McCarthy and the Bible

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  • 06 Apr 2012 at 1:07 pm #693

    Candy Minx
    Member

    I had sent the link to this article to a friend of mine who lives in Norwich England and here are some of his thoughts…

    “I think all the emphasis on the King James Bible and its influence is something of a modern creation, and in many ways an American creation… Shakespeare, despite his obvious familiarity with the Bible, barely saw the King James version in his own lifetime. The Tyndale and Coverdale translations were widely read, and anyone who knew Latin could have turned to the Vulgate.

    In England it was not referred to as the King James Bible until recently (American influence) and was just the AV (Authorised Version) superseded by the RSV and NRSV, and to some extent by the NEB. The prose style may be great to some, but was already old fashioned in 1611, and in places the AV is almost incomprehensible. The fact that in the later 17th century serious students learnt Hebrew to study the original seems to suggest they saw the limitations of the translation. The article in thejewishweek was interesting, showing a Jewish move to escape from the Christian dominated translations of the Pentateuch, but I guess that only applies to Western Church. The Eastern Church follows the Septuagint, which is a translation of the Hebrew, but a Jewish not a Christian translation.

    The AV is one of a series, an immense series, of translations a a wealth of original texts, some in Hebrew, some in Greek. A theologian friend of mine told me that when she went to America she was surprised how many people never really thought of the Bible as a translation at all, as if it had always been a book in English.”


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    06 Apr 2012 at 5:03 pm #704

    Mike
    Member

    Candyminx,

    I’d venture to say that there is a bit of superficiality or general misunderstanding when it comes to the clumping together of The Bible, Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy by all the fantastic book blurbs and posited opinions that both the general public and academics have been bombarded with. As opposed to stylistic aesthetics, I think the “knowledge” of The Bible is what Clem was getting at. I’m sure there are many here on the site that will argue or support it, but Positive Law here in the Modern World is very much akin to the Mosaic Law introduced in the Old Testament. Of course, both types of law are ancillary with a particular loss, and all three Modern writers mentioned above underscore this loss. The Old Testament, Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy are usually labeled “dark”, “grim”, or “nihilistic”, but I tend to think these glib labels are just superficialities hiding much deeper meanings.

    I put together a paper using Nietzsche to make the Quentin Compson/John Grady Cole connection regarding this “loss”, however, it does need another rereading for emendations on my part.

    Flannery O’Connor may be someone who needs to be added to the group above, but she does it with a rye smile all the way from start to finish. I don’t know if her use of humor is due to strength or cynicism.

    Mike aka “mff—-“


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    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Mike.
    06 Apr 2012 at 8:01 pm #708

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Hey Mike,

    I think a fair bit of that clumping came not just from blurb covers but from academics, rather than them being bombarded they may have been some of the bombardiers.

    I like very much what you say about the three writers underscoring a sense of loss . I believe I may understand what you’re saying is that their works could be seen as celebrating words language or seen as displaying, reflecting a loss of words and knowledge…among readers. (writers and critics)

    If this is what you might be saying I can see that. Thoses writers often make many a reader high for sheer excitement about the style and words…peers to their books are sacred texts and Shakespeare.

    However, I do not think that is what is being discussed in the article, exactly. The king James bible is mentioned in the article…and some, like myself, would say its so so.

    It’s funny you should discuss “grim” “dark” “nihilistic” because in the opening essay of Marilynne Robinsons books she says how beautiful the bible is. And I was like gee, there must be something wrong with me…it is many things but beautiful doesn’t come to my mind. Give me Arjuna and Krishna any day haha. Although”yea tho I walk” isn’t too shabby.

    The thing about the sacred texts is they they are works that are highly served by “enthusiasm”.

    Initiation rituals, cloistered deep conversations, group meetings and shelters with art add to the process snd source of being moved by a strange sacred text.

    You see, although I have eventually read the bible…it is not anywhere the same feeling my husband has regarding the bible. Now I believe in Jesus, and he was a rabbi… but I also believe that Mary magdalenewas a rabbi and priestess.

    I don’t believe in the devil or evil. However, my husband does believe in the devil. I love horror movies…but he can not watch them especially if there is anything supernatural in them.

    Yes, this is a feeble anecdote…but the bible and it’s teachings and stories are emotionally different for us. For him they are deeply embedded since childhood…he felt fear.

    I did not.

    For me my childhood fear and reverie was in Arjuna, sidhartha and going to masses where people saw ectoplasm and read playing cards and astrology.

    The archetypes ARE the parts that touch me. Poor Job what a chump. I get it. Life is a game, are you a/sore loser or good sport.

    I think readers reading experiences are enhanced when they are open minded and surrender. I don’t think it will alter their enjoyment of a rousing good story if they dont know the bible (or any specific sacred text)

    In fact I think novels like Beloved flannery o Connor (oh she is wonderful,) and Melville and McCarthy Faulkner help someone like me understand the bible rather than the bible giving me insight as an origin. I learned more about evil from flannery o Connor or McCarthy than a bible.


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    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Candy Minx.
    06 Apr 2012 at 8:17 pm #710

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Sorry for such a long reeply…so what I am saying that the value of the bible has a lot to do with emotional investment. It is a big deal in the States and is a part of many peoples/social and spiritual lives. But it’s not like that in other places. I didn’t grow up memorizing or familiar with bible stories. I didn’t read it with family and none of my friends read it…I wasn’t initiated into its value to my community.

    My community was initiated into other sacred texts.i think the initiation within cultures and social groups has a lot to do with whether one agrees with this article or not or experiences its value to the degree say maybe of a Christian reader, especially an American Christian reader.


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    07 Apr 2012 at 2:28 am #713

    Bunny McVane
    Member

    I do not have a copy of Alter’s Pen of Iron in front of me; I’m going off my notes here. Certainly Alter’s chapter about parataxis was illuminating for someone like me who is a novitiate in Biblical literature. It seems he pointed out some interesting parallels between The Hebrew Bible (I did not sense that the fact that it was the King James version was all THAT crucial) and the prose of Hemingway and McCarthy (especially in The Road). A few examples: avoiding Latinate words, report of landscape as one thing after another “like looking through the window of a moving bus”, not telling us how to feel, and of course the use of paratactic sentence structure. Alter makes a reasonable argument that McCarthy, though perhaps filtered through Hemingway, writes prose that might be considered within a Biblical–especially Old Testament–framework. Prose being the operative word–not every single bit of McCarthy is in conversation with the Bible.

    Candy pointed out the observer effect. It brings to mind a term from psychology called inattentional blindness: “not seeing something because one is not paying attention to it.” Alter points out the “curse God and die” reference in The Road, of course being a Hebrew scholar has something to do with it, and that is going to alter (pun intended) his view. In fairness Alter also points out a possible Koran reference. We are all (unless in some state of Prajna) limited by bias. One thing I found very ironic is that Alter seems to think that McCarthy is using this prose style for purposes that are “antithetical” to the Bible.

    Certainly if we were discussing Ingmar Bergman we might also point out the fact that his father was a Lutheran minister, and that had an undeniable influence on his films. Look at how religious authority figures are portrayed in Fanny and Alexander and Winter Light, for instance. But that doesn’t say everything there is to say about Bergman.

    I DO like what Candy says about not labeling an author because of language source. We seem to be so caught up in our constructs that we forget that they are constructs. The novelists mentioned in this thread all deal with fundamental existential issues. A Wallace Stevens quote comes to mind: “There was a myth before the began.” Certainly all artists are subject to patrimony, but I have some difficulty agreeing to what the original posted article says that we can’t fully understand these works without a knowledge of the Bible. If we study the genetic history of human does that mean we will fully understand the human before us? We might develop theories about his behavior or morphology that are informed by his origins, but even science does not claim to “fully” understand anything. Surely the strangeness of McCarthy cannot be explained away just by The Bible.


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    07 Apr 2012 at 9:02 am #716

    Glass
    Member

    I’ve been thinking of the kid and his relationship to his bible, the one he found abandoned at a mining camp and that he cannot read, after noticing a month or so ago a biblical allusion embedded in the sentence by which we learn that he carries said bible. With “…”neither of things at hand nor things to come,” (312) McCarthy is clearly alluding to Romans 8:38: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor any other creatures, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    This part of the book that details the kid’s travels after recovering from leg surgery, might be informed not only by those couple of verses of Romans 8, but the entire chapter. Bunny McVane’s point about knowledge of the Bible really jumped out at me as I’ve been thinking about how while the kid might not be able to read the book, that in no way precludes his knowing what’s inside it.

    Interesting McCarthy uses the phrase corporal histories in this passage and how the kid can’t be bothered spreading “news@ of such things because, as Romans8 tells us, things of the flesh are pretty meaningless when weighed against things of the flesh. Romans seems to offer an antidote to the judge.


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    07 Apr 2012 at 9:19 am #719

    Glass
    Member

    For some reason I can’t edit the post above. The biblical quote is actually Romans 8:38-39, to name one thing I wanted to fix. While looking at this passage in BM, I stumbled upon some pretty interesting information on Fremont Landing on the Sacramento River where the kid spent a couple of months. Anyway, this is an interesting thread. Please carry on.


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    07 Apr 2012 at 9:37 am #720

    aden
    Member

    I find the reaction that mention of tradition often evokes interesting. Thankfully the decline of postism has greatly reduced the number of meaningless proclamations propounded when discussion of the conceptual category arises. I haven’t had to explain why fighting against the “essentialism” of the necessity of cognitive conceptualization is an inherently self-contradictory endeavor in a couple of years. Whatever one may think of the importance of tradition, there is no doubt that it is essential to McCarthy.


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    07 Apr 2012 at 1:17 pm #726

    Mike
    Member

    Candyminx,

    I am right there with you and am a big reader of The Bhagavad Gita, and maybe even more so of The Darmasustras and The Law Code of Manu, two books which I think provide a great means toward opening up The Bhagavad Gita. I’d call it a torpor(the opposite of “enthusiasm” that you mention above) that is the impetus for Arjuna’s suffering: a savagely paralyzing emotion. Krshna leads Arjuna away from the realm of self-annhilating, arbitrary emotion toward a life of service and duty that results in fulfillment, and I would listen to an argument which claims the end result of this spiritual forward movement results in emotion(pride?). Emotion is important, but I tend to think its better serving as a human faculty when it is in response or toward an initiation or ceremony. Melville, Faulkner, McCarthy, and possibly O’Connor present us with “loss”, which is a result of the contemporary exchange of initiation and ceremony for something “more new” or “more recent”. I could list the loss of initiations and ceremonies, especially in the writings of Faulkner, McCarthy, and O’Connor, but that would be politically incorrect.

    Yes, I agree there are some emotions involved in The Bible, but they are much different and fewer in number that many mention today. Like the other ancient texts, the emotions are responses to initiation and ceremony. I tend to think pride is the main emotion, if it is an emotion at all.

    I recall an interesting piece, falling in alongside “emotion”, and you refer pop-culture as much as anyone here on the forum. Don’t recall where I read it, but it was interesting: anger and violence in punk, metal, and rap are an immediate response for those lacking initiation into something greater. The disenchanted voices are a result of internalized frustrations, torpor. I guess you could say, Arjuna’s without Krshnas.

    Mike


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    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Mike.
    08 Apr 2012 at 1:28 am #737

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Aden said “I find the reaction that mention of tradition often evokes interesting. ”

    This is exactly the kind of thing that somebody needs to call bullshit on.

    No ones “mentioning” tradition…and the idea that the Bible is some kind of failsafe representative of tradition is at worse offensive and ethnocentirc and at best parochial.

    I do not witness any of your ideas as representing tradition, or traditional thought but rather as an extremmist reactionary to any idea that doesn’t suit your agenda.

    I am a traditionalist. i believe in community, family, friends, holistic cohesion and conservative approach to living.

    You fill your posts here with split and divide assaults on the very roots of community… While forcefeeding a trendy U.S. fundamentalist agenda for religion and philosophy. And literature.

    You may believe you have some secret role as a philosopher out of the cave…but I can see the shadows all around you. You can point a finger all you want about postism but I see three fingers pointing back at you.


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