Category: Cormac McCarthy

book review – Outer Dark


This was an incredibly easy book to get through despite the subject matter. Despite the italicised start and the slight disorientation that comes from a complete absence of quote marks that is the Cormac McCarthy style the story gets you early on.

The themes that seem to run through his work include traveling down roads searching for something and coping with extreme almost supernatural violence.

Outer Dark has doses of both with a brother and sister giving birth to a son from their incestuous relationship that seems to be one of hate by the time the child comes and possibly was never one of love just forged out of boredom or possibly rape and violence.

The siblings live in a run down shack and the day she gives birth a tinker comes calling and it is he who discovers the abandoned child in the glade that the father chooses to dump it in.

The mother does not believe her brother’s explanation of the infant’s death and a hunt then starts for the child. She wanders looking for the tinker and then her brother wanders looking for her.

The siblings wander through an America at the turn of the last century with work available for those prepared to sweat in the fields but suspicion as well as madness waiting for them as they pass from settlement to settlement.

Complicating the search for the tinker is the shadow cast by mysterious men who seem to cross the path of the brother and murder and engage in cannibalism. Who are they and what do they want? Those questions become more important as the dark horsemen get closer to intersecting with the siblings and the lost child.

The world that McCarthy describes is one that works on different planes with the landscape holding as many secrets as the people. When Holme crosses on the ferry and the cable snaps in a storm the elements as much as the mean spirited ferry driver are against Holme.

As the siblings go down their separate roads they draw nearer to a climax that not only leads to the child but also the destruction of their relationship. The sister finds the tinker but it is the mysterious riders who find the child and Holme and in the end the sister just finds ashes marking the end of her journey.

In a way this sets out all of the themes of his work – a journey, a road, violence, potentially a brush with something supernatural and an America that is lost.

Version read – Picador paperback

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book review – Outer Dark


This was an incredibly easy book to get through despite the subject matter. Despite the italicised start and the slight disorientation that comes from a complete absence of quote marks that is the Cormac McCarthy style the story gets you early on.

The themes that seem to run through his work include traveling down roads searching for something and coping with extreme almost supernatural violence.

Outer Dark has doses of both with a brother and sister giving birth to a son from their incestuous relationship that seems to be one of hate by the time the child comes and possibly was never one of love just forged out of boredom or possibly rape and violence.

The siblings live in a run down shack and the day she gives birth a tinker comes calling and it is he who discovers the abandoned child in the glade that the father chooses to dump it in.

The mother does not believe her brother’s explanation of the infant’s death and a hunt then starts for the child. She wanders looking for the tinker and then her brother wanders looking for her.

The siblings wander through an America at the turn of the last century with work available for those prepared to sweat in the fields but suspicion as well as madness waiting for them as they pass from settlement to settlement.

Complicating the search for the tinker is the shadow cast by mysterious men who seem to cross the path of the brother and murder and engage in cannibalism. Who are they and what do they want? Those questions become more important as the dark horsemen get closer to intersecting with the siblings and the lost child.

The world that McCarthy describes is one that works on different planes with the landscape holding as many secrets as the people. When Holme crosses on the ferry and the cable snaps in a storm the elements as much as the mean spirited ferry driver are against Holme.

As the siblings go down their separate roads they draw nearer to a climax that not only leads to the child but also the destruction of their relationship. The sister finds the tinker but it is the mysterious riders who find the child and Holme and in the end the sister just finds ashes marking the end of her journey.

In a way this sets out all of the themes of his work – a journey, a road, violence, potentially a brush with something supernatural and an America that is lost.

Version read – Picador paperback

Outer Dark – post III

There is a scene towards the end of the book that turns out to be the climax of the hunt for the missing child. The three mysterious men who have been travelling the road that Holme and his sister have been wandering along are discovered in a glade having found the tinker and the infant.

The tinker is not in the land of the living anymore and the child has been rolled too close to the fire at some point and has half of his face burnt and is missing an eye.

Holme attempts to act with indifference but when he is told to hand over the child he does so without too much resistance and then watches as its throat is cut and one of the men then plunges his mouth into the fatal wound.

The sister arrives but too late to find anything other than charred bones and a scene of desolation. The tinker has become the fodder for the birds and the journey comes to an end.

But the book doesn’t come to an end until there is a literal metaphor about the end of the road and the dangers of being blind to the dangers of the road. In a sense it reminds you of The Road with the echoes of cannibalism and the road leading nowhere but to death.

A review will follow soon…

Outer Dark – post II

The brother is hunting the sister and she is hunting their child. Chapters alternate with their progress with both begging for food and work as they struggle along the road that they hope will carry them to a conclusion.

Around the brother in particular negative things start to happen. Having stolen the squire’s boots he has to roam wifely to escape justice but is tracked by men who seem intent on killing him.

For now they have gone and the focus is on the sister but the threat of them has not gone away and they might remerge. In this turn of the century world hospitality is forthcoming to both siblings but without a family or a wedding ring they spark suspicion in the God fearing folk who wonder what their motivation is to be wandering so far from home.

More tomorrow…

Outer Dark – post I

Welcome back to the world of Cormac McCarthy with the italicised [passages and pages of dialogue devoid of speech marks. But also welcome back to a world on the edge where nature can be both familiar and unnatural in a split second.

The setting seems to be in a world where horses pull wagons, people live in shacks and money is tight but available to those prepared to work hard.

A brother and a sister live in a shack and she is pregnant with his child. A tinker comes calling and is brusquely shown the road by the brother who returns to a cold home with a sister going into labour.

He refuses to seek outside help and delivers his own son. While mother and child sleep he takes the baby into the woods and abandons him and then in a storm loses his way and sees the child again before stumbling home. The tinker picks up the child and although the brother tells the sister he has buried the baby after it died she digs at the earth and exposes his lie.

Her mission is to find the tinker and the child who she manages to link together. But with her brother gone, taking all the money with him, the question is not whether she will find her son but if her brother will allow her.

But for now they have both gone their separate ways.

More tomorrow…

book review – The Road


The Road is one of those books that gets talked about over a hot dog at a friends barbeque or in the pub. For most people I spoke to it was the first time they had come across Cormac McCarthy and the Pulitzer Prize and the critic’s recommendations wowed them. But one friend persuaded me to read McCarthy before the paperback of The Road came out so there was an odd route to The Road.

But it was a route worth commenting on because without reading No Country for Old Men and the Border Trilogy it would have left me at a distinct disadvantage. There are several things it takes time getting used to with McCarthy. The first is the lack of quote marks and the lack of chapter headings. The second is that you become acquainted not only with his themes – a dying age and the end of the cowboys – but also with his ability to deliver shocking violence.

Come to this without any of that understanding and it might well have forced some people off. I know of at least one person who did not stick with it and that is a shame because this is exactly what great fiction is all about. It is epic in its ambition to paint a picture of a world that is post apocalyptic and its last few inhabitants. It is focused in its characterisation basing almost the entire book on the relationship of a father and son. Plus it is clear in its message – kill the planet and something dreadful awaits us all.

The story is on the one hand quite simple with a father and son walking the road to the coast, a couple of hundred miles, dragging all they can in a cart. They search for food and other tools on the way, risking running into other survivors in the process. They stumble across a group of cannibals and almost become victims to them. But the wariness the father has all the time leads them finally to the coast. There the end comes for the father as he dies of some sort of tuberculosis type condition leaving the boy to the care of another family.

Throughout there are musings on God – does one exist in that sort of world – the past and crucially life and death. If there is nothing but death eventually then why not end it now – a choice taken by the boy’s mother. At the end of The Road you are left with numerous questions. It is surely for that reason that this book has been so highly regarded. In a world where global warming and nuclear weapons – just two ways both long and short – that we could destroy ourselves, dominate the headlines few things make you think as much as this. By painting a vivid picture of what it could be like if it all goes wrong this book should sound the alarm for all of us.

Version read – Picador paperback

book review – The Road


The Road is one of those books that gets talked about over a hot dog at a friends barbeque or in the pub. For most people I spoke to it was the first time they had come across Cormac McCarthy and the Pulitzer Prize and the critic’s recommendations wowed them. But one friend persuaded me to read McCarthy before the paperback of The Road came out so there was an odd route to The Road.

But it was a route worth commenting on because without reading No Country for Old Men and the Border Trilogy it would have left me at a distinct disadvantage. There are several things it takes time getting used to with McCarthy. The first is the lack of quote marks and the lack of chapter headings. The second is that you become acquainted not only with his themes – a dying age and the end of the cowboys – but also with his ability to deliver shocking violence.

Come to this without any of that understanding and it might well have forced some people off. I know of at least one person who did not stick with it and that is a shame because this is exactly what great fiction is all about. It is epic in its ambition to paint a picture of a world that is post apocalyptic and its last few inhabitants. It is focused in its characterisation basing almost the entire book on the relationship of a father and son. Plus it is clear in its message – kill the planet and something dreadful awaits us all.

The story is on the one hand quite simple with a father and son walking the road to the coast, a couple of hundred miles, dragging all they can in a cart. They search for food and other tools on the way, risking running into other survivors in the process. They stumble across a group of cannibals and almost become victims to them. But the wariness the father has all the time leads them finally to the coast. There the end comes for the father as he dies of some sort of tuberculosis type condition leaving the boy to the care of another family.

Throughout there are musings on God – does one exist in that sort of world – the past and crucially life and death. If there is nothing but death eventually then why not end it now – a choice taken by the boy’s mother. At the end of The Road you are left with numerous questions. It is surely for that reason that this book has been so highly regarded. In a world where global warming and nuclear weapons – just two ways both long and short – that we could destroy ourselves, dominate the headlines few things make you think as much as this. By painting a vivid picture of what it could be like if it all goes wrong this book should sound the alarm for all of us.

Version read – Picador paperback