Lately I’ve been having a literary renaissance. I’ve been making a point to read more — novels, poetry, philosophy — as well as trying to write more. Over winter break I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I absolutely loved it. His vignette-styled glimpses of a world destroyed combined with no chapters give us a never-ending world of desperation and anarchy. It was poignant, disturbing, and wonderful writing. I quickly bought No Country for Old Men and borrowed All the Pretty Horses from a friend, which I started reading February 4th.
So now, two months since I’ve started that book, I’m only about half-finished with it. Sure, school has started back up and I’m busier and more tired now, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading before. What’s stopping me this time is the amount of nothing happening in this book. I’m 175 pages in and so far two guys have gone to Mexico to work with horses and have now been arrested by Mexican authorities because of their association with an alleged horse thief.
While I get that great literature isn’t necessarily about something happening (i.e. plot), there is little keeping me reading this book other than the warm feelings of peace and nostalgia that blanket me in a cocoon of the sleepies. I can’t get more than three pages in and I start nodding off.
Additionally, I’ve been reading blogger and author Anis Shivani who is by all conceivable measures, a literature elitist. He loathes the New York Times book review, mocks Jonathan Franzen and Philip Roth, and strongly promotes small presses that he argues publish “quality” writing. While he makes excellent points and I enjoy what he has to say, I often wonder if we don’t simply call these writers out because they’ve made it big. You know, like hipsters.
Since some believe Cormac McCarthy is the greatest living American author, I feel like maybe I’m not in on the secret. Why is he so great? He uses almost no punctuation, and writes run-on sentence after run-on sentence while using the word “and” so liberally his book should be called, And All the Pretty Horses just to get one more in. Do literature elitists think he’s a great writer? Why do I even care what literature elitists think? Does that mean I’m an elitist with other elitists?
But the biggest question I have is, Why is it that authors who are difficult to read are revered? Since McCarthy is an unconventional writer when it comes to his mechanics and structure, reading his work takes some getting used to. But shouldn’t an author who writes wonderfully entertaining while at the same time easy to read work be just as much if not more revered? Shit, I can write something difficult and then tell anyone who doesn’t understand that they’re foolish for not getting it, but that doesn’t mean that I’m right.
Then again, I do the same thing. When I love a book and someone doesn’t I just figure they don’t “get it.” Or perhaps I recommend a book (like, oh, I don’t know…The Dolphin People) and no one reads it. I’ll naturally assume they don’t trust my judgment and therefore don’t “get it.” So what’s really being argued here is a matter of aesthetics. What is it that should be revered and why do we revere it? What makes good writing good and bad writing bad?
But that’s a blog for another day. I think Cormac McCarthy is a great writer. I think Anis Shivani is on to something. And I think “Snoremac McCarthy” would make a great name for an elitist hipster band.