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22 May 2012 at 7:36 pm #1310
“With his thumb he had been routing out life from the folds of his hairless skin…” (BM 93)
The connection McCarthy makes here between the hairless Holden picking bugs or whatnot from his skin ties in with one theory of why man became over time a relatively hairless animal.
“Humans lost their body hair…to free themselves of external parasites that infest fur — blood-sucking lice, fleas and ticks and the diseases they spread.” (NY Times article that I will link to below)
Natural selection for hairlessness and then sexual selection for less fur as bare skin was a signal of fitness, this theory maintains.
I’d read about this recently so I perked up when an interviewer asked Harvard biologist EO Wilson on Book TV why he thought man became a (relatively) hairless animal and he gave an entirely different answer, saying he believed man’s hairlessness was selected for so the hunter could track game over many miles of terrain for days at a time and stay cool and in the hunt. A heat-exchange theory.
Wilson said the antelope obviously could outrun a man over the short distance, but the hairless hunter’s endurance would allow him to take down the wounded animal in the end. Wilson’s comments on the hairless and the endurance of the hunter put me in mind of No Country for Old Men.
Some of these ideas tie in more broadly with a paper I hope to write on Disgust in McCarthy. Lots to work with there.
Here’s the article from the Times that reviews some theories on human hairlessness.
05 Aug 2012 at 10:50 am #1766
From On the Nature of Things by Lucretius:
And now, if store of seeds there
So great that not whole life-times of the
Can count the tale…
And if their force and nature abide the
Able to throw the seeds of things together
In their places, even as here are thrown
The seeds together in this world of ours,
‘Tmust be confessed in other realms there
Still other worlds, still other breeds of
And other generations of the wild.
“I wonder if there’s other worlds, he said. Or if this is the only one.” (Buffalo hunter, 317)
05 Aug 2012 at 11:10 am #1767
The passage from BM quoted above has another Lucretian resonance, that being his idea of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinamen, which has been called “as much a creative spark as atom of death,” according to Hugh Roberts (Shelley and the Chaos of History).
This Lucretian swerve was used by Harold Bloom to help illustrate an author’s break with his past, a theoretical framework with which one could view McCarthy as author as well as many of his characters, Suttree perhaps most notably.
The Lucretian Clinamen, I believe, is an intriguing portal through which to enter the “unbottomed deep” of McCarthy’s career and works.
Lucretius’ meditations on the Void in On the Nature of Things reminded me so much of the multiple mentions of it in BM, even the archaic verbiage McCarthy uses has a definite Lucretian ring to it.
13 Aug 2012 at 7:21 pm #1790
On satchels and suzerainity…
“He’d an old canvas kitbag…” (125)
“The judge carried in one hand a small canvas satchel…” (282)
The judge and his satchel seem to be never far apart, much like the U.S. president and what has been called the Nuclear Football, which reportedly contains the codes needed to launch a nuclear attack. The military person entrusted with carrying this satchel is a suzerain once removed or “a special kind of keeper,” to use Judge Holden’s definition of suzerain.
Judge Holden’s mysterious satchel might be looked at as a precursor to the modern satchel which holds the power to do the type of erasing and destruction on a massive scale that the judge engages in on a smaller scale between the pages of Blood Meridian.
<b<Carrier of the Fire
Ron Rosenbaum, in his 1978 Esquire article The Subterranean World of the Bomb, describes the person entrusted with carrying the Nuclear Football as “the man with the black briefcase” and the satchel as “that artifact of instant apocalyptic death.” Makes me wonder if a similar case were opened to unleash the onslaught that set the world afire in The Road. Bad things happen when briefcases are opened in McCarthy as Moss found out the hard way.
14 Aug 2012 at 1:34 pm #1792
Whenever I open a briefcase full of money anymore I always look for the tracking device right away instead of…
leedriverQuote20 Aug 2012 at 11:53 pm #1808
“Where’s your ape at?” (BM 238)
From Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, called an American classic by McCarthy:
I found Bruce at the bar, but there was no sign of the ape.
“Where is it”? I demanded. “I’m ready to write a check. I want to take the bastard home on the plane with me. I’ve already reserved two first-class seats — R. Duke and Son.”
“Take him on the plane?
“Hell yes,” I said. “You think they’d say anything? Call attention to my son’s infirmities?”
He shrugged. “Forget it,” he said. “They just took him away. He attacked an old man right here at the bar. The creep started hassling the bartender about ‘allowing barefoot rabble in the place’ and just then the ape let out a shriek — so the old guy threw a beer at him, and the ape went crazy, came out of his seat like a jack-in-the-box and took a big bite out of the old man’s head. . . the bartender had to call an ambulance, then the cops came and took the ape away.”
“Goddamnit,” I said. “What’s the bail? I want that ape.”
21 Aug 2012 at 12:12 am #1809
I wonder which is filthier, the fool’s cage in BM or Hunter’s Las Vegas hotel room in Fear and Loathing:
“The floor of the cage was littered with filth and trodden food and flies clambered everywhere.” (BM 233)
“The room was full of used towels; they were hanging everywhere. The bathroom floor was about six inches deep with soap bars, vomit, and grapefruit rinds, mixed with broken glass. I had to put my boots on every time I went in there to piss. The nap of the mottled grey rug was so thick with marijuana seeds that it appeared to be turning green. (F/L 187)
29 Aug 2012 at 8:23 pm #1834
The Anthropocene seems like an interesting concept with which to think about McCarthy. Has anyone done anything extensive with it? Human footprints on the landscape. A layer of carbon, or ash. I’ve not done a lot of reading on this idea yet, though I might check it out a little bit more soon. Thoughts?
01 Sep 2012 at 7:09 pm #1838
“A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.” (Philosophical Investigations 115, Wittgenstein)
“…he’d once drawn an old Hueco’s portrait and un WITTingly chained the man to his own likeness.” (BM 141, Webster/portrait passage)
01 Sep 2012 at 7:25 pm #1839
Webster fears that a portrait of him by Judge Holden would exert a hold over him, which resonates with the famous Wittgenstein aphorism about the picture holding us captive. Earlier in PI, Wittgenstein writes: “A simile that has been absorbed into our language produces a false appearance that disquiets us.” This brings to mind the business of “false books,” but also perhaps connects to being held captive by pictures and words, a feeling that can be evoked while reading Blood Meridian with the seemingly endless repetition of words and images being repeated back to us. Stuck in the uncanny valley with a hailstorm of likenesses raining down on us like arrows. One last Wittgenstein quote that I think helps clarify this feeling of captivity:
“This is the kind of proposition that one repeats to oneself countless times. One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again, and one is merely tracing around the frame through which we look at it.” (PI 114)
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