Monday, December 17, 2012

He was waiting and weathers and seasons were his timepiece now.

For some time now the road had been deserted, white and scorching yet, though the sun was already reddening the western sky. He walked along slowly in the dust, stopping from time to time and bobbling on one foot like some squat ungainly bird while he examined the wad of tape coming through his shoe-sole. He turned again. Far down the blazing strip of concrete a small shapeless mass had emerged and was struggling toward him. It loomed steadily, weaving and grotesque like something seen through bad glass, gained briefly the form and solidity of a pickup truck, whipped past and receded into the same liquid shape by which it came.
Only McCarthy could begin a book so spectacularly. Beautiful.
Curled in a low peach limb the old man watched the midmorning sun blinding on the squat metal tank that topped the mountain. He had found some peaches, although the orchard went to ruin twenty years before when the fruit had come so thick and no one to pick it that at night the overborne branches cracking sounded in the valley like distant storms raging. The old man remembered it that way, for he was a lover of storms.
Peach, sun, mountain, storms... nature imagery and its interweaving with fluid, poetic prose, is McCarthy's forte. His writing reminds me of winter, and therefore winter always reminds me of good literature.
He fell asleep to the water and metal sounds of the rain runneling over the tin and sluicing through the gutterpipe, the rapid slash of it in a gust of wind and the fine mist spraying his face through the bellying screen. The oaks stirred restlessly, low admonitions, shhh...
The quote above is so Faulkner-esque (I promise that this will be the last time I draw the familiar, reiterated link between Faulkner and McCarthy), especially reminiscent of the raining scene in As I Lay Dying. I love it when good writers write about the rain. How good is the last sentence in this case? "The oaks stirred restlessly, low admonitions, shhh..."

The Orchard Keeper was a tad difficult to dive into, but now I'm 65 pages in and having a wonderful time.  

Mildred Pierce

I finished reading Mildred Pierce two days ago.
Was the story beautiful? No. Was it perhaps inspirational or enlightening? Not really, either. Truth be told, the story revolves around a mother, who, although is independent and strong-willed, remains pathetically devoted to her fierce daughter. It's not a very heart-warming tale of love and affection, yet the way James M. Cain captures the essence of Mildred's yearning and infatuation in this story, paralleled with the steady and unflinching development of Veda (her daughter), is very well done.

For me, there were really only 2 note-worthy quotes in the novel:
Still with her first half dozen pies to make, she drove home very late, full of a gulpy love for the whole human race.
A home is not a museum. It doesn't have to be furnished with Picasso paintings, or Sheraton suites, or Oriental rugs, or Chinese pottery. But it does have to be furnished with things that mean something to you. If they're just phonies, bought in a hurry to fill up, it'll look like that living room ,over there, or the way this lawn looked when my father got through showing how much money he had.
If you like Mildred Pierce, you'll like it for Cain's style and fluidity of language, but not for the dispiriting tale.

PS - I've embarked upon The Orchard Keeper (McCarthy FTW). It began beautifully. It takes McCarthy the maestro to turn a southern murder story so breathtakingly stunning. This was his debut novel, and what I can say is that his writing has become much more 'understandable' since then...