The Counselor: A Screenplay

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  • 23 Nov 2013 at 7:48 am #4686


    Richard, that is a wonderful post with so much to think about. Your comments on the awakened state/great sleep dichotomy remind me very much of the ideas set forth in a book I’m reading now called Morning of the Magicians (akaThe Dawn of Magic) by Pauwels and Bergier, an influential and controversial text published in 1960. It’s sort of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not on wheels, an in-depth exploration of the Fortean realm by a couple of super-smart highly educated men. In the extremely personal Preface, Pauwels writes that his mission is the very opposite of the Surrealists who were interested in the realms of sleep and the subconscious: the regions of ultraconsciousness and the awakened state — “We call our view Fantastic Realism.” Pauwels goes on to say that Fantastic Realism is a manifestation of natural law, an affect produced by contact with reality — reality perceived directly and not through a filter of habit, prejudice and conformism. He also notes that all of this resonates strongly with the Gurdjieffian notion that man is asleep and must be shocked into an awakened state in order to perceive reality. He also tells a great story about an encounter with a crow by Loren Eiseley on a foggy morning! All of this is to say that I found these ideas highly resonant with McCarthy in general and The Counselor in particular, and certainly with what you’ve written about today and other posts on the Forum and at your Track of the Cat blog.

    23 Nov 2013 at 9:54 am #4687


    Richard L.: McCarthy doesn’t waste too many words, which is why, when he bothers to name these cheetahs, Sylvia and Raoul, we should be paying attention.

    Yes, indeed!

    The “-oul” part of “Raoul” means “wolf” (which is more apparent from other forms of the name, say, “Ralph” or “Rolf”), and McCarthy has used “wolf” names for some characters in the Western novels:

    Both “Blevins” and “Rawlins” are derived from “wolf” words (plus the “in(s)” suffix perhaps as a diminutive): “Blev-” is derived from the PIE root “bhel-” which is a great supplier of names and catchwords for McCarthy, including “ballard”, “bald”, “blasarius”, “blood”, “bell”. “Rawl-” is simply another form of “Raoul”. Other wolf names used by McCarthy include “Raul” the Capitan in All the Pretty Horses and “Randall” in Blood Meridian.

    Further echoing of the title character “The Counselor”: The “Ra-” part of “Raoul” is “ratt”, which means “counsel” or “council”. So, the entire name “Raoul” means “counsel wolf”. As noted before, “ratt” is the root of “Rattner”.

    McCarthy chose “Raoul” and “Sylvia”, I suspect, to echo “Rattner” and “Sylder” from The Orchard Keeper. In The Orchard Keeper, the cat is a significant symbol, and both Rattner and Sylder are described in “cat” terms in scenes involving a car, antecedents to Malkina’s athletics on the car:

    Rattner “circled catlike among the few cars” parked outside Jim’s Hot Spot and eventually climbed into Sylder’s car. Sylder’s fingers “cocked like a cat’s claws unsheathing and buried themselves in the cheesy neck-flesh of” Rattner after Rattner assaulted Sylder with a car jack while Sylder was fixing a blown tire.

    Malkina’s act on the car (from some preview and from reviewer descriptions; I haven’t seen the movie yet) reminds me of Mildred Rattner’s last scene alive: “When Mildred Rattner swung open the door and stepped into the smokehouse she saw a cat drop with an anguished squall from somewhere overhead, land spraddle-legged facing her, and make a wild lunge at her, teeth gleaming in the dimness and eyes incandesced with madness.”

    23 Nov 2013 at 6:49 pm #4693

    Richard L.

    Re: Raoul and Sylvia

    Good stuff, Ken.

    Re: Glass: The Morning of the Magicians (1960)

    I bought a copy of The Morning of the Magicians in Casablanca in 1968 from a lovely woman who worked in the only worthwhile bookstore there, who was so enthused with the book that I think she might have given it to me if I hadn’t bought it.

    It was well written and enormously popular during its time as there was something new-agey evangelical about it. The response was something like that of Colin Wilson’s The Outsider several years earlier. You read it and you wanted to believe that this was fact. But it didn’t hold up well to peer review.

    A good modern assessment of it can be found in the first chapter of Gary Lachman’s TURN OFF YOUR MIND: THE MYSTIC SIXTIES AND THE DARK SIDE OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. Lachman suggests that all of the occult Nazi stuff later published in books and appearing in film had its origins in the unsubstantiated contentions in The Morning of the Magicians.

    Coincidentally, I was just thinking about this when reading THE SPINOZA PROBLEM by Irvin D. Yalum, author of several other books worth reading. In the prologue of this novel, the narrator says he was in Amsterdam researching Spinoza’s Jewish origins and happened upon Spinoza’s library and a bizarre story about the Nazis’ “problem” with him. This book, Yalum’s latest, looks very promising.

    He writes philosophy engagingly. From his earlier novel, THE SCHOPENHAUER CURE:

    “If anything is to be honored and blessed, it should simply be this–the priceless gift of sheer existence. To live in despair because life is finite or because life has no higher purpose or embedded design is crass ingratitude. To dream up an omniscient creator and devote our life to endless genuflection seems pointless.’

    “And wasteful too: why squander all that love on a phantasm when there seems too little love to go around on earth as it is? Better to embrace Spinoza’s and Einstein’s solution: simply bow one’s head, tip one’s hat to the elegant laws and mystery of nature, and go about the business of living.”

    This is his protagonist at the start of the book, BEFORE what happens happens.

    Edit: I found my old copy of THE MORNING OF THE MAGICIANS in the attic, along with my copy of ALL THE KING’S MEN in french that I bought from that same lovely woman in Morocco. It’s high time I reread this book (TMOTM, that is), and it is now in queue.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by  Richard L..
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