12.31.2010

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy



Lester Ballard has got hisself a few issues.  One, he ain't got no real home.  Which ain't a good thing for a young single man in the east Tennessee mountains of Appalachia, where the winters is something fierce. His first "home," if we can call it that, warnt nothin' more than an abandoned squatter's cabin used by hunters huntin' 'possum and squirrel.  Two rooms.  It was a good enough home for a guy like Lester while he had it, I suppose.  A bit lonesome out there in the boonies where all the backwoods, backwards loonies live, but damn if that Lester Ballard dint burn that cabin down one night just tryin' to stay warm!  Sparks from the decrepit chimbley must've slithered somehow into the attic, and Lester barely got out alive with his body and belongings intact.  Once his house burnt down, it was a complex of caves and sinkholes that Lester called "home."  Weird.

1st printing, 1973
What's a young man like Lester need to be hidin' out in caves and abandoned shacks for anyway?  Well, Lester has hisself a peculiar taste for necrophilia.  Necrophilia means having a proclivity for sexual intercourse with cadavers.  Sound distasteful?  Shoot, you ain't whistlin' Dixie!  But goddamn if that ain't 'ol vintage Cormac McCarthy for ya!  This here book a his was published in 1973, his third, and if it cain't be described as his most poetically violent, then maybe we can call it his most poetically vile.  And that ain't necessarily a criticism or complaint, but I'm on the fence myself (sort of), as I consider it in the dawning aftermath of this here strange reading experience, whether it's complimentary or not.  It's compelling, that's for shore.  Ain't no equivocatin' there on that regard.

So, Lester Ballard, the necrophiliac, I was a sayin'.  His first girlfriend, in Lester's defense, was at least already dead when he come acrost her, shot dead through the head in the backseat of a sedan with a man, also dead, lyin' atop her.  The radio of the car was still playin'.  Somethin' contemporary from the mid-1960s.

Hard to believe Lester lugged that female corpse a good mile on his shoulders back to his squatter's quarters, that cabin, I mentioned, 'fore it burnt down.  The cabin was barely visible from the rutted dirt road, but Lester knew the path well through the weeds that shot up all around the shack as high as the eaves, somewhere deep and forgotten in the old growth black pines a Tennessee.

Shore is a shame that Lester dint have time to rescue his dead girlfriend that fateful night his cabin burntdown.  He'd had her housed in the attic for the night.  He had a pulley system rigged up with ropes to get her down each day outta the ceilin' so he could spend some quality time lyin' naked with her on a muddy mattress he'd salvaged out of a junkyard.  But then came the fire that burnt her up and left nary a bone.  Sad.

After that sorrowful incident, Lester losin' his house — and his dearly beloved like that — well, I think it mighta finally sent him completely over the edge some.  Cuz after his home and woman burnt up, he starts a increasingly sneakin' and stalkin' thru the backwoods seekin' parked cars, where the frisky young folks of Appalachia out late at night was a "aimin' to screw".  But there'd be no screwin' once Lester Ballard shown up with his rifle, that's fer sure.

He killed yet another woman, later on, cuz she wouldn't let him see "her titties."  Simple request, yet  summarily denied.  Well, shoot.  Guess she didn't know that a slovenly serial killer necrophiliac's gotta do what a slovenly serial killer necrophiliac's gotta do!  Kill 'er.  And then have his way with her.  But damnit if her house too, along with her "idiot child" and his constant drool, dint burn all down to the snowy ground 'fore he could rescue her from the flames and consummate his impending relationship with her.  Dint even get to see "her titties" 'fore her titties turned to ashes.  Goddamn.

I best say no more.  Whether Lester Ballard, "a child of God," 'cordin' to Cormac, ever got caught or repented, I best leave for the future reader's suspense.  I will say you cain't read this here book, Child of God, and not be mesmerized, like you was watchin' fireflies dance all night long in a red clay cave, by the highly stylized words put together just right, like demonic dominoes topplin' over — clickclickclick (or sixsixsix) — keepin' ya readin' transfixed even though ya might cringe or shit yer filthy denim coveralls ain't been washed in years.  Er maybe reading it might make you upchuck the cornbread ya had for breakfast even.

The much maligned artifice (or widely praised artful prose of Cormac McCarthy -- take yer pick, cuz there ain't no middle ground concerning him) -- standing in stark contrast to the unequivocal ugliness of the subject matter (and some might argue, unforgivable ugliness of the subject matter), but I argue the former no matter what the subject matter when it comes to Cormac McCarthy:  A singularly devilish child of God among living authors.

12.24.2010

Random Favorite Reads of Freeque's From 2010

FAVORITE NOVELLA(s):

Travesty by John Hawkes
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

Travesty Miss Lonelyhearts

FAVORITE SHORT STORY COLLECTION(s):

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg
The Stories of Breece D'J' Pancake by Breece D'J' Pancake
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg  The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

FAVORITE FIRST NOVEL:

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter

Hard Rain Falling (New York Review Books Classics)

FAVORITE MILITARY READ:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried

FAVORITE CLASSIC:

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevski

Notes from Underground

FAVORITE LITERARY NOVEL(s):

Living to Tell by Antonya Nelson
Merciless Beauty by Sam Eisenstein 

Living to Tell: A Novel Merciless Beauty (Green Integer)

FAVORITE MEMOIR(s):

Digging Deeper: A Memoir of the Seventies by Peter Weissman
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey
Cherry by Mary Karr

Digging Deeper - A Memoir Of The Seventies Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Penguin Classics) Cherry 

FAVORITE ESSAY COLLECTION(s)

Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World by Sarah Vowell
Finding a Form: Essays by William H. Gass

Take the Cannoli : Stories From the New World (Paperback)  Finding a Form: Essays 


FAVORITE POLITICAL READ:

Tiananmen Diary: Thirteen Days in June by Harrison E. Salisbury


Tiananmen Diary: Thirteen Days in June 


FAVORITE MACABRE READ(s):


The Totem by David Morrell
The Descent by Jeff Long

Totem The Descent

FAVORITE DARK FANTASY:

Wraeththu by Storm Constantine

Wraeththu

FAVORITE NOIR(s):

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain 

Imperial Bedrooms The Postman Always Rings Twice 

FAVORITE LITERARY THRILLER:


The Same River Twice by Ted Mooney

The Same River Twice

FAVORITE LITERARY CRITICISM:

Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest by Greg Carlisle 

Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest 

FAVORITE BOOKS I RE-READ IN 2010:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson
Last Vanities by Fleur Jaeggy

Infinite Jest Jesus' Son: Stories Last Vanities

BOOKS I DIDN'T FINISH THAT FELT LIKE THEY WOULD BECOME FAVORITES ONCE I FINISHED THEM:

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young
Dostoyevsky: A Writer in His Time by Joseph Frank 

Skippy Dies: A Novel Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (Volume 1) Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

MY ALL-AROUND FAVORITE READ OF THE YEAR:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace 

Infinite Jest 

It's even better the third time around