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02 Feb 2017 at 6:15 pm #8811
I spent a good chunk of last summer writing up a quite long essay (screed?) on several new ideas I’d been thinking about regarding McCarthy. It’s something of my Grand Unified Theory on him, philosophically/theologically-speaking. I sat on it for several months in the hopes that I might be able to publish (a cleaned-up, rewritten version of) it somewhere, some way. But I’m finishing up my phd now and searching for jobs (doing what, who knows, just not academia), and I don’t think I’ll have time to work on it anytime soon. So I thought I’d put it up, hopefully some people will find it interesting.
I’m attaching it as a pdf b/c it’s so long it’d be horrible to read as a regular post. Plus, I couldn’t be bothered to redo the formatting. It’s a shame attachments are only viewable by people with accounts, b/c I imagine there may be some lurkers who’d like to take a look. Make an account, I guess.
Anyway. Hope you guys find it at the very least thought-provoking.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.03 Feb 2017 at 5:09 am #8813
Thanks for posting that. It is very good–incomplete, as you are aware–but a fine piece of work as it stands. Over the years, I have read many such pdf’s, and the lion’s share of the published crit-lit, and I have changed, but there is little in your work above that I take issue on.
I’m not an academic, but I read scholars like a scholar. I want footnotes and a bibliography. I want to know that the scholar I’m reading has read and considered all of the scholars who preceded him. I don’t doubt that you have this at hand, don’t send it to me or post it here, but I just feel that such things are necessary in any published format.
We all owe a great deal to the early McCarthy scholars who, as Chip Arnold once put it, did the heavy lifting. Even if your take was original and you have never read them, they still have influenced you because they have influenced the world around us. As David Foster Wallace might say, to mix metaphors once again, this is the water we swim in.
We are part of the sea, the surf washes us ashore, we become separated on the sand into individual drops of water and come under the illusion that we are different and thus fail to recognize that all of the other drops are the same but after much trouble crossing the sand we are eventually reabsorbed into the sea which was our lost home all along.
This metaphor is used in a great number of books, or rather, I see it in a great number of books. The authors might have meant something else entirely. I see it in McCarthy (in some of the quotes you cite), and also in such books as Tim Winton’s BREATH. But the scope of these books allows for many other interpretations as well, just as valid.
Just today, I read Petra Mundik’s long article about the Gnosticism in BLOOD MERIDIAN, published in the collection, GNOSTIC 4 (2011). I can tell that Mundik has read all of the earlier scholars who pointed this out in earlier years, Dianne Luce, John Sepich, Leo Daughtery. and many others. The arguments are sound and the bibliography and footnotes are stellar.
I believe that the New Mexico Press, back in 2014, published a definitive collection of Mundik’s work under the title A Blood and Barbarous God: the Metaphysics of Cormac McCarthy’s Later Novels, but unfortunately, I was going through a bad time and did not obtain a copy.
But the Gnostic is only part of McCarthy’s spiritualism. I see the Buddhist and the Christian in him too, but all these strains of thought are secular. The Christians believe that the world is good and evil seeps in. The Gnostics believe that the world is evil and that somehow light falls here, always an alien, always looking for home.
There have been Christian interpretations of McCarthy and Gnostic interpretations of McCarthy, but as yet no book-length study of the secular Buddhism in McCarthy, which is long overdue. But McCarthy’s books are not just one thing.
Anyway, good post.
Richard L.Quote03 Feb 2017 at 1:51 pm #881403 Feb 2017 at 6:17 pm #8815
Thanks for the votes of confidence so far. I am of course aware it’s incomplete. I’m not really sure what “complete” would or could look like. And the ideas I’m discussing are surely not entirely original with me. I may not have included a formal bibliography (b/c it’s obviously not a scholarly paper, just something I did for myself and to share on here), but I certainly did include references to works by Luce, Mundik, Ellis, Wallach, Giemza, Arnold, and perhaps a few others. All of these have at least touched on aspects of the mystical in McCarthy and given me great food for thought. But I thought it was particularly interesting to arrange such a large number of passages to really emphasize their commonalities. I’ve become 100% convinced that McCarthy’s mysticism / spirituality is central to the philosophical aspect of his oeuvre.
And Peter: Perhaps you’ll recall about a year ago I emailed you saying I was working on something like this. I was too busy to really work on it then, and it took forever as it kept ballooning more and more out of control. Labor of love, man. Glad you’re liking it so far.
04 Feb 2017 at 11:39 am #8818
- This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by efscerbo.
I enjoyed this very much especially as I also claim to be writing a Grand Unified Theory of McCarthy (and all stories) LOL
So I enjoyed your grand proposal. I am completely in a agreement that McCarthy’s work is in basis mystical. However, I experience and define mystiticm in a much different manner…and I grew up buddhist, so I also see the “no name” and “all one” in McCarthy as possibly referring to Buddhist style of perception or experience.
I believe you are on the right tack and I hope we can argue about this sort of thing isn the future as I have a different explanatory model…close in some ways but not.
I also agree that McCarthy interview where he talks about LSD helped him to grant respect to religious experience. Religious experience, in my opinion, being quite different than religion. The individual traits, dogmas and customs of comparative philosophies often force a polarity…and your attraction for a holistic meld of these maritime dialogues is valuable. I am also of the camp…that there are specific differences in between religions or philosophies…for example. I would not want to force=feed the content of salvation as to fit enlightenment. I think they are different. I spend a lot of time in inter0faith discussion groups…and thee seems to be a desire to force each others experience into the box of “OH when you meditate it’s like prayer”. Well..no not really. Although meditation does seem to have some commonalities with The Jesus Prayer (egyptian prayer/orthodox church/eastern christians)
I have always sensed that McCarthy’s sharing of his LSD experience as a window into his respect for religious experience…much like when someone participates in a medicinal healing. The profound connectedness and infinite love, the experience of everything being connected…opens a closed mind, or religious dogma to disperse…and perhaps help the aspirant feel how connected everything is to each other. In my view, that is a door opening and just the beginning of the rabbit hole for most people…and many people may want to stop and say “Oh I get it now” “Or oh that is enlightenment”…what I value about McCarthy is that he didn’t seem to stop at experience, at mysticism, or at religious tolerance for others views….he seems to have walked the walk. My sense in his work, and a large part of my analysis…is that he has been experimenting with how to communicate this wholeness.
Anyways….good work. I sure hope even if you take a “regular job” outside of academia that you continue to work on this piece. And hey…maybe we can argue over what exactly is the Grand Unified Theory of McCarthy…I most definitely have a strong view and opinion, I hope I can get it written out succinctly and share it one day. (I’m only half way done at this moment)
And….of course…people also keep telling me to keep careful track of my footnotes, biblio…which I find every bit as labour intensive to keep as the bloody body of work LOL.
Candy MinxQuote04 Feb 2017 at 1:09 pm #8819
Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you liked it.
That “no name” and “all one” definitely strikes me as Buddhist. Not Buddhist exclusively, but afaik Buddhist thought really emphasizes that style of thinking, as in the “finger pointing at the moon” parable and the flower sermon.
And when you talk about McCarthy “walking the walk”: I mean, I don’t know him from Adam. And the recent book by Daniel Robert King seems to hint at a man quite different in many respects than the mythology about him would make out. So anything I say about him is liable to be nonsense. Despite that, I would largely agree with you: I do not have the sense that these are idle ideas for McCarthy. That’s one of the big reasons why I became so consumed with him. There’s something very alluring about the thought of someone taking these big, grandiose ideas seriously.
Would you mind sharing a bit about your take on him? Totally get it if you don’t wanna say too much while you work on whatever you’re writing. But I’d be curious to hear a little about another side to this kinda stuff.
09 Feb 2017 at 8:25 am #8830
I remember that email. Good to see you posting again. Maybe you’ll come to Austin for the conference in September? But who knows maybe we’ll be under martial law by then the way things are going. Congrats on wrapping up your doctorate. Nice!
09 Feb 2017 at 9:08 am #8831
Haven’t gotten to Ed’s theory of everthang yet but you do realize that the annual thought-orgy in Albuquerque is next week, right? I’m hosting a panel, along with Wallis Sanborn, on Fred Rivera’s novel Raw Man and Blood Meridian. Fred will be there as respondent. I know you scrapped the Yellow Monster but whatever gauche color your pickup is now, why not climb aboard and join us? You might even luck out and encounter a few tornadoes en route.
09 Feb 2017 at 12:22 pm #8833
- This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Rick Wallach.
You have no idea how much I’d like to go but just can’t swing it. That panel on Raw Man sounds amazing. Incidentally, I shared some pics of your snakes and lizards with a friend(o) of mine this morning. Hard to believe, but it was nine years ago this week that I visited you and Rowena in paradise. Loved picking fruit in your back yard. In February! I need to move where the climate suits my clothes. And the Yellow Monster, with its rusted-out side panels, had become somewhat emblematic of the American carnage zeitgeist and therefore has been consigned to the scrap heap of history or something.
Meanwhile, I hope people are checking out Ed’s paper.
11 Feb 2017 at 5:40 am #8836
Pete – yep, and the nispero and carambola are hanging low and bein’ picked even as you wrote that. Looks like we’ll have a bumper crop of mulberry this spring too; the honeybees are thick and merry around the little blossoms. I plan to make mulberry chutney with them in addition to piling them liberally on top of my bran buds and metabolising all them polyphenols along with my crude fiber. A lot of the starfruit were used to make carambola-coconut upside down rum cakes and carambola coladas.
Nine years. Amazing.
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