The Stonemason

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  • 22 Nov 2012 at 5:57 pm #2454

    Glass
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    In the italicized stage directions, McCarthy writes, And now we can begin. As the mathematician Gauss said to his contemporaries: Go forward and faith will come to you.
    That’s a memorable quote to be sure, but it doesn’t appear to be correctly attributed as this maxim is most commonly attributed to the French mathematician d’Alembert, “famously known for incorrectly arguing…that the probability of a coin landing heads increased for every time it came up tails.” (Wikipedia)
    There are a number of online references to the d’Alembert quote/maxim, the most interesting for me coming in Spengler’s Decline of the West. I wonder if McCarthy mis-attributed on purpose, if he misread his notes from the Spengler book, or just how it came to be he attributed the “Go forward” line to Gauss. Interesting. Here’s the reference to it in Spengler: http://books.google.com/books?id=jYjYLoGSsQgC&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=go+forward+and+faith+will+come+to+you+gauss&source=bl&ots=0GgWJ_DmBv&sig=1B5qAJuhB1Dvr7SFbDrowEjoBDw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CbmuULvzKfGu2gWiGw&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBA


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    05 Jan 2013 at 4:38 pm #2781

    Glass
    Member

    “As far as I know, masonry is older than carpentry, which goes clear back to Bible times. Stone mason goes back way before Bible time: the pyramids of Egypt, things of that sort.”

    This is how Carl Murray Bates, a 57-year-old stone mason from Ohio, begins the tale The Mason in Studs Terkel’s 1974 non-fiction book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. Bates’ voice (and the many details he discusses about the mason’s trade), bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Ben Telfair’s in McCarthy’s play The Stonemason, except for the times when Ben’s language gets too “highfalutin,” to borrow an apt description and criticism from Peter Josyph’s essay Older Professions: The Fourth Wall of The Stonemason.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if McCarthy had read Terkel’s book and possibly used some of the details of masonry to help him write The Stonemason. There are many interesting similarities, but the narrative voice resemblance really stands out. Bates’ story ends with a meditation on the timeless quality of stone and it’s here the mason sounds a lot like McCarthy when he’s doing an aside in interviews on rattlesnakes or stonemasonry or some other interesting thing:

    “Immortality as far as we’re concerned. Nothin’ in this world lasts forever, but did you know that stone — Bedford limestone, they claim — deteriorates one-sixteenth of an inch every hundred years? And it’s around four or five inches for a house. So that’s gettin’ awful close. (Laughs)”


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