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05 Dec 2013 at 4:09 pm #4836
To reiterate the same argument over and over might seem pointless but, by all standards of taste and judgment, this is the worst thing McCarthy has written so far. A tragedy for his readers and for his reputation if anything. Disconsolate admirers are left with the feeling that it all came down to that vile glorification of violence hastily penned.
Villains make life interesting provided they are larger than life, a bit philosophical at times maybe, to help us to while away the time — that old bottled spider of a Richard has been worthy or our praise. Beckett said that he worked an entire day for a good sentence. Flaubert shouted his sentences night after night in order to eliminate any scoriae that would mar the marquetry of the “final” work. Approaches such as those are not fit for Hollywood, unless you are Tennessee Williams, i.e. a major playwright. Another tragedy that lies in wait for the author is that people might read his work backwards using the Counselor as the entry gate to a world the Road had almost sealed. McCarthy’s plays and screenplays are pleasant marginalia at best. It is hard for someone who equates life with memory then with nothingness not to think of Proust’s incomparable masterpiece and the day shortly before his death when he felt he had been able at long last to write those two words: ‘The end’ (Fin).
05 Dec 2013 at 6:12 pm #4837
Peter, interesting stuff on the hard drives. I agree the lesson here is that it’s hard to undo things, if I’ve read you correctly. Your words also brought to mind the palimpsest, a suggestion of the reappearance of the “old buried wanderings” in COG. I also believe the hard drive reference might also point to the recurring theme of persistence and frailty in McCarthy, something I believe to be one of the deep underlying structures in his work.
The Counselor is my least favorite McCarthy by far. Maybe he ought not to have done it. I don’t know. Regardless, it’s still fun to talk about. I don’t understand why talking about it equates to “trying to redeem it” in some people’s minds. Is there synonymy between talking about The Counselor and putting lipstick on a pig? I’m honestly curious about the answer to that.
GlassQuote06 Dec 2013 at 4:30 am #4841
To Pf and Glass,
I agree with you: most of the comments I’ve read are attempts to redeem a minor piece that pales when compared to previous ones. Whatever the author’s motivations may have been, the result is not what readers expected. It may appear as yet another silly remark but the job of a screenwriter (Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Williams being major exceptions) is rarely given to a novelist. I think that human frailty in a world where core values that bind us together (including in rural communities) has been a major theme in McCarthy’s work (even the Road was a powerful testimony to human frailty and resilience). Now everything has been placed under the twin signs of violence and technical jargon. What astonished me is that the author wanted the Counselor to be a tragedy (or to function as a Greek tragedy in modern surroundings) and failed.
I entirely forgot to say to Pf that not only Dowland’s exquisite melancholy composition but Britten’s ‘Nocturnal’ are favourite works of mine. Suddenly Titus Andronicus comes to my mind and, though considered a minor tragedy by specialists, it is still a major work compared to what we ended up with. There’s no shortage of violence and blood so it might be a very efficient substitution drug (certainly better than a placebo). You’ll get your fill of claret anyway.
07 Dec 2013 at 11:26 am #4847
How to you become a self-aware human individual in a world of ideology? This is the question Cormac McCarthy is asking of his audience. It is a hard question to answer without going through the anxiety and travails required from us as readers/ viewers. On the one hand one would think it would be easy to understand since McCarthy’s prose is so concise and simplistic. But on the other hand, it is this very simplicity that predicates a far deeper meaning. It is precisely this writing style that reminds me of Sartre and Camus. Truth doesn’t reside in superfluous prose. I adamantly disagree with whoever states that this film/screenplay is a minor work. Hogwash!
McCarthy withdrew from society to become comfortable with himself he has returned from that isolation to share his wisdom.
E GrandeQuote07 Dec 2013 at 11:34 am #4848
I thought perhaps you would be interested in what Zizek has to say. Keep in mind that Malkina has made travel arrangements to China.
“I think today the world is asking for a real alternative. Would you like to live in a world where the only alternative is either anglo-saxon neoliberalism or Chinese-Singaporean capitalism with Asian values?
I claim if we do nothing we will gradually approach a kind of a new type of authoritarian society. Here I see the world historical importance of what is happening today in China. Until now there was one good argument for capitalism: sooner or later it brought a demand for democracy…
What I’m afraid of is with this capitalism with Asian values, we get a capitalism much more efficient and dynamic than our western capitalism. But I don’t share the hope of my liberal friends – give them ten years, [and there will be] another Tiananmen Square demonstration – no, the marriage between capitalism and democracy is over.” Slavoj Zizek
E GrandeQuote07 Dec 2013 at 11:57 am #4849
Sartre was a staunch Stalinist who defended communists horror after horror and he managed in the meanwhile to write a three-volume study to lambast Flaubert. If liberty had an enemy among intellectuals: here’s your man. Camus, in a very different way than Beckett, was a splendid writer and his French has a classical sparseness miles away from Sartre’s dyspeptic rhetorics (his followers are the same). As for Asian capitalism, having spent more than fifteen years in Japan and two further years in Taiwan and Hong Kong, there is no “capitalist” model to bring different societies a single banner poorly designed by yet another communist intellectual with a democratic salary. There are cogent reasons to find a merciless satire of our world in Ibsen’s plays and a description of human fate in a godless world in Becket. Wortstward Ho is a work where every word counts. McCarthy’s latest potboiler (besides racist rants from México to China and Argentina) is hogwash indeed. And you don’t fight Chinese capitalism, Mexican cartels, of French cheeses of mass destruction for that in Hollywood.
07 Dec 2013 at 2:06 pm #4851
Francois and EG
‘Why Nations Fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty’ (which I have not finished yet) has a lot to say on these matters.
franzpeterQuote07 Dec 2013 at 3:38 pm #4852
Jared Diamond had praised the book and his endorsement has prevented me from reading it until now. Global history was never my thing I guess. It seems though worth to give the book one more chance. The essential question though — from Kierkegaard to Camus or from Job to Beckett — concerns the nature of man. If we discard the notion of sin we also reject the possibility of virtue. And sin being the main attribute of man civilisations and nations cannot but follow the same downward path. You can hear the cogs whirring. The Devil all the time?
07 Dec 2013 at 4:41 pm #4853
I wasn’t aware of Diamond’s endorsment and only noticed his favorable blurb after I’d bought my copy. In fact they take Diamond to task for his Guns, Germs and Steel thesis (though I think they are not talking about quite the same thing). I’m finding it rather repetitive and more detailed than it need be and ‘intellectual cutting edge’ from one reviewer seems over cooked. Chewable though…
franzpeterQuote08 Dec 2013 at 2:00 pm #4854
I had a long discussion today with my pastor who, like me, comes from a Huguenot family and was involved in the Resistance during the war. Discussing 1 Sam. 8 on a Sunday after the sermon seems worlds apart from the godless pages of the Counselor. The crux of the chapter according to him (and to myself, though the rest of the book teaches me a slightly different lesson)is that, once the choice is given to you, which way will you choose: independence or submission? Marilynne Robinson — a Presbyterian herself, now Congregationalist — never submits to the idea that the rule of evil has prevailed, nor does she approve of fashionable nihilism/positivism). Camus, who was not a believer, a liberal but not a communist, was committed to a vision of society where evil is a possibility, maybe the dominant one, yet went on fighting it. McCarthy more and more displays some traits of Tea Party people: side with the powerful and get rich. Abdicate. His portrayal of crime without any possibility of redemption amounts to accepting the order of the world as it stands(his stylistic metamorphosis is another proof), without flinching: there is no criticism of capitalism or communism, or any ism you like in the movie. Submit,thrive, and prosper. Philosophy has no purchase. Egoism is the new golden standard. Mediocre books, mediocre thoughts, mediocre style for mediocre times.
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