Unfortunately, that dimension exists only in my head. Damn I wish I could write like that man. Even as a woman subject to hormonal whims I wish I could write like him. I have pen envy I guess. Let’s face it, he doesn’t waste one word. Not one comma is misplaced. Every word, every punctuation mark, every page number has a significant reason for being. It is quite spectacular really and damn difficult to achieve.
I imagine the powerful simplicity with which McCarthy writes his books is somewhat akin to the way Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter; it just has to be unbelievably difficult but is definitely very effective.
So far I have read three of McCarthy’s novels before I needed to take a break from their intensity: No Country for Old Men, Child of God, and the Pulitzer-prize winning The Road. Personally I like No Country the best and even went so far as to purchase 21 copies of the book so I could teach it to my Enriched English 11 class this year. I believe this novel to be supremely important in both its structure as a tool to teach writing, and in its message which rings through loud and clear with people who shake their heads when they read the papers.
As far as its use as a teaching tool for writing, my students are finally getting the idea behind writing as an art form. In McCarthy’s carefully crafted sentence structure; in his decision not to use quotation marks; in the vocabulary he uses and with every strategically placed conjunction he forces us to read passages of the story a certain way. For example, at the beginning of the novel Chigurh brutally kills a young deputy. When reading this out loud to the class we noticed how matter-of-fact that scene comes across. So I posed this question: Why might McCarthy want us to read the passage this way? Their reply: Because the man committing the act is cold and dead inside so we cannot read his actions with emotion without losing something of the character. Big smile on their English teacher’s face. Huge. Now they are experiencing what great writing can do for the reader; what it means to CONSTRUCT a sentence to get across a point or an emotion, or the lack of it.
In my next life I want to come back as this kind of writer. And Mr. McCarthy, if fate should ever bring you to read these words please know that if literature groupies exist, I am yours.