Friday, February 09, 2007

McCarthyisms #4

McCarthy's novels were amongst those dissed by Brian Myers in his Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose.

Summing up why he felt that a resurgence of good-old American scorn for pretention was long overdue, Myers griped that:

"Any accessible fast-moving story written in unaffected prose is deemed to
be 'genre fiction' - at best an excellent 'read' or 'page turner' but never
literature with a capital L...Even the most obvious triteness is acceptable
provided it comes with a postmodern wink...What is not tolerated is a strong
element of action - unless, of course, the idiom is obtrusive enough to keep
suspense to a minimum."
In truth, these aren't criticisms that will easily stick to McCarthy's writing. No Country for Old Men for instance may be stylistically lighter than some of the earlier books, but it remains recognisably a McCarthy novel and it has action aplenty.

From the scene at the very start where a Sherrif's deputy is strangled with a pair of handcuffs, the body count starts to mount almost exponentially, a phenomenon I hadn't previously encountered in serious literature. In some ways it might be the most "trite" of McCarthy's novels, but that is really a side-effect of the way McCarthy has worked his elaborate, allusive way with a plot outline straight out of the Hollywood thriller genre: man finds suitcase full of cash surrounded by dead narcos. Man decides to pick it up and leave. Dead narcos' associates decide to follow him and so on.

1 comment:

scott said...

Sometimes good old American scorn for pretension is really good old American anti-intellectualism.