Academic journal article The Cormac McCarthy Journal

Cormac McCarthy and Performance: Page, Stage, Screen

Academic journal article The Cormac McCarthy Journal

Cormac McCarthy and Performance: Page, Stage, Screen

Article excerpt

Peebles, Stacey. Cormac McCarthy and Performance: Page, Stage, Screen. University of Texas Press, 2017. Hardcover (on demand). 256 pages. $90. ISBN: 978-1-477З-1204-9. Paperback. 256 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-477З-12З1-65.

Reviewed by Dianne C. Luce

Stacey Peebles' study, McCarthy and Performance: Page, Stage, Screen, is admirable for the breadth of its scope, the depth and care of its research, and its refreshing readability. Peebles traces McCarthy's long and relatively neglected career as a dramatic writer, the performance history of each of his works for film or stage and of adaptations and performances of his novels and plays, as well as his collaborations with theater and film professionals. To do this, she integrates previous studies of McCarthy's work, film criticism, journalism, and published interviews with actors, directors, and writers of adaptations of his works, adding material from several of her own interviews undertaken for this study. She draws not only on McCarthy's published texts but on archival material: early drafts, typescripts of the unproduced screenplays, drafts of other writers' adaptations of his work, including those not yet produced, and information relevant to McCarthy's dramatic works from his letters. The range of her research is impressive, as are her judicious and graceful synthesis of it and her care with documentation. (Archival texts are documented in endnotes; print sources are cited parenthetically.) Thus her work makes a highly significant contribution to our understanding of this still-working writer for whom no book-length biography yet exists. Hers is the only comprehensive treatment of McCarthy's long career as a writer of dramatic works, his participation in the productions of them, and the production history of films made from his plays and novels. And it is one of the earliest and best examinations of the archival materials that have recently become available at Texas State University in San Marcos and at the University of Virginia.

As a hybrid work of biography and criticism, Peebles' monograph appropriately is not restricted by a single thesis, but guided by her purposes. Her work is unified through her rhythmic treatment of mutually enhancing themes that emerge from McCarthy's career as a dramatic writer and from the history of performance and adaptations of his works. She argues persuasively that McCarthy's embrace of the collaborative media of film and theater belies the false view of McCarthy as solitary and reclusive, and it has stretched him as a writer. She makes a strong case for the importance of McCarthy's ongoing engagement with dramatic writing within the overall shape of his writing career and demonstrates the significant compositional and thematic relationships between his plays and his novels. She also demonstrates the ways in which McCarthy's works in various versions evoke and challenge genre conventions (the buddy film, the Western, the apocalypse narrative). Acknowledging that many performances of McCarthy's works have been less well received than his novels, she analyzes the difficulty of bringing each work to film or stage, documents the reception of each, and assesses the merits of each stage play, screenplay, adaption and production. For each production, she analyzes the issues of interpretation and adaptation and how they contribute to its success or failure, most crucially how the failure to realize McCarthy's tragic vision(s) in several films adapted from his work have led to their aesthetic and critical failures. Peebles shows that while many of McCarthy's works are tragic in the Aristotelian sense, some can best be understood in terms of other theorists. Her concise, pertinent discussions of the nature of the tragic in each work for screen or stage place his various tragedies within the contexts of Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, Girard, and more contemporary theorists. She finds that in many of his works "For McCarthy, violence and the creation of community are the two poles of human existence, and tragedy is the shaping of language around those two experiences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.