Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 29

Thread: Child Of God, by Cormac McCarthy

  1. #1
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604

    Child Of God, by Cormac McCarthy

    Whenever I think I’m starting to feel a little too comfortable I’ll read a Cormac McCarthy novel. Then for the next month or so I’m all jumpy, walking around with a furled brow, looking at people I think I know in a different way, thinking I see deeper meanings in ordinary things. I can’t read his stuff too often.

    So has anybody here read Child Of God? Does anybody feel like chatting about it? Has anybody got any insights into it?
    Uhhhh...

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    8,525
    Blog Entries
    1
    Wellcome back, Sancho. It´s good to "hear" from you.

    I don´t know anything about him. But why don´t you write something, your impressions, a summary or ...? I think that might attract attention.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  3. #3
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    Hiya Danik. Thanks. It’s good to be back and good to “hear” you as well. Also you’re right, so I’ll start.

    ***Spoiler Alert***

    The main character, Lester Ballard, is a miscreant. Or rather he starts out as socially inept and then gradually devolves into a full-blown miscreant.

    His housing accommodations track his descent. The story begins with Lester’s farm being auctioned off, presumably due to the failure to pay county taxes. Lester is there (with his rifle) and lets everybody know he his not happy about the situation. The sheriff knocks him silly with an axe handle and the auction goes on. Lester then moves to a dilapidated cabin, then to a cave in the mountains, then across a flooded creek and into a sink hole, and finally he is committed to an asylum for the criminally insane.

    As far as I can tell Lester has no redeeming qualities, except perhaps that he is a really good shot with his rifle. He is introduced to us on the first page of the novel:

    “...from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.”
    Uhhhh...

  4. #4
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    8,525
    Blog Entries
    1
    Thanks, Sancho, one gets the picture, even if one hasn´t read the book. From what perspective is it written, from a moral or a social one?
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  5. #5
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    Well...I’m still trying to suss that out. I think the book is written in such a way that the reader can approach it from a social or a moral standpoint. Or both at the same time.

    Do social factors result in Lester’s amorality? As we go along we learn that Lester’s Mom “ran off” when he was young and his father hanged himself in the barn. Lester had few friends growing up and he got into fights at school. His attempts to woo women are pathetic and generally met with scorn. Don’t forget he’s a little guy and probably has a bad case of ‘short-man syndrome’.

    The book was published in 1973. And as I read along I couldn’t help but to be reminded of a recent school shooting in this country where the shooter left behind a manifesto in which he referred to himself as an ‘Incel’ or ‘involuntary celibate’. McCarthy sure did a nice job imagining Lester as a sort of proto-incel.

    If anything, Lester’s moral behavior is somewhere south of a simple school shooter’s behavior. I know that sounds weird but read the book and you tell me. So, is redemption possible for Lester? Is there even such a thing as redemption? Is the idea of God and redemption all just a human invention anyway?
    Uhhhh...

  6. #6
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    8,525
    Blog Entries
    1
    The point you make about the "incel" is interesting, Sancho, and might allow also a psychological approach. It also reminded me of a school shooting in US, where, I believe, the shooter, he himself a shoolboy, left a video stating rejection by girls as the cause of the shooting.
    I had a look at wikipedia meanwhile, it´s not the kind of book I myself would like to read, we have some of it in the news almost every day.
    But others may want to read it.

    About redemption, a very tentative answer. I think one has to believe in redemption first and then one has to want it. I don´t know if this is the case of your character. He seems to degrade into a subhuman condition.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  7. #7
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    It’s not the type of book I tend to read very often either, Danik, but every 3 or 4 years I’ll read a Cormac McCarthy novel. So far my McCarthy reading list has gone like this: Blood Meridian, No Country For Old Men, The Road, All The Pretty Horses, and now Child Of God.

    I first read Blood Meridian and came away from it stunned. I was amazed at the attention McCarthy put into getting the language of the period right. At first I was a little put out by the violence, but somehow, despite my less than stellar academic career, managed to intuit this was no slasher novel.

    It seems the reviewer of Child Of God for The New York Times was likewise put out by the violence and in fact by the whole idea of the book. So I surfed around the web reading reviews and it looks like there’s no middle ground with this book. People either love it or they hate it. But it does evoke strong emotions on both sides.

    So anyway your “subhuman” comment triggered a thought. There’s a short vignette in it about a traveling carnival. It starts with one of the townspeople telling a story about a carny who cheated people at shooting game - didn’t play by the rules - then moves on to another contest in which you could win 50 dollars if you could stay in the boxing ring with an ape for 3 minutes. Naturally the guy telling the story gets in the ring with the gorilla (subhuman) and starts boxing him in the head, no doubt thinking the game is a boxing match. Well the gorilla gets angry -

    ...his eyes went kindly funny...and about that time he jumped right on top of my head and crammed his foot in my mouth and like to tore my jaw off. I couldn’t even holler for help. I thought they never would get that thing off of me.
    I suppose a subhuman doesn’t play by human rules.
    Uhhhh...

  8. #8
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    So there was a vignette in the book I actually laughed out loud at. Lester finds a rusty axe head and takes it to a blacksmith for sharpening. The smith tells him that simply sharpening the axe won’t do him much good. He then proceeds to temper and forge the blade all the while going through an elaborate description of what he’s doing for Lester’s benefit. (It was a superb description of the smithing process of hardening steel and it honestly gave me a hankering to go out to my barn and work a couple of old axe heads I have there) Anyway once he finishes, he says to Lester, “Reckon you could do it now from watchin?” Lester comes back with, “Do what”

    That cracked me up and I originally just took it to mean just that Lester is a bit of dullard. But one of the on-line reviewers clued me in. The rest of the exchange went like this:

    It’s like a lot of things, said the smith. Do the least part of it wrong and ye’d just as well to do it all wrong. He was sorting through handles standing in a barrel. Reckon you could do it now from watchin? he said.

    Do what, said Ballard.
    Meaning once you’ve done “the least part of it wrong” you’ve passed a point of no return and you’d “just as well do it all wrong.” Well, Lester was about to cross that line in life.
    Uhhhh...

  9. #9
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    8,525
    Blog Entries
    1
    There is a review about Blood Meridian by Pompey Bum buried somewhere in this forum. I didn't,t realise this was the same author. It seems he goes to the core of human violence and degradation. One has to have stomach to read it.
    I get your idea, though I never think of animals as subhuman. Of course an author that depicts extreme violence would also describe animal violence.

    These kind of books sets one thinking about one's reality and it's relationship to violence.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  10. #10
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    Pompey Bum, he’s a smart one, eh?

    I agree with you totally about the term “subhuman” for a gorilla. We humans are an arrogant species - am I right? In fact when I wrote that post I wondered if it would raise anyone’s hackles. Speaking of which, “raising one’s hackles” as a metaphor for a human’s animalistic wariness may be questionable as well. You can drive yourself nuts trying to parse your speech so as not to offend anyone.

    Hey, another very un-PC use of the word “subhuman” is in reference to someone who is mentally challenged. At one point in the story Lester goes over to a house and in a very Lester-esk way tries to romance the woman there. (“Lemme see dem titties”) In the house is a toddler who is referred to by both of them as the idiot. Lester brings the child a live bird to play with and the child almost immediately chews off one of the bird’s legs. In a moment of understanding and connection with the child, Lester says something like, “He only did it so it wouldn’t run off.” You might say Lester and the idiot saw things eye to eye.
    Uhhhh...

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,123
    Wasn't he thinking of Mr Gein during the creation of that text?

  12. #12
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    Donno. I’d never heard of Gein, so I googled him, and it seems likely he could have been the inspiration for the Lester character. Also, based on what I read on the web about Gein, I just gotta say - yuk.
    Uhhhh...

  13. #13
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,848
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Sancho

    I’d just like to get my six pence worth in, on the concept of redemption that you refer to. Traditionally it is believed to be granted by: works, faith or grace. I think actually it’s a bit more complicated than that. Or to phrase it another way, is redemption / salvation through what one does, or what one believes, or for what God chooses for reasons entirely of His own?

    Today of course the main character would be referred to as; having social issues, (absent mother, suicidal father), mental issues, (vertically challenged). Perhaps we could also throw in his human rights? Much more interesting is his Celtic-Saxon bloodline. What potential for analysis that holds!

    I must confess that it sounds like the kind of book I would not read, but I’m sure that will not deter you. My reasoning I suppose is during my work overseas, in having had to deal with three suicides, of which two were by hanging. You deal with it in the moment, but later ask yourself to what extremes a person is driven by adverse acts or circumstances. Couple that with the current distressing stories emanating from Ukraine, and I would rather lose myself in a lighter piece of writing.

    By the way thank you for bringing onto the Forum something interesting to get one’s dentures into.

  14. #14
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    2,604
    Howdy, M. It’s good to hear from you.

    Concerning your dental metaphor - no dentures yet, but I have had extensive dental work in my life. So, the other day I was down in LA and I found myself standing in front of a reception deck, and since I am who I am, I found myself flirting with the receptionist. And since she was a good receptionist, she was sort of flirting back at me — in the way a young woman flirts with an awkward old dude while hoping her phone would ring soon. Anyway she had a small jar of candy on her desk and figuring the candy was for customers, I stared absent-mindedly popping Sugar Babies in my mouth. (Sugar Babies are a chewy caramel M&M-sized confection.) In no time I had a pretty good wad of sugary goo going, and then I bit down on something really hard. I felt around my teeth with my tongue and couldn’t help noticing an empty space where a tooth used to be. So I made an excuse, smiled a gap-toothed smile at the receptionist, and went in search of a pharmacy. I found a CVS right down the block and they sold me a tube of crown adhesive. So I went into the loo and glued that sucker back on — with passable but mediocre results — and I headed back to the reception desk. I’ve got an appointment with my dentist next Friday.

    As for redemption as it relates to salvation, I understand the concept, but I generally steer clear discussions of that sort of thing. I’m not a religious man. It seems to me that even among the faithful, that can be a contentious discussion. Politics and Religion have ruined many an otherwise promising dinner party.

    But that doesn’t stop me from exploring the subject or enjoying the literature that comes out of the idea. Flannery O’Connor’s short story, Revelation, comes to mind. I keep coming back to her stories for some reason. Maybe because she wrote about the South and I’m from the South. Maybe because she wrote about religious topics for non religious people. Maybe because my mom liked her writing and we shared a lot of books. Maybe because she looked a lot like my mom and reminds me of her. Maybe because they both died too young. And maybe because she was a really good writer of short stories. Here’s the first paragraph of Revelation:

    The Doctor’s waiting room, which was very small, was almost full when the Turpins entered and Mrs. Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence. She stood looming at the head of the magazine table set in the center of it, a living demonstration that the room was inadequate and ridiculous. Her little bright black eyes took in all the patients as she sized up the seating situation. There was one vacant chair and a place on the sofa occupied by a blond child in a dirty blue romper who should have been told to move over and make room for the lady. He was five or six, but Mrs. Turpin saw at once that no one was going to tell him to move over. He was slumped down in the seat, his arms idle at his sides and his eyes idle in his head; his nose ran unchecked.
    Anyway the story, Revelation, is about redemption, or more precisely about a revelation of redemption. It’s a pretty quick read, but is deceptively complex. It’s worth the time if only for the interaction between Mrs. Turpin and the black farm hands. At any rate here’s a link to the story:

    https://www.ohio.k12.ky.us/userfiles...Revelation.pdf
    Uhhhh...

  15. #15
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,848
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Sancho

    Thanks for the link to Revelation. As you note, the more you ponder on it, the more the complexity creeps in.

    Regards discussing religion I try not to be dogmatic or coming across as a bit of a zealot. From a writing perspective, (albeit as an amateur), I've heard it said that the most difficult subject to write about is sex. On the contrary the origins and development of the different world faiths is much more of a challenge.

    Take care & best wishes.
    M.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Cormac McCarthy
    By jake21221 in forum General Literature
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: 04-03-2014, 06:27 PM
  2. Cormac McCarthy
    By Mutatis-Mutandis in forum General Literature
    Replies: 22
    Last Post: 08-11-2011, 05:31 AM
  3. Cormac McCarthy
    By bibliophile190 in forum General Literature
    Replies: 66
    Last Post: 08-19-2010, 09:36 AM
  4. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
    By mpeachhead in forum Write a Book Review
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-25-2009, 01:27 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •