposts at eight cents a post to buy it. Told me he quit midmornin right in the middle of the field the day he got enough money. I don't remember what he give for it but I think it come to over seven hundred posts.
Ill say one thing He could by god shoot it. Hit anything he could see. I seen him shoot a spider out of a web in the top of a big redoak one time and we was far from the tree as from here to the road yonder. They run him off out at the fair one time. Wouldn't let him shoot no more."

"He would arrange her in different positions and go out and peer in the window at her. After a while he just sat holding her, his hands feeling her body under the new clothes. He undressed her very slowly, talking to her. Then he pulled off his trousers and lay next to her..."
Profile Image for Faith.
1,904 reviews534 followers
March 3, 2022
A long list of violence, depravity and general nastiness. OK, so Lester is criminally insane, but what is the excuse of the author? Why exactly did he want to tell this story of human-on-human, human-on-animal, animal-on-human and animal-on-animal violence? When the kid bit the legs off of the bird, I should have quit. It got worse. I like this author, and the narrator of the audiobook did a great job, but this is just sick. Fortunately, the book is short.
Profile Image for Laura.
828 reviews256 followers
June 13, 2021
I loved this book. But before you go and add it to your must read list this isn't some cozy, happy, feel good book. However, if you like the feeling of unease, awkwardness, uncomfortable, edgy, strained, restless, troubled, anxious, rattled, twitchy and discombobulated then this is a "must-read". McCarthy has a way of painting a picture so vividly whether you want a vivid picture or not. One can only imagine how he came up with this Lester Ballard character.
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