I just got done reading Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece “All the Pretty Horses,” and am convinced that the title does not do it justice. Or maybe you have to read the story before the title makes sense in an ironic sort of way. But it feels good to be blown away by a story.
It took me just three days to read the book. Before that, I read “No Country for Old Men,” another McCarthy book. And my plan is to now read, “The Road,” the book that McCarthy won a Pulitzer Prize for. Having read it before, I am still mystified how he got a Pulitzer for it, but hey, I’m not on the Pulitzer judging team. If I were, I would have picked me.
So what’s so great about McCarthyism? (Sorry, just had to include that zinger.) He has a lot of the sparse, austere writing that led Hemingway to a Nobel Prize in Literature. He even throws in some really annoying/amazing run on sentences that will absolutely blow your mind. He loves to break rules, but at this point, I am willing to concede that he has license to do so.
He is an absolute master at dialogue. I would never have considered that having someone say something, then have them repeat it would add both credibility and impact to their statement, but he makes it work. He is also the master of understatement, something else I see coming from Hemingway. When a dramatic moment comes, it just comes. No fanfare, no warning. Just stick in the knife and twist it.
I tell my writing students–often–that the day a writer stops learning is the day he stops growing as a writer. I don’t know if Cormac McCarthy is learning, but I know I am from his efforts.
Now the trick is to apply what I am learning to my own writing.