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Ironic Contradictions

I'm a long time reader - since way back when I was seven. That makes it over three quarters of my life that I will be a reader for. But it is worth it. When I'm not reading or wasting my time online on here or Goodreads I'll be off playing video games, studying teaching and messing around with friends and pop culture. Or reading some more.
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
To be honest I am not a major fan of Cormac McCarthy. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way I'll explain why I read this anyway. Firstly because it is on the 1001 books to read list, secondly because it is loved by so many other readers and thirdly because I still have hope that there is a Cormac McCarthy I will like. However this book ended up being a novel I neither completely liked or disliked. I was indifferent in that regard to the book.

I do not particularly care for McCarthy's stylistic choice to avoid the use of grammar and punctuation. I accept that it provides a unique element to his novels and I also note that it is a form of rebellion, a kind of method of saying that an author does not need conventions to tell a story. This is true but grammar and punctuation do aid authors in creating meaning. And there are many unique authors who can use grammar and punctuation to that end (take Titus Groan for instance). I merely find that McCarthy is not consistent in his 'stylistic choice'. For instance he uses apostrophes in some places and not others (and there is a difference between cant and can't).

In not using quotation marks or advanced punctuation McCarthy makes it more difficult for the reader to pick up meaning. I personally believe the aim of writing a book is not just so that authors can show off but to convey thoughts, ideas and stories. By not using quotation marks McCarthy forces the reader to work out what is speech and what is not. It requires him to overuse 'he said' or 'she said' or 'they said' meaning that McCarthy's prose is often about telling rather than showing when it comes to dialogue. The lack of quotations also turns the novel into one which is more about the individual who reads it than anything else. I found myself questioning whether if I gave the characters different voices personally it would alter the flow of the story. There was certainly not too much visible direction from the author as to how the characters sounded. Punctuation mainly exists to provide intonation and a break in the flow of passages. In other words punctuation gives direction to the story and I do not see it as something optional but something to be worked with. Many other authors have certainly been able to in unique ways. That said the fact that Cormac McCarthy has many fans means I'm one of the few who either 1)notice or 2)care about this.

So I've pointed out that I dislike McCarthy's prose in terms of how it uses punctuation and grammar. Furthermore that I find it inconsistent. However I do admire his description of landscapes much as these descriptions tend to be bleak, gloomy and depressing. I don't find many uplifting elements about McCarthy's writing from this perspective. He comes across as a little too morbid for my optimistic and somewhat idealistic personality.

The plot did nothing for me and since the writing in McCarthy's books seem to be half the appeal and the plot the other half I did not care for the novel. I did not find it so gruesome a plot as Blood Meridian (and it was less draining to read - but then Blood Meridian evens the scales with its superior description) yet it was not an entertaining or engrossing plot. In fact I did not feel it was communicated very well at times what was going on due to the writing.

Chances are if you haven't read this but like Cormac McCarthy's work you will like this. Chances are that if like me you're not a fan because you find his writing gimmicky, overhyped and tedious to read then you won't find this novel enjoyable. Ultimately there are better books in this genre and certainly ones which communicate their deeper ideas in a more interesting way. This for me was all substance and with little beneath the surface to recommend it.