Thursday, June 08, 2006

McCarthy's Sentences

Here's one of the Cormac McCarthy sentences I was talking about (from Blood Meridian): "About that fire were men whose eyes gave back the light like coals socketed hot in their skulls and men whose eyes did not, but the black man's eyes stood as corridors for the ferrying through of naked and unrectified night from what of it lay behind to what was yet to come." The comma is really interesting, serving as it does to accentuate the "but" and the turn of thought--it signifies a difference represented both by the opposition of races and of psychological worlds--more so than simply race.

What almost all of McCarthy's characters resist is the draw into the other: other cultures, other thoughts, other worlds. In a few sentences, the black adventurer, mortally insulted by a white cowboy, cuts off the white man's head--and after describing that action, McCarthy writes: "He was sat as before save headless, drenched in blood, the cigarillo still between his fingers, leaning toward the dark and smoking grotto in the flames where his life had gone . . . . When they set out in the dawn the headless man was sitting like a murdered anchorite discalced in ashes and sark." Bespeaks a certain inflexibility, no?

And the diction of those sentences--another good thing. The vocabulary base is so broad and textured--encompassing both the plain speech of some of the inhabitants of these novels and the uber-consciousness out there, not just of the author, but of the otherness from which the characters shrink.

One last sentence, but no explications: "They crossed before the sun and vanished one by one and reappeared again and they were black in the sun and they rode out of that vanished sea like burnt phantoms with the legs of the animals kicking up the spume that was not real and they were lost in the sun and lost in the lake and they shimmered and slurred together and separated again and they augmented by planes in lurid avatars and began to coalesce and there began to appear above them in the dawn-braoched sky a hellish likeness of their ranks riding huge and inverted and the horses' legs incredibly elongate trampling down the high thin cirrus and the howling antiwarriors pendant from their mounts immense and chimeric and the high wild cries carrying that flat and barren pan like the cries of souls broke through some misweave in the weft of things into the world below."

OK, just one comment: there's no punctuation save a period at the end. And that's perfect. Can you imagine how awful it would be punctuated with commas? It would just jam the whole thing up and destroy the speed and rapid shifting of the vision.

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