Cormac McCarthy's new novel, The Road, hits shelves tomorrow. I read this book a month ago and since then have been trying to come up with a cogent way of saying that this is one of the best books I've ever read. Not just the best McCarthy novel, one of the best ever. I hope to post a review of the novel sooner than later but until then I'll let Steve Erickson's beautifully penned review stand in for mine:
One of McCarthy's best novels, probably his most moving and perhaps his most personal, "The Road" would be the ideal coda to a body of work that now spans 10 books over 40 years. But that would mean no more McCarthys, and no one could want that. Rather, we may hope he'll find more inspiration where "The Road" came from — it's dedicated to his son — even as the book wrenches our nightmares into a gray light where they don't vanish but become more vivid. Maybe a new territory awaits McCarthy beyond the South, beyond the West, beyond the world's end, or maybe it's the same territory and always has been, both lyric and savage, both desperate and transcendent, although transcendence is singed around the edges. The morgue culture cares for its tags, and can care on its own time. For the rest of us, tag McCarthy one of the four or five great American novelists of his generation, and let it go at that.
Ron Rash's Saints at the River is this year's Western North Carolina's Together We Read featured book.
The new issue of Bookforum has a nice essay by John Palattella on Allen Ginsberg:
Like Walt Whitman and Bob Dylan, Ginsberg exists in the cocoon of myth, and like them, it isn't only his admirers who have installed him there. No one was better at flogging the virtues of Allen Ginsberg than Allen Ginsberg. In "At Apollinaire's Grave," written a couple of years after "Howl," Ginsberg stands at the French poet's tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery and places a copy of Howl and Other Poems "on top of his silent Calligramme." He then imagines his own work being vital enough to merit an identical homage: "I hope some wild kidmonk lays his pamphlet on my grave for God to read me on cold winter nights in heaven." Ginsberg's audacity in comparing himself to Apollinaire was matched by his knack for advertising "Howl" as an all-purpose cultural barometer. When he learned in the spring of 1956 that the New York Times had assigned the poet Richard Eberhart to write an article on the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, he sent him a long letter explicating his poem: "Howl is an ‘affirmation' of individual experience of God, sex, drugs, absurdity etc." In an interview with Gay Sunshine in 1974, Ginsberg remarked that "Howl" was a "coming out of the closet." Two years later, in a volume commemorating the twentieth anniversary of "Howl," he announced that the poem "was really about my mother."
The winner of Playboy's college fiction contest is featured in the same issue that has women from his university showing of their talents (if you know what I mean). Guess what is getting more buzz at the university.
The Mobile Press-Register's Rob Maxwell reviews Smonk, the great new novel by hometown-boy-done-good Tom Franklin:
As to his influences for the book, Franklin cited: "First, the Bible. How many horrific murders, battles and massacres do we find in the Old Testament alone? It occurred to me that somebody on the ground, angels, soldiers, had to do all the killings. Had to go house to house with their swords, skewering babies, little girls and boys. Dogs. Cats. Livestock. And we read this in church."
Another obvious literary progenitor is Cormac McCarthy: Reading "Smonk" conjured up the memory of murderous necrophile Lester Ballard from McCarthy's "Child of God." And not only does one find here the extreme violence and content of, say, McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" and his border trilogy, but Franklin's novel also echoes McCarthy's form, including experiments with prose and dialogue, punctuation conventions (or lack thereof) and chapter summaries. This is not surprising, since McCarthy is a prose master whom many writers seek to emulate.
"Deadwood," an edgy Western set in 1876, was another major influence. A fan of the show, Franklin was given the opportunity to visit the set and spend two days as an extra playing a prospector. Heady stuff -- and perhaps a significant clue as to the real heart of the novel. Certainly, one can see Smonk as a character on "Deadwood," and the series creator, David Milch, has blurbed Franklin's book. Episodes from the book could easily be dropped into the series and made to work: The over-the-top violence and profanity would be right at home.