Sunday, December 9, 2007
A Writer's Writer
It was a rainy Sunday here today, a perfect day for taking in a film with P. We spent the afternoon in a dark and sparsely populated theater watching No Country for Old Men.
A couple of summers back, I had the privilege of reviewing the Cormac McCarthy novel on which the film is based. I never tire of McCarthy's work, or of talking about it. His work has evolved over the years into an almost perfect distillation of language--his economy of description, his ability to transmit emotion with simplicity, and his skill at bringing the reader onto his stage quickly and immersing the reader fully are the gifts of a great writer. Anyone who wants to write, or to be a better writer should read his work. But his work is not for the faint of heart or for folks who want predictability. There was much murmuring in the theater when No Country ended today. Its ending is equivocal at best. I loved it.
McCarthy's willingness to follow the story to unanticipated, uncomfortable places is risky--well, not so much for him anymore, because his readership is set and he's made his fortune (both literary and monetary). Folks who know his body of work know to expect the unexpected. And so I recommend his work to blossoming writers with a note of caution: If you go there, be prepared to explore those dark places in yourself. It's bound to be a lonesome, frightening journey, full of risk. But McCarthy demonstrates how to shape that darkness into art.
Next: BLOOD MERIDIAN becomes a film. There's that tree hung with dead babies....Chilling.