Modaling McCarthy

This topic contains 20 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  BobbyKnoxville 3 years, 5 months ago.

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  • 03 Jan 2014 at 5:37 am #4924

    Glass
    Member

    Wild and super interesting! The opposition of forces and seeming reversals that you note about BM have some affinity with what I’ve been thinking about, in how it might mirror BM, while reading Melville’s Benito Cereno — master-slave, role reversal, who is leading whom, that sort of thing. I don’t know if this at all connects to Nietzsche’s “Becoming who you are” and his doctrine of types, but it might and is something I’ve also had on my mind. Apologies if that’s too tangential to modality. Thanks for the great posts and Happy New Year, John.


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    05 Jan 2014 at 1:14 pm #4931

    jVh
    Member

    Thanks Glass, Happy New Year to you too. I’d like to hear you elaborate on the Nietzsche paradox!


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    08 Jan 2014 at 6:13 pm #4937

    Glass
    Member

    John,
    Just a quick note here on Nietzsche’s “Becoming who/what you are.” One passage in McCarthy I’ve focused on in relation to Nietzsche’s paradox is at the end of Cities when the old Billy, 78, wakes up on the concrete and his bones hurt and he has the dream of his long-dead sister. He awakens in the dark and the cold and makes the decision “everything that he’d ever thought about the world and about his life in it he’d been wrong.” Powerful stuff. Has he not, then, become who he is in his life until that exact moment, the “this is I” Nietzsche writes of in BGE(?) and elsewhere? I don’t know. And I don’t know if Billy knows. Maybe we should be skeptical? Then there’s Betty, at the very end of the novel (and Trilogy), weighing in on the “Who He Is question when she claims that SHE knows the answer — “I know who you are” (note the fragment of the Nitzschean phrase “Becoming who you are” embedded in Betty’s comment). It’s interesting perhaps to consider Billy’s physiology (I’m following Nietzsche here and ideas from the philosopher Mark Alfano on Nitzschean types) when he makes the claim that he’d been wrong about everything and it took him 78 years to figure it out. But he’s in a bad physiological state. He’s homeless. He’s sleeping on cold concrete and his body hurts. He has a bad heart. Maybe that in itself is enough for him to make his claim. His physical suffering brings about the claim about his life. It transfigures him. Or something does. There are other characters in McCarthy where their physiology might be a prime reason, or at least contributing greatly, to transfiguration. I thought of Ballard and Suttree, but I need to consider this some more. As for Billy and a Nietzschean link to “Becoming who you are,” I think Aphorism 542 from Daybreak in which Nietzsche seems to be specifically targeting his remarks to philosophers might offer a little light. I’ll quote from it in a followup post below.


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    08 Jan 2014 at 6:27 pm #4938

    Glass
    Member

    http://nietzsche.holtof.com/reader/friedrich-nietzsche/daybreak/aphorism-542-quote_0bda5578a.html
    Quoting from Aphorism 542 from Nietzsche’s Daybreak:

    The reverence we accord the aged man, especially when he is an aged thinker and sage, easily blinds us to the aging of his mind, and it is always necessary to draw forth, the signs of such an aging and weariness out of their hiding-place draw forth, that is to say, the physiological phenomenon behind the moral dispositions and prejudices so as not to become the fools of reverence and injurers of knowledge. For it not infrequently happens that the aged man is subject to the illusion of a great moral renewal and rebirth and from the sensibility thus engendered in him passes judgment on the work and the course of his life, as though it was only now that he had been endowed with clear sight; and yet the inspirer behind this feeling of wellbeing and these confident judgments is not wisdom but weariness.

    Even though Nietzsche is speaking to/about the old philosopher, I still think a case could be made to use Nietzsche’s thinking throughout his corpus about physiological causes for psychological change (and becoming who we are) in order to consider Billy, the old cowboy, in his suffering and the claim about his life and how he acted in it. Those are a few of my ideas about “Becoming who you are” and McCarthy.


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    08 Jan 2014 at 8:02 pm #4939

    Glass
    Member

    “…you believe you presently have some false beliefs. But you cannot give me any examples.” (Roy Sorensen)

    As a final note on this thinking about McCarthy with the Nietzsche aphorism and the paradox of becoming who you are, a few thoughts on Suttree in his “confession” to himself on p. 414 might be a nice place to sum up. There’s some kinship here with the passage on Billy discussed earlier. Suttree’s young but talks as if he’s old. His physiology is interesting to keep in mind as a causal agent in what he’s thinking or how his thinking changes and also, perhaps, helping him become who he is. It’s in this passage Suttree famously states — after framing the question to himself “Of what would you repent?” — “One thing. I spoke with bitterness about my life and I said that I would take my own part against the slander of oblivion and against the monstrous facelessness of it and that I would stand a stone in the very void where all would read my name. Of that vanity I would recant all.” (414)

    Oh, you free spirit! As Nietzsche might say.

    Suttree here, a young man in his late 20s or early 30s at the oldest, sounds a lot like the aged sage that Nietzsche takes to task in Daybreak’s Aphorism 542, although Suttree wisely recognizes this dangerous hubris and grandiosity before he gets to the point of being old and weary. You start talking and thinking like that, Nietzsche warns, and the end is quite near:

    The hard fact behind such desires, however, is that he himself has come to a halt before his teaching, and has erected a boundary-stone, his ‘this far and no farther’. By canonising himself he has also displayed above himself his own death certificate: from now on his spirit may not develop further, time has run out for him, the clock stands still. Whenever a great thinker wants toi make of himself a binding institution for future mankind, one may be certain that he is past the peak of his powers and is very weary, very close to the setting of his sun.


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    10 Jan 2014 at 4:20 am #4949

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: “Of what would you repent?” β€” β€œOne thing. I spoke with bitterness about my life and I said that I would take my own part against the slander of oblivion and against the monstrous facelessness of it and that I would stand a stone in the very void where all would read my name. Of that vanity I would recant all.”

    Mr. Glass, you have been on the right track, but you need to take it further, as McCarthy goes beyond Nietzsche. McCarthy via Suttree recognizes the immortality project at hand–standing a stone, writing a book, various religious and political enterprises–even unconditional love itself, my own immortality project of choice–all of these things are immortality projects designed to slay death subliminated.

    In the McCarthy novel, SUTTREE finally sees this and repents his previous vanity, thus overcoming his fear of death.

    “Petrarch kept before his mind the great overarching reality of man’s life: his death. Yet the more occupied with death, the more these humanists thought, built, wrote, painted, and sang.’

    In other words, they erected stones.

    “Burkhardt pointed out that although the Renaissance brought increased Art and Science, it also brought forth anxiety. He also noticed the most outstanding symptom, now so common we take it for granted and scarcely notice it: a morbid craving for fame. The desire to be famous is a good example of how something repressed (such as the fear of death) reappears in consciousness in distorted form (the passion for symbolic immortality).’

    The Cormac McCarthy of SUTTREE and BLOOD MERIDIAN understood this–although, perhaps due to his desire to impress his son, the current Cormac McCarthy seems a bit flushed by Hollywood. Vanity again, but let us be compassionate and merciful.

    Once we gain such insight–once we get Suttree’s insight, that is–it is necessary to wake up every day and regain that insight. It is not a matter of being old, though being old gives you a wider range of yesterday’s to draw from. Old age gives you a sharpened awareness of the swiftness of time and the nearness of death. Young men simply cannot grasp what the old men can see.

    Re: The child is father to the man. The attempt to realize the self.

    “This can be made clearer by relating it to the existential/psychological perspective on the Oedipal complex. Contemporary psychoanalytic theory understands the Oedipal complex as a shorthand term for the early conditioning of the child. An existentialist perspective understands this early conditioning as what Norman O. Brown has renamed the Oedipal project. Because a Freudian interpretation approaches yet does not quite grasp the main point:’

    “The Oedipal desire is not to reunite with one’s mother by becoming the father but to resolve that separation from the mother by becoming one’s own father. Why? To become one’s own father would be to become the creator and sustainer of one’s own life or self. So, the essence of the Oedipal project is the project of becoming God–in Spinoza’s formula, causa sui, self-caused; in Sartre’s, etre-en-soi-pour-soi. To be one’s own father is to be one’s own origin. Ernst Becker calls this a flight from contingency…”

    The Cormac McCarthy of SUTTREE and BLOOD MERIDIAN seems intensely aware of this.

    Rather than just a way to conquer death, however, this is more immediately the quest to deny one’s groundlessness by becoming one’s own ground: the autonomous self, illusory but perhaps the most materially functioning type of illusion around.

    The Oedipal project generates the need to discover one’s own ground, or rather (since there is none to be found) the need to create it. This is only an Oedipal project because it almost never succeeds, except as an illusion or in gameplay where all members of a community accept the same artifically constructed values. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as in the case of lovers who both love unconditionally–again, my own condition of choice.

    This is all laid out in David Loy’s LACK AND TRANSCENDENCE, from which I have quoted incompletely above.


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    14 Jan 2014 at 9:40 pm #4956

    Glass
    Member

    Thanks very much for the detailed comment, Richard. I’m too burned out/exhausted to offer much in the way of back-and-forth or a thoughtful response. I may check out Loy.


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    15 Aug 2014 at 2:10 pm #5752

    Mackenna
    Member

    The Tramp: McCarthy said in an old interview that no music was worth hearing after Beethoven

    Did McCarthy really say this?


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    15 Aug 2014 at 6:19 pm #5753

    Glass
    Member

    Maybe in the audio commentary for the DVD of The Sunset Limited? He claims Beethoven is the greatest composer in that. I have not heard the commentary myself, getting the nugget about Beethoven from p. 261 of Peter Josyph’s book Cormac McCarthy’s House/Reading McCarthy Without Walls, which I highly recommend.


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    16 Aug 2014 at 2:24 am #5754

    Mackenna
    Member

    Thanks for putting some flesh on the bones of that remark, Glass. I’ll get the DVD.


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