Understanding Cormac McCarthy

Understanding Cormac McCarthy

Understanding Cormac McCarthy

Understanding Cormac McCarthy

Synopsis

Named by Harold Bloom as one of the most significant American novelists of our time, Cormac McCarthy has been honored with the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for All the Pretty Horses, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for The Road, and the coveted MacArthur Fellowship. Steven Frye offers a comprehensive treatment of McCarthy's fiction to date, dealing with the author's aesthetic and thematic concerns, his philosophical and religious influences, and his participation in Western literary traditions.Frye provides extensive readings of each novel, charting the trajectory of McCarthy's development as a writer who invigorates literary culture both past and present through a blend of participation, influence, and aesthetic transformation. Understanding Cormac McCarthy explores the early works of the Tennessee period in the context of the &"romance” genre, the southern gothic and grotesque, as well as the carnivalesque. A chapter is devoted to Blood Meridian, a novel that marks McCarthy's transition to the West and his full recognition as a major force in American letters. In the final two chapters, Frye explores McCarthy's Border Trilogy and his later works&- specifically No Country for Old Men and The Road&-addressing the manner in which McCarthy's preoccupation with violence and human depravity exists alongside a perpetual search for meaning, purpose, and value.Frye provides scholars, students, and general readers alike with a clearly argued foundational examination of McCarthy's novels in their historical and literary contexts as an ideal roadmap illuminating the author's work as it charts the dark and mythic topography of the American frontier.

Excerpt

The volumes of Understanding Contemporary American Literature have been planned as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers. The editor and publisher perceive a need for these volumes because much of the influential contemporary literature makes special demands. Uninitiated readers encounter difficulty in approaching works that depart from the traditional forms and techniques of prose and poetry. Literature relies on conventions, but the conventions keep evolving; new writers form their own conventions—which in time may become familiar. Put simply, UCAL provides instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—identifying and explicating their material, themes, use of language, point of view, structures, symbolism, and responses to experience.

The word understanding in the titles was deliberately chosen. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, what the author is at tempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed. Although the criticism and analysis in the series have been aimed at a level of general accessibility, these introductory volumes are meant to be applied in conjunction with the works they cover. They do not provide a substitute for the works and authors they introduce, but rather prepare the reader for more profitable literary experiences.

M. J. B.

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