Chirality in McCarthy

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  • 09 Aug 2013 at 11:15 pm #3745

    Glass
    Member

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirality

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situs_inversus

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Cc5KXHxoFU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drawing_Hands

    I’ve been researching the concept of “Chirality” and thinking of how it might resonate in McCarthy. An object or a system is chiral if it is not identical to its mirror image, that is, it cannot be superposed onto it, according to Wikipedia. In other words, chirality is something that is not superimposable on its mirror image. Among other things, I think this notion of chirality might neatly tie into some of the discussions we’ve had here on the spiral in McCarthy. I have to admit it’s been difficult getting my mind around chirality and making some sense of it, but I do find it fascinating and think it’s fun to consider possible examples of it in McCarthy. Suttree’s twinness might be one interesting place to start. Let me throw out a few ideas, a few tentative steps into the chiral woods.

    “On the right temple a mauve halfmoon. Suttree turned and lay staring at the ceiling, touching a like mark on his own left temple gently with his fingertips. The ordinary of the second son. Mirror image. Gauche carbon.” (14)

    “A dextrocardiac, said the smiling doctor. Your heart’s in the right place.” (13)

    So, I think Suttree and his dead brother may have been chiral twins since they could not have been superposed on each other because their common parts would not coincide, much like your right and left hands. Situs inversus. We don’t know if Sut’s twin’s heart was on its right side like Sut’s, but with the birthmarks being in a chiral relationship it makes me believe that the dead twin’s heart was likely in the more normal position on the left.


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    09 Aug 2013 at 11:51 pm #3746

    Glass
    Member

    “Gray vines coiled leftward in the northern hemisphere, what winds them shapes the dogwhelk’s shell.” (Suttree Prologue)

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Neptunea_-_links%26rechts_gewonden.jpg

    In addition to spirals, twinning and mirror images, I’ve also wondered about handedness in McCarthy and whether there is some chirality lurking there. For example, the judge’s ambidextrousness (“as even-handed as a spider”) and how his hands are complementary with those of the kid’s. I think Rick wrote about this in his heavily cited “Evil Archon” paper. The judge is huge but has small hands, while the kid is small but has big hands, to paraphrase Rick. Not really chirality but maybe some suggestion of it. Not sure. I guess with the Suttree twin example I’m thinking this connects a little bit with molecular chirality that Walter White discusses in that Breaking Bad video linked in the opening post. The life-death yin and yang potential. I recall in one article I read that a drug that eased morning sickness in women had the horrible side effect of causing birth defects in their babies. Just a few speculations I’ve come up with the past few weeks.


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    10 Aug 2013 at 12:26 am #3748

    Glass
    Member

    One final thought about chirality in McCarthy (or, more precisely, achirality in the forthcoming thought experiment), that I have for this evening centers on the judge’s embrace of the kid in the outhouse, and the chiral relationship they had had up to that point. From a chiral perspective, perhaps this is the judge’s attempt to force achirality upon the kid, a forced superposition since the judge couldn’t, up until then, make the kid conform to his image in any other way; make him the other side of the same coin, as it were. Much like you cannot shake hands properly by placing your right hand in the left hand of the person you are shaking hands with, or putting a left-hand glove on your right hand, the judge couldn’t make the kid become his achiral partner. So when the judge becomes violently one with the kid (a forcing of the unity of existence, to lift a line from the judge) then this might be an example of a forced achirality, an unnatural superposition, wherein the judge’s body is placed on top of the kid’s and the common parts are made to coincide through the judge’s brute strength and force of will. A fusion. Very rough sketch there, but I hope the general idea emerged. Thanks for reading! Comments and ideas welcome!


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    10 Aug 2013 at 9:57 am #3749

    aden
    Member

    I don’t know about chirality or achirality, but I don’t think the judge’s “violent embrace” of the kid-cum-man can be properly described as “forcing the unity of existence”–at least I don’t think McCarthy’s work as a whole supports that conclusion. The judge’s annihilation of the kid/man should be viewed in light of McCarthy’s undeniable fascination with eternity=death. This is a metaphysical position from which McCarthy never wavers. The judge as enduring protagonist of BM (not the kid) is the personification of this god-like aspect=truth of the universe. Perhaps one could say life and death stand in a chiral relation insofar as one is the inverse of the other.


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    10 Aug 2013 at 10:38 am #3750

    Glass
    Member

    Memento vivere/Memento mori. I see where you’re coming from, Chris, and I think that you are probably right. Appreciate the comments.

    A little OT, but kind of interesting nevertheless, is this: Superman and Clark Kent part their hair on different sides. Never knew that until I started looking into this chirality business. I’ll be making a few more posts on chirality and McCarthy soon.


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    10 Aug 2013 at 1:03 pm #3751

    aden
    Member

    Do you think the possibility of chirality in McCarthy points to some larger conceptual importance? I’ve always thought of what I would call his penchant for dialectical doubling in a direction from immanence to transcendence as a sign of his Platonism.


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    24 Aug 2013 at 10:48 am #3840

    Glass
    Member

    Chris, if there is a larger conceptual importance I have not been able to unlock the connection thus far. But that’s OK. Relatedly, perhaps, and tying into your comment somewhat, I’ve been thinking that this presence seen or felt in McCarthy might be both immanent and withdrawn. But I like Heidegger a lot and that influences how I see things.The better things work, the more invisible they become — knees, guns, hammers, gods.


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    10 Sep 2013 at 7:36 am #3954

    kottage
    Member

    Interesting topic. I was not familiar with chirality. Some other instances of doubles/mirror images in McCarthy include the passage in Outer Dark where the tinker finds Culla’s tracks returning on themselves “As if their maker had met in this forest some dark other self in chemistry with whom he had been fused traceless from the earth” (and I suspect that’s a trace of Suttree’s fears about encountering othersuttree). Passages involving reflections include the one from The Road where the father almost raises his gun when he stumbles upon a mirror in an abandoned house, and the son reassures him by saying, “It’s us, Papa” (not “it’s a mirror” but “it’s us”); also the one where the kid/man in Blood Meridian looks at the backbar mirror just before his alleged murder and sees only “smoke and phantoms” there. I’ve always taken that last one to mean the man is mentally divided and doesn’t know (can’t see) himself. Suttree and Culla are afraid they may know themselves too well, but the boy in The Road has no division between who he is and who he thinks he is. I wonder if the self-image is an imperfectly-matching mirror image–that if it did ever sync up, we’d be sent “drooling with out ghosty clone from sun to sun across a hostile hemisphere forever.”


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    21 Dec 2017 at 1:22 pm #10012

    Richard L.
    Member

    This thread needs reviving to be read in tandem with the new thread:

    http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/europejournal-of-american-studies-special-issue-on-mccarthy-now-available-online/

    Which has already blossomed into an interesting discussion. See one, see both.

    Mr. Glass mentions that Clark Kent and Superman parted their hair on different sides, but I think the greater chirality back then was another DC comic featuring the Bizarro world where Superman and all else were reversed. And of course all of the science fiction links at the en-wiki site.

    http://superman.wikia.com/wiki/Bizarro

    I’ve long been familiar with the term “doppelgänger” but had never given it much serious thought as it relates to the world at large.


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    26 Dec 2017 at 2:19 pm #10043

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: Ken, from the Journal of American Studies Thread:

    In 1956, Albert Camus published The Fall. In 1957, Camus won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

    So that’s my thesis, this “fictional” biography of McCarthy. 1956-57 mark the later years of Suttree, and in 1956 23-year-old McCarthy was finishing up his tour of duty at the Air Force and was returning to college. He had an interest in science earlier, but his focused has turned to writing. He would publish two short stories in the next couple of years. Suttree would be published 23 years later. And 23 years after that he would hang out with physicists and others at Santa Fe Institute. Suttree is the mirror between his younger and older selves.

    ***

    P.S.: Rereading parts of The Fall now yields echoes also to The Road. There is no god, and Clamence considers himself a “false prophet”.

    Back in 1956, it seems that McCarthy might have read THE FALL, and quite possibly he read the New Yorker too. That year, famous physicist Edward Teller was giving speeches on antimatter and The New Yorker published some humorous verse about the existence of Teller and an anti-Teller. This may have influenced McCarthy’s antiSuttree.

    All of this discussion is now prompted by Bryan Giezma’s article, though Ken and Glass have been pointing this stuff out for a long time. One of the books Giezma cites is Martin Gardner’s revised THE NEW AMBIDEXTROUS UNIVERSE, and it is very good. Among many other things, it give us a full account of the New Yorker poem mentioned above.

    Among the surprises for this reader is that chirality goes back, not just to Plato and the Greeks, but to KA‘s Sanskrit. The old gods of the Upanishads “ascribe the origin of the first man and woman to a left-right split of an original being,” which Freud pointed out in BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE.

    Gardner says:

    The concept of Mr. Split is in Aristophanes’ famous speech on love in Plato’s Symposium. Primeval humans, said the Greek Comedy writer, were spherical in shape, with four arms, four legs, and two faces set back to back on one neck. There were three sexes: double men, double women, and male and female united in the same body. . .Zeus split each in half the way one cuts an apple.

    Love is the desire of bisected humans to return to their original double form. Heterosexuals are descendants of the male-female type. Homosexuals are the all-male or all-female types. In the Talmud, one of the legends has Adam and Eve joined at the shoulders.


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