The Cretin

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  • 10 May 2012 at 3:20 pm #1166

    I got carried away with my adverbs (always a mistake…). I can rescind them all and still make the point. The first thing the Judge says in the novel is by his own admission a falsehood. I am primed or inoculated by that to be less than dazzled by the Judge’s later and more seductive pontifications, his dark assertions, his verbal baroque-ness. It makes me suspicious of the words McCarthy puts in his mouth.

    I don’t deny they have power and a kind of temptation and raw accuracy (“war endures”), but to me the judge is like a wise man reflected in a funhouse mirror – inverted, distorted, disturbing. Even when he speaks what sounds like truth, even when he sometimes has a point (>>how easily manipulated people, especially in the form of a mob, really are<<), I never forget I’m listening to a charlatan, a hoodwinker. He says that he will never die. He says a lot of things.


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    10 May 2012 at 3:29 pm #1167

    While the judge is skillful at manipulating people, places, and things, he’s still a liar, and any critical account of him must include that trait for what it is, lying. He lies all over the place. One reason he’s able to lie and manipulate is that McCarthy’s drawn a Glanton gang of mostly dumb asses (arguably excepting Tobin and the kid and a minor character or two, though nobody in McCarthy’s west is a match for god Holden). Sure the gang has combat and criminal skills, but even there, the judge leads them around by their peckers. Don’t like my metaphor? Well, remember the piss gun scene. Remember the judge always manages to maneuver he gang into situations where they get whore-laid.

    If Leslie Fiedler is right that “literature is masturbation,” and I believe he’s partly right, the judge is the great masturbator of American letters, the literary counterpart of Dali’s “Great Mastubator.” For Holden gathers all into himself, glories in self-absorption and ultimately plays with himself,

    Yet the judge may be devoid normal genitals. Kids look at him awfully funny, don’t they? Let’s imagine Holden in the jakes sexually mutilating the kid. jakes. At last the big boy’s got him a full penis.


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    10 May 2012 at 3:38 pm #1168

    I had all kinds of typos in my last post, so I’m posting it correct this time. I know of no edit function in this new Forum. Even asked about it but got no answer.

    While the judge is skillful at manipulating people, places, and things, he’s still a liar, and any critical account of him must include that trait for what it is, lying. He lies all over the place. One reason he’s able to lie and manipulate is that McCarthy’s drawn a Glanton gang of mostly dumb asses (arguably excepting Tobin and the kid and a minor character or two, though nobody in McCarthy’s west is a match for god Holden). Sure the gang has combat and criminal skills, but even there, the judge leads them around by their peckers. Don’t like my metaphor? Well, remember the piss gun scene. Remember the judge always manages to maneuver the gang into situations where they get whore-laid.

    If Leslie Fiedler is right that “literature is masturbation,” and I believe he’s partly right, the judge is the great masturbator of American letters, the literary counterpart of Dali’s “Great Mastubator.” For Holden gathers all into himself, glories in self-absorption and ultimately plays with himself.

    Yet the judge may be devoid of normal genitals. Kids look at him awfully funny, don’t they? Let’s imagine Holden in the jakes sexually mutilating the kid. At last the big boy’s got him a full penis.


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    10 May 2012 at 5:23 pm #1169

    aden
    Member

    If only Tricky Dick were still around.


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    11 May 2012 at 1:17 am #1170

    cantona
    Member

    Yep, there is something unfortunate in the pansy remark. The inference being, whether it was intended or not, that the Judge is a proper geezer and the kid is, well, girly. For some reason it reminds me of this scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3YiPC91QUk.
    In gender terms I see a lot of ambivalence in Holden’s maleness. This is why I propose that if the book ever comes to screen the Judge should be portrayed as a hermaphrodite. Tilda Swinton was born to play such a role.

    The other reason why the pansy comment is unfortunatate is that it occludes the fact that McCarthy has a great deal to say about masculinity, and in ways that go beyond the Hemingway limp dick = American decline cliche ( a lot of talk about dicks on this thread!). I find Sherriff Bell’s italicized ruminations in NCFOM very interesting in the way they explore masculine doubt, along with a general querulousness with how life has turned out. Worth considering too, is the exemplary Suttree’s acceptance of all that is strange or non-standardised in human behavior. That’s all, really. Now I’m off to punch cattle and then mow the lawn with me combine harvester.


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    11 May 2012 at 4:27 am #1171

    peterfranz
    Member

    Hmmmmmmm! When a politician says “the number of heroin addicts has increase by 50% but Alcoholic’s Anonymous by only 10%. We have to do something about Heroin addiction” s/he is not lying, but when we find out that Heroin addicts have increased from (say) ten to fifteen while AA membership has inflated from a membership of a million by 100,000 we feel, quite rightly, that the original statement is true but also misleading. If the judge ‘lies’ at all (and I don’t think he does: he believes that he is telling the truth) it is in this sense of a sophist who seeks to present his case in a light that is persuasive and uses deception to achieve his aim. I would need a good deal more evidence from the ‘judge lies’ camp to be persuaded that he does lie. And we might ponder the fact (if it is a fact) that we only know that the judge lies about knowing the reverend because he tells us the truth about not knowing the reverend! (Or does he?)
    None of this is to suggest that what the Judge believes is ‘true’ even if he thinks it is. Like many post enlightenment polymaths he just gets it wrong. (cf: Phrenology f’rinstance.)

    Encouraged by Bob’s post I reread the passage regarding the cretin last night and the judge is indeed referring to Tobin throughout!!! Despite a reputation to the contrary McCarthy is often more straightforward than many readers seem to want to believe. (If a gang is ‘heading west’ we can be sure, in want of any other information, that they are not heading east). But McCarthy (like the judge) risks misleading his readers here by lack of clarity and that to no purpose. Most readers I think (perhaps most English English readers; the term cretin had a certain currency for a while, largely due to a John Cleese comedy sketch of the late sixties) would connect cretin with the fool and would need something slightly more emphatic to be sure to connect cretin with Tobin.

    pf


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    11 May 2012 at 6:31 am #1172

    aden
    Member

    When considering the judge’s judgment of the kid’s pansyism, it might be helpful to remember that Odysseus means “enemy” in ancient Greek. Autolycos (the Wolfman or more literally “same wolf” or self wolf”), Odysseus’s maternal grandfather who exceeded all others at “lying” and “stealing” (traits Odysseus inherited), gave the epic hero his name. In this connection, the great enemy chastises the commercialized Phaeacians, who prefer money and entertainment to war. Sounds familiar, I must say.


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    11 May 2012 at 12:48 pm #1174

    pf,

    If he’s lying to win his case, I’d still call that a lie. But since you think he believes he’s right, and also that he “gets it wrong,” then what should we call him, if liar is too pejorative? An inaccurate truth-teller? Or maybe just a madman.

    >> And we might ponder the fact (if it is a fact) that we only know that the judge lies about knowing the reverend because he tells us the truth about not knowing the reverend! (Or does he?)None of this is to suggest that what the Judge believes is ‘true’ even if he thinks it is <<

    Same sorts of issues posed by this classic logic puzzle as told by Smullyan: http://www.cut-the-knot.org/impossible/brothers.shtml) Accurate truth-tellers and inaccurate truth-tellers, accurate liars and inaccurate liars, and how can you tell who's who?


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    11 May 2012 at 2:23 pm #1175

    peterfranz
    Member

    No, no, no Laurie. Your post is an example of exactly what it is that I’m talking about. He’s not lying to win his case, he’s telling the truth as he sees it (and it doesn’t follow that I think he’s right because I don’t believe that he is lying!!!!) You quote me as saying ‘gets it wrong’ but take it out of context which is “Like many post enlightenment polymaths he just gets it wrong. (cf: Phrenology f’rinstance.)”, which is a comment on the long-history of human error to which the judge, no matter what he may think is, subject.

    pf


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    11 May 2012 at 2:26 pm #1176

    peterfranz
    Member

    Where’s the edit button f’Christ’s sake???????????????

    pf


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