New semester. New MFA writing. I have been away from this blog during the summer, not for any reason in particular, except for moving to a new home and undergoing some minor medical stuff. The fall semester has begun; a good excuse if any to dedicate time to this thing.
I read over the weekend as I recovered from surgery Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which I will focus on in more detail in a following blog entry. I’m still processing it twenty-four hours later. Deep, dark, heavy, bleak, cold. The commentary on the value of religious belief, human nature, compassion, survival instincts, father-son relationships, trust, and the downfall of human civilization. To dissect McCarthy’s writing style at this moment is a massive undertaking I’m not prepared to take on for this blog, at least not today, but his rule-breaking and the resulting creative freedom is something I can cherish and learn from.
Unusual sentence structures. The lack of quotation marks for dialogue and apostrophes missing from certain conjunctions, like “havent” and “didnt.” The subtle convergence of inner dialogue, dreams, and third person narrative, which occasionally slipped into first person. All to tell the story exactly as McCarthy intended. The first few pages required some adjustment to the odd style, but I fell quickly into his post-apocalyptic world, his style providing foundation and lending to atmosphere rather than creating disruption. His disruptive style became my normal as the reader.
My take away is simple. Style, whether or not rules are intentionally broken, is as much a key part of the story as the characters and plot. Another tool in the writer’s toolbox, to borrow from Stephen King, that creates the indisputable uniqueness of a writer.
The Road has set the stage for an intriguing semester of new writing, new methods, new experiments with style. The perfect kickoff.
4 thoughts on “Starting anew”
David, I agree that style is something that is a "jump off the page" element here. How has done this in other novels? Did you thumb through something or look through amazon previous to see if this is McCarthy or is this The Road that is being broken here. It makes sense that when the Apocalypse comes, that even grammar would fail. But does he use this method all the time in his writing as part of his style? There is an article that I found (I am thinking of reading post apocalptic literature in my writing courses) and it had some interesting insight. I like your blog and look forward to more. Be well. Ron
Hey David, I just saw this after responding to the other one. More great points. To answer Ron, I would say that McCarthy's writing style is uniquely recognizable in all his books. This one is post-apocalyptic, and perhaps more "disruptive" (love that term, David!) than others, but the truth is that all of McCarthy's works take place in bleak, violent landscapes, for which his language is beautifully suited. You may have seen my post on his sentences in Blood Meridian (an earlier McCarthy masterpiece), but just in case you haven't: http://weedlit.blogspot.com/2012/02/language-as-ghost-of-meaning-cormac.html
Thanks Ron. This was my first time reading his work. I was introduced to his by Tim during his workshop at the residency. I loved the samples I read from Blood Meridian and instantly knew I needed to read his works. I recognized his complex style from the samples in the road, but it was quite jarring and stark compared to the fullness of the excerpts I read from his other work. I saw that you emailed me that article, I will check it out! Thanks again.
Thanks Tim. Glad you liked "disruptive." I felt it was the perfect word to describe my interpretation of his style in The Road upon first encounter. I will check out your blog on Blood Meridian, I recall seeing you post it, just didn't have the opportunity to read it yet.