What is The Passenger about?

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  • 27 Jul 2015 at 7:25 pm #7379

    Jason Parker
    Member

    Does anyone know?


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    • This topic was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by  Jason Parker.
    28 Jul 2015 at 8:16 am #7381

    kottage
    Member

    Jason Parker: Does anyone know?

    Here’s something from a Wall Street Journal interview from November 2009. I assume McCarthy is talking about The Passenger:

    WSJ: Can you tell me about the book you’re working on, in terms of story or setting?

    CM: I’m not very good at talking about this stuff. It’s mostly set in New Orleans around 1980. It has to do with a brother and sister. When the book opens she’s already committed suicide, and it’s about how he deals with it. She’s an interesting girl.

    WSJ: Some critics focus on how rarely you go deep with female characters.

    CM: This long book is largely about a young woman. There are interesting scenes that cut in throughout the book, all dealing with the past. She’s committed suicide about seven years before. I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years. I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try.

    Here’s the whole article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704576204574529703577274572


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    28 Jul 2015 at 9:23 am #7382

    Jason Parker
    Member

    Thanks!

    Ive also been wondering how ambitious this novel is. I wonder if he will ever try to top Suttree or Blood Meridian.


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    28 Jul 2015 at 9:44 am #7384

    Richard L.
    Member

    Reports from those who have read it–Rick Wallach, as I recall–say that the prose is top notch. The woman suicide, though, recalls Nell Sullivan’s axiom concerning McCarthy novels: Men will be men and women will be gone. Of course, in this stead, McCarthy mimics the Greeks. Or as some have it, men will be men and women will be Antigone.


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    28 Jul 2015 at 1:18 pm #7389

    Jason Parker
    Member

    Excellent!


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    26 Nov 2015 at 9:58 am #7886

    Glass
    Member

    This is a terrific piece with LOTS of information about the forthcoming book, and I don’t believe I have read it here or anywhere else (apologies if this is a retread):

    http://www.santafe.edu/news/item/genius-and-madness-sz-trans-english/

    Neat connection to The Crossing with the Trinity Test stuff, yes? I can picture those tarantulas on the road in TC when Billy is awakened by the false dawn juxtaposed with that image from the The Passenger in which the scientist can see his hand bones.


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    26 Nov 2015 at 6:37 pm #7890

    Richard L.
    Member

    From the article you link to:

    “One of the links between science and art is their aesthetic dimension, McCarthy believes. “There’s a beauty to science.” Some scientific theories are “properly elegant,” though beautiful theories are not necessarily true and true theories not necessarily aesthetically pleasing.”

    This goes along with Frank Wilczek’s new book, A BEAUTIFUL QUESTION: FINDING NATURE’S DEEP DESIGN, which I read a while back. Wilczek must be one of the MIT/Santa Fe Institute brain trust, or at least he talks like it, with numbers and Plato, Dali, and most of all, Pythagoras–the man and the cult.

    Brilliant stuff.


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    26 Nov 2015 at 11:21 pm #7891

    Ken
    Member

    …Chaconne by Johann Sebastian Bach…, as Alicia describes it, is built upon complex numeric symbols. Bach composed the piece a short time after his wife’s death. The sum of the tone numbers in the two first bars is 95. That is also the numeric value of the name “Maria Barbara Bach.”

    I wonder what system McCarthy used to calculate MB Bach’s number as 95. I sense it is some version of gematria, but which? The closest ones are: the English simple gematria (i.e., a=1 … z=26) which yields a sum of 99, and the Latin qabalah simplex gematria (i.e., a=1 … z=22 because k=c, j=i, and u=v=w) which yields a sum of 91. Perhaps McCarthy was using the average of 91 and 99, hehehe! The Latin qabalah simplex supposedly dates back centuries to the Middle Ages, but might really have originated with Aleister Crowley in the early 20th C. Does anyone have another theory NOT involving gematria? The forum discussions on McCarthy and gematria date back more than a decade, so here’s a possible revival. Where are the other occultists in this forum, and the detractors?

    “Mathematics is the world,” … Alicia says in the book. “A million years before the first word was ever said,” Man had mastered counting.

    This is an allusion to Pythagoras: “the world is made of numbers”. And, I have long believed McCarthy has long been Pythagorean, in the love for the number 5. The first five novels form a pentalogy of “elements”, and the fifth novel also is the first of five books which form a “western” pentalogy, and the tenth novel completes the entire set of novels as a pentagram.

    Also, the next part of the quote harkens “before man war was” :: “before word number was”.

    Twenty-year-old Alicia is a brilliant mathematician and violinist. And a schizophrenic. She intermittently spends time in a psychiatric institution…. The protagonist committed suicide about seven years before the book’s plot begins, and it’s about how her brother deals with it.

    The thin line between genius and madness is central to the The Passenger‘s plot. As a metaphor for the link between high intelligence and mental instability, the book contains numerous references to Kurt Gödel. Towards the end of his life, the Austro-American mathematician, logician, and philosopher was committed to a psychiatric institution – as was the protagonist in McCarthy’s book.

    Kurt Godel was not diagnosed in his time, but is retrospectively speculatively diagnosed with schizophrenia. One of his sons I believe was diagnosed with schizophrenia (the disease has a hereditary component). In a way, Godel did commit suicide: He had a fear his food was poisoned and ate only what his wife cooked. His wife became too ill to prepare his food. He refused to eat and starved to death.

    Godel’s all-important wife was named Adele. The main character in The Passenger is named Alicia. “Adele” and “Alicia” are cognate names derived from the German “Adalheidis”.

    Note also The Passenger begins “seven years” after the death of the protagonist. Seven is a significant number in The Orchard Keeper, in particular its relation to death and fate. The novel begins (after the prologue) just hours before Rattner’s death and ends seven years later (followed by an aftermath or epilogue of sorts) with the symbolic transmigration of Rattner’s spirit or soul: physical body consumed by fire, bird/cat howling understood by Ownby as the soul’s departure, and Ownby’s superstitions of the seven-year ritual for Rattner’s body and the seven-year rise-and-fall fortune calendar.


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    27 Nov 2015 at 4:44 pm #7894

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Thats pretty exciting.

    I’m feeling pretty buzzed about this new novel. The information, quotes in that link are awesome.

    I feel a kinship to this article because in my long piece I’m working on….which included the paper I presented in Memphis…I introduce the approach I take with McCarthy’s work by this into: The word for poetry is numbers. Old English used the word metergeweorc meaning “verse,” and metercræft meaning “art of versification.”  Songwriting and poetry is built upon counting. A usage of the word dance means “poetry of the feet”, where direction, counting and memory are combined aesthetically.

    My paper in Albuquerque embraces some of the mathematical aspects of “The Counselor” that it had been misunderstood by critics…as it’s actually a math-based piece. That might not help the movie be accepted aesthetically….but when it’s structure is seen as being a math set there is something else at work in the film that although it might fail as a box office or critical success, it is fascinating as an example of how one builds a math-based object.

    Ken, I might have even figured out what 117 is all about LOL


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    28 Nov 2015 at 9:00 am #7898

    Glass
    Member

    Ken,

    You, and possibly others, might find this discussion of the Chaconne interesting as it is an analysis quite similar to what is referenced in The Passenger as well as your attempt to tease out the number 95:

    Thomas Braatz wrote (April 19, 2002):
    Larry Solomon in his excellent analysis of the Bach chaconne states:

    “It is interesting that the 30 variation pattern used here was also used for the Goldberg Variations. (I don’t know the significance of the number 30, but it seems unlikely that this is a coincidence.) “

    30 variations

    There are actually 32 pieces in the Goldberg Variation (the Aria is played before and after the set of variations) but the final repeat of the Aria is simply notated as Aria da capo, so this means that there are 31 separate items visible in this set. Of these 31 pieces, 28 are in G major and 3 in G minor. Taking all these numbers into account, we have 28 = BH, 3 = C, and 1 = A, thus containing Bach’s signature using gematria. [See below for a more detailed explanation.]

    There may be a meaningful division of the variations in the chaconne that could yield some significant (for Bach) numbers that could reinforce the notion that he may have been thinking along these lines, but I have not found them yet. The only thing that comes to mind off hand is a tri-partite division [minor, major, minor] that could be linked to the T.

    257 measures of the Bach’s Chaconne are numbered in the NBA VI/1, but the 1st measure that is counted is incomplete, more in the form of an upbeat to ms. 2. This means that there are really only 256 full measures in the chaconne. This then means that understanding this number according gematria, a system of number symbolism, giving numbers to the letters of the alphabet, which was also used during the Baroque, we have a significant number for Bach here: If A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, H = 8, then BACH = 2 + 1 + 3 + 8. Numbers can be combined, as you saw above (2 and 8 become 28), and still be significant: 2 * 1 * 38 = 76, which still would be a number representing the name BACH. In this case, 256 full measures in the Chaconne, we have 32 * 1 * 8 = BACH. It appears to me, that in a composition of this sort, which Bach must have recognized as being important and significant, he enhanced the monumentality of this composition by embedding into it additional significance such as this.

    Here is the source for the quote/analysis (some wonderful stuff here):

    http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MD/MD-BWV1004-Chaconne.htm

    Reading about the great Bach piece of music, I wondered about possible parallels between what a great composer does and what McCarthy does with his writing. There appear to be some intriguing points of contact, the hum and the mystery. Will have to think about that some more.


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