OUTER DARK, Another McCarthy Review

Here we go again.

Three stars.  (Sorry McCarthy fans.)  In my opinion, it’s a generous ranking for OUTER DARK.

UPDATE:  I lied.  Make that two stars. (i.e. it was okay)


I so want to love McCarthy, and I don’t even know why.  I have read a couple books by him I liked, but these last two?  Meh.  Double meh on OUTER DARK.  At this point, CHILD OF GOD, SUTTREE, and OUTER DARK haven’t held up in comparison with THE ROAD.  I should probably read THE ROAD again, just to see how his writing changed between that story and these earlier works.  I don’t remember nitpicking over the style of it.  I do recall that the boy was rather cryptic.  “Yes.”  “Okay.”  I don’t recall the father being verbose either.  Those weren’t chatty times however, considering the premise.

I think I’m beginning to get the sense of McCarthy, or more accurately, his style.  Basically it’s to use odd, rarely used words (that require a dictionary for most of us), then try as hard as possible to fling a multitude of them into a sentence.  Pick the most taboo subject (OUTER DARK is about incest between a brother and sister, CHILD OF GOD was about necrophilia) and use it in a story.  Make sure your characters are mostly miserable, yet sometimes funny.  Make sure they say, “I got to get on,” several times and have the other character interrupt and delay their departure.  Again and again.  Do it multiple times throughout the book.  Do it in several books.  Start most conversations off with “Hidy.”  (for those not sure, quaint way of saying “howdy.”)  I think what I’m saying is, his technique is repetitive and his characters come out sounding very much alike.

I have to hand it to him on one thing.  He’s a master at developing a scene via dialogue.  In OUTER DARK, there’s one where one of the main characters (Holme as he’s called), is watching a handful of drovers lead a bunch of pigs to some distant place.  One of them stops to have a conversation with Holme and then goes on. The pigs get a little crazy and next thing everyone knows, a good portion of them are careening off into a ravine.  The man Holme spoke with also ends up going over the edge somehow.  Holme goes up to the bunch and says, “what happened?”  They don’t know.  Next, a preacher walks up.  (“Hidy”)  And before long, the other men are blaming Holme for the death of their friend, eyeing him with suspicion because all the while, the preacher with his repeated  “don’t hang him,” plants this very idea into their heads.  Definitely skilled at this sort of thing.

I thought maybe I’d simply chosen the wrong books.  I peeked at ALL THE PRETTY HORSES on Amazon and began reading the preview.  I barely got past the first page.  I flipped a few more.  I saw “I better get on back.”  The other character continued the conversation.  “I better get on.” (again)

Yep, I’m through and through at the moment.  I can’t bring myself to buy another one.  At this time, BLOOD MERIDIAN is the last McCarthy book in my TBR pile. It just might have to sit there a while.

What story has disappointed you lately?

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