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Outer Dark

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  14,779 ratings  ·  1,192 reviews
A woman bears her brother's child, a boy, the brother 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 through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying strangers, toward an apocalyptic resolution.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 3rd 2007 by Picador USA (first published 1968)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  14,779 ratings  ·  1,192 reviews

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This is my third Cormac McCarthy book. First one was The Road, which is without a doubt one of the best books I ever read, it had a great impact on me. Second was No country for old men, after seeing the movie and discovering this story was also written by McCarthy I felt the need to read the story too to fully grasp its meanings. McCarthy writes dark, incredible, fascinating stories, Outer Dark is no exception. I find his writing and style very powerful, very expressive, beautiful, clear senten ...more
Mike Puma
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it

***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

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
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not for the squeamish
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, refusin
Diane Barnes
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure about this book. I read "All the Pretty Horses" many years ago and didn't care for it. I tried "Suttree" and put it down after a couple of chapters. I liked "The Orchard Keeper", but it wasn't his typical dark, dark themes.

But maybe this one came along at just the right time in my evolution as a reader. Despite the violence and sadness, despite the intentionally evil actions of some and the wrong actions of others that were committed in innocence, this book became for me an allegor
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
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
From his earliest literary forays like 'The Orchard Keeper' and 'Suttree', it was clear that the American Novel had found its heir to Faulkner. His prose contained the same lyrical beauty and biblical gravity of his artistic predecessor, but with a harsh, often brutal clarity that was all his own.
With 'Outer Dark', he transcended the labels and comparisons, defining himself as the greatest prose stylist of his generation, framing the rough structure for his dark personal vision of America... pop
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitionally Southern Gothic

This novel should top the list in any Google search for, or be featured in any dictionary's definition of, "Southern gothic fiction." What we have here, friends, is two odysseys through a few circles like Dante's, full of nihilistic brutality, edentulous elderly, incest, cannibalism, grim reapers and angels of death, liquor, piety, grotesquery, apocalyptic ambiguities, and Biblical allegories.

You'd best wear boots when you start to readin' cuz yore fixin' to enter
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Ive seen the meanness of humans till I dont know why God aint put out the sun and gone away.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark


I keep reading Cormac McCarthy to find a single crack of light in his dark, grotesque lyricism. 'Outer Dark' was unconventional and amazing. The story was allegorical without being stiff, it was regional without being provincial. Like most of McCarthy's work it is Biblical in its power and intensity.

In 'Outer Dark', McCarthy is throwing chert boulders at the dark center of
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. H
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course, I loved it. To my great surprise, I discovered that I had not read this one while leafing through my paperbacks. Knowing this author, it foreshadows much of his later work, especially with the biblical themes of original sin, banishment from the garden, and the journey that our actions take us on. That journey is dangerous, often humorous, but always tinged with the innate cruelty residing in the heart of man. The two characters seem oblivious to their original error (incest), though ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Color rating: Crimson

Here, in this forested glade lorded over by Moloch, I could remain evermore. I place Outer Dark in one of the medaled positions of McCarthy’s entire body of work—it’s that extraordinary. There is an ephemeral otherness to the whole affair that renders it an uncommon jewel of a novel (and a bit of an outlier in comparison to his other books): you’re required to do a lot of the heavy-lifting and connect some dots yourself. As I don’t mind working for my keep, that’s more than
A brother and sister make a baby together and both end up on separate life journeys soon after the birth.

This was a weird story. I know it runs a lot deeper than my brain is wanting to go. I spent a lot of time backreading to determine if I had missed something written, only to discover that what I had missed was something indirect. I did consider bringing my review down to two stars because of this, but the author has a unique writing style that kept me engaged. What impressed me the most w
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Kirk Smith
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolute pleasure to read. Artistic perfection. The book and the author are classics!

Update after second reading. A horrible and violent story, beautifully written. No happy ending.
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014
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...

J. Kent Messum
Fiction is a funny thing. The vast majority of it is lies based on lies. Naturally, of course, since most storytelling is about invention, exaggeration, and meeting expectation. Even the "dark stuff" (horror, thrillers, dramas) on the market often still cling to the romantic overtones of heroes embarking on quests to best villains and good inevitably triumphing over evil.

The best fiction is based on the truth. However, the majority of fiction writers are terrified of real truth. Why? Because it
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;
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: lyrical-prose
I read this in one day as it was that good. I was afraid that it was going to be a really dark read with a lot of violence, and not to say that it didn't have some moments, but it was no worse than "All the Pretty Horses." So, my next book by him will be "Blood Meridian." Might as well delve into the real darkness.

It reminded me somewhat of his book "The Road" but only in that Holmes was out looking for his sister who was roaming the country trying to find their baby, and in their search they we
Nov 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
McCarthy’s Outer Dark is a dark tale (as to be expected) of a woman who goes in search of her baby, who has been taken into a forest and left for dead by her brother. Her brother is the father of this baby. What unfolds is a narrative that tracks both her and the brother on their travels searching for what they have lost. For her, it’s her child. For him, it’s her (his sister).

While the writing is beautiful, lyrical, and sparse (like all of McCarthy’s writing), the issue I take with this book i
Jul 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
As though Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire focused intently on the concentration of forces at issue in the moment of "the things I do for love."

I've read enough McCarthy to understand, I think, that his prose is almost tediously spartan for nine parts and then will bust a sudden swagger of rhetorgasm, as perhaps suggested by prior remarks on Blood Meridian.

Some examples (in addition to the quotations in the status updates):

Early foreshadowing in "the trees reared like enormous androids provoked
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
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
Peycho Kanev
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Like a sledgehammer of dried rose petals to your skull. Terrific book!
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow - just wow.

I have never experienced stories or books such as Cormac McCarthy writes. None are pretty, all reach into your chest and rip your heart out but not in a romantic sense. I read this right after Child of God which completely blew me away as did the film and it was yet another story of people who I constantly wonder about. I ponder the whole nature vs nuture debate and how these lives may have been different if circumstances were drastically different than they were. How would have l
Elena Sala
OUTER DARK (1968) has been described as a "twisted nativity". I couldn't discern what was meant by this expression until I finished the novel, and when I finally did, I was astounded. So, yes, it is a twisted nativity and any reader courageous enough to read the book will benefit from keeping this description in mind.

Culla Holme has committed incest with Rinthy and made her pregnant. They are both very young,
illiterate and desperately poor. They inhabit an isolated and impoverished landscape in
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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

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