Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Authors > Cormac McCarthy

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message 1: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) I have read some really really vehement rants against McCarthy's style, and just wanted to get some more viewpoints.

Admittedly, I've only read Blood Meridian, but it blew me away. I hadn't encountered such stunning imagery in a long time. I dunno, I guess I'm really excited to read more, but not sure what to tackle next. Also, funnily enough, I hadn't realized when I read it that it was published in '85. I assumed (for no real reason) that it was mid-90's. I don't know what this has to do with anything, but I found it interesting...has his style developed since?

I'd like to hear from the people who don't like him, and what books they've read. It seems like the negative responses all focus on the same thing--glib technical style, lack of quotation marks, etc., which I feel are lame excuses when dealing with some very beautiful language that flows even better with his curious departure from accepted standards.


message 2: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) I am in the same camp as you, Jason.... Ive only read one book by McCarthy... The Road, and that book was absolutely amazing to me. It was simply written, I couldnt put it down. It was graphic without being gross. You felt the urgency of the main characters as you were reading. I was so enthralled that I hadnt been able to put the book down at all once I had started it. I read it in one day.

I am afraid to read any of his other novels, mainly becuase i dont want to be disappointed. I cant see how any of this other books could match up with this one. But also becuase he is a bit southern/country... and im not into reading about cowboys and plains country.... so the other books dont seem to grab my interest the way The Road did.


message 3: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Yeah, that's understandable. I guess I kind of like the Western genre, especially when explored in a new way, though I haven't by any means read a lot of Western lit.

"It was graphic without being gross." If that's a concern for you, I might warn you about Blood Meridian. It's quite graphic (after all, it's based on a true band of brutal scalp hunters in the 19C), but I would give it a try anyhoo. I've heard Suttree is quite good.


message 4: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) I've got 'The Road' checked out because someone said I 'must' read that book, even if I've read nothing else of McCarthy's. Well, I have read nothing else of his; In fact, I've avoided him like the plague up until now.

I'll let you know how it goes...I feel like I'm taking one for the 'BIL' team but L's comment above has cheered me up somewhat.

For a while, when I first came to Goodreads and found this group, I had this perverse need to read all the bad books people complained about here - I was all, 'It couldn't be *that* bad, could it?' But oh yes, it could be. And was.

I had to stop. It was killing me. ;)


message 5: by T.K. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

T.K. Kenyon | 15 comments "All the Pretty Horses" is one of the very few books that I have ever stopped reading. I hated it.

It gussied up the cowboy lifestyle to some stupid, romantic ideal that it never was. Personally, I have been a cowgirl in my life. I can indeed ride a horse and rope a steer. I have competed in rodeos. I found his take stupid.

I have often considered writing a parody of McCarthy's work called "All the Pretty Chevys," a sentimental look at the romantic wanderings of the migrant field laborer.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID and CALLOUS (coming Apr 2008)
"An author to watch!" --Booklist Starred Review


message 6: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) TK, your quick denunciation sounds like you read a completely different book than what I have heard about the novel. Of course, having not read it, I don't have much to say here, but from what I've heard, it sounded like a "youth finding itself" story instead of a thorough exploration of the "cowboy lifestyle." Could the romanticization you detested been purposeful?

Also, while Blood Meridian wasn't about cowboys per se, it definitely did not romanticize anything about the Western lifestyle. Of course, it takes place about a century before Pretty Horses--do you think that time difference might mean something? I guess I'm just looking for a little more explanation other than "stupid"--was it purely your personal experience that turned you off?

And just for the sake of argument...I would say the cowboy lifestyle has been romanticized for generations now. Whether or not these depictions are at all true to life does not diminish the fact that they are deeply embedded in our national consciousness. Perhaps McCarthy was trying to respond to this?

Hmm...now I really want to read the book...


message 7: by Schnaucl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Schnaucl | 5 comments I've only read The Road - -which I hated.

I would disagree that lack of quotation marks is not a valid reason to stop reading a book or to not like it. It certainly wasn't the only reason I didn't like the book, but I do feel like if you're going to ignore the rules of grammar you have to a) be an phenomenal writer, and b) never ever make things more confusing as a result.

If you're going to ignore the rules of grammar you have to be so amazing that I'm not spending the majority of my time being annoyed that the rules of grammar are not being obeyed. He didn't accomplish that for me and occasionally things were more confusing because of the lack of standard grammar.

I don't know about his other books, but the characters in The Road are never given names. They are simply "The Man" "The Boy" etc. I find it very difficult to invest in characters when they don't even have names. I don't mind The Man and The Boy in a children's book, but that's 30 pages long.

The characters really did feel shallow to me. I'm sure they were supposed to be beaten down by circumstances and numb themselves but it doesn't make for interesting reading.

My number one complaint about this book (other than the distracting grammar - - and really, that kind of thing always makes me think the author has a huge ego) is that it read like one long stream of consciousness. I finished it only because I was stuck on a plane and had already finished my other book. Otherwise I probably would have stopped and I rarely stop reading a book I've started.

If you're into stream of consciousness (and some people are, more power to them) I think you'll like The Road. Ditto if you find playing with grammar/style charming rather than distracting or annoying. I would also recommend this book to people who enjoy a very sparse style (I can go either way with that one).


message 8: by karen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

karen (karenbrissette) ive read 'em all except the road. im saving that one. i always try to save one book by an author i love, just in case. when i first discovered cormac mccarthy, i made the mistake of reading them all in a row, and when they were all gone,i wanted more, but then hew didnt write a book for many many years and i was worried that there would never be another one because, lets be honest, hes an older man. so my new policy is that i reserve one title just in case i need one. but for a recommendation - suttree is the one i like the most, its very different from the other ones. if your gripe is that his writing is too spare, this one isnt like that at all. this one is more like faulkner, but a faulkner who is fun to read. its beautiful and lambent and perfect. i know you wanted to hear from someone who didnt like him, but i wandered in anyway. sorry. go read suttree. its one of my favorite books of all time. the early ones are fine, the border trilogy is fine, blood meridian and suttree are perfect.


message 9: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Can you tell how bored I am with these quick responses...? anyhoo...

Schnaucl: I suppose you make some valid points. I read a few pages of The Road but did not have the time to commit to it, though I noticed immediately the style was dramatically different than Blood Meridian. I can see how his choice to maintain the minimalist grammar would not work as well with that sparse style. Perhaps he assumed that people would be used to it, having read his other work? Or perhaps he is just getting lazy? I think the style worked amazingly well in Blood Meridian which read to me more like an epic poem than a novel. As far as the generic names, I suppose that was a choice he made for a very specific reason that didn't work for you. I guess I'll have to see if it bothers me as well. Generalizing, it seems when authors do that they are trying to get at something "bigger" than the plot, perhaps allegorizing (is that not a word?).

As far as stream of consciousness, you make a good point. I think three years ago I would not have been able to get through his book. I can't do Faulkner, not a big fan of Joyce, Woolf is tiresome. I think, perhaps, my newfound love of Queneau, Calvino, Perec, et al has helped my ability to appreciate experimental styles.


message 10: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Thank you, Karen. I've heard similar praise for Suttree. I think it will be next. Though you may be saving it, I really want you to read the Road so you can compare for me!! Alas...I shall have to find someone else.

To you and Schnaucl: After reading Blood Meridian I thought I might be able to take another stab at Faulkner. "A Faulkner that is fun to read" is not a very enticing recommendation, however....


message 11: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) Regarding the nameless characters in The Road... I have to say that I thought that was a very important move by the author. By removing names, and landmarks as well, you are left with the basics of the novel, its skin and bones, the essence of a destroyed world, two people who only have each other, dependant on each other, trying to survive for one another. I believe that is also the reason he went with a minimalist writing style (dropping common punctuation). I do not feel he did that out of laziness.

I think if it had been written any other way, it would have distracted the reader from the heart of the story. I feel his message to us was that all of those things - names, what we give one another, what we give to THINGS - its all pointless in the end. We would forget what it all stands for if all we had to think about was survival.

Notice also that the author never tells us what the major catastrophe was that rendered the world so unlivable.... I think that, also, was pointless in his eyes. Who cares what caused the land to be covered in ash, to end civilization as we knew it.... its too late for that. We were pulled into the here and now, following this unknown man and his son. I thought it was beautiful and tragic.

(now im stepping off my soapbox!)


message 12: by Dustin (new)

Dustin | 5 comments I'll chime in here, even though this discussion is two months old. I've read "All the pretty horses" and "The Road" and I'm currently reading "Blood Meridian"; I tried "The Crossing" but it was too obnoxious. I kind of love and hate McCarthy. He comes up with great stories and then he mucks it all up with bad writing. He can write beautifully, sure, but he can also write some awful clunkers, he can be verbose and arrogant and absolutely nonsensical. What was great about "The Road" was its sparsity; in the other two I've read, his more "western" novels, he is going for some kind of epic grandeur and so he writes in an arcane style that he misuses and abuses. The epic grandeur should be conveyed to us, not forced on us with awkward syntax and poor grammar.

Also, in "Blood Meridian", I keep feeling like the narrative stance is completely out of control. I'm not sure that the story I'm being told has any coherent point, and the liberal use of racial epithets seems to have no reasonable narrative design. I think he's pretty overrated.


message 13: by Judy (new)

Judy (judy5cents) | 26 comments When I saw the name of this group "Books I Loathed," I immediately thought of Cormack McCarthy. A couple years ago, I checked "All The Pretty Horses" out of the library and gave up after a hundred pages or so. If I hadn't heard what a Great Writer he was, I'd have quit after twenty.

I enjoyed reading my economics text book more. I remember one of McCarthy's sentences that went on for half a page, recounting (I think) a train going by. There was also a part where he waxed poetic about the cowboys vomiting after a night of heavy drinking. Charming.

Publisher's Weekly says this book is "exuberent in its prose." I could have done with a lot less exuberent prose, and maybe a bit more plot.


message 14: by Jason (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Yeah, plot isn't his big thing, as far as I can tell. Have finished Suttree since this thread began. Did not love it as much as Blood Meridian, but was still enchanted. He's depressing and relentless in his sordid view of life, but something about him just grips me.

People looking for straightforward storytelling, with a traditional novel structure are looking in the wrong place.


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