Posts Tagged ‘cormac mccarthy


” a s e p i a v i s a g e y a w n i n g i n t h e s c u m . . . “

“suttree turned up a tinted photograph of a satin lined wicker-bound casket with flower surrounds. in the casket a fat dead baby, garishly painted, bright fuchsia cheeks. never ask whose. he closed the cover on this picturebook of the afflicted. a soft yellow dust bloomed. put away those frozenjawed primates and their annals of ways beset and ultimate dark. what deity in the realms of dementia, what rabid god decocted out of the smoking lobes of hydrophobia could have devised a keeping place for souls so poor as is this flesh. this mawky worm-bent tabernacle.”

-from suttree, by cormac mccarthy


t h e e v e n i n g r e d n e s s i n t h e w e s t

“notions of chance and fate are the preoccupation of men engaged in rash undertakings.”

“the truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.”

“and the answer, said the judge. if god meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? wolves cull themselves, man. what other creature could? and is the race of man not more predacious yet? the way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. his spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. his meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. he loves games? let him play for stakes. this you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? aye. and again. with other people, with other sons.”

“it makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. war endures. as well ask men what they think of stone. war was always here. before man was, war waited for him. the ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. that is the way it was and will be…. war is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. war is god.”

-from the blood meridian, by cormac mccarthy


(i’m re-reading this for the second time within a year. it’s just that good.)


s i l k e a r / s o w ‘ s p u r s e ?

is the road a good film? i’ve seen it but i’m not sure i know. critics certainly seem to think so and i have to say it looks fantastic and the acting is all present and correct from the worryingly gaunt mr. mortensen, but still i couldn’t tell you if it’s a good film. you see, i made what is clearly the schoolboy error of reading the book and loving it. silly me.

chances are the film is good, maybe even very good, it was directed after all by john hillcoat, who directed the proposition, which i thought was very good indeed, and which was penned by nick cave. but the trouble i’m having isn’t one of indecision or lack of critical faculty (fuck knows i can criticise to an olympic standard) no, the trouble i’m having is one of adaptation; that is, not of the competency or nature of the adaptation of the road, but of the nature of adaptation itself. i would argue that adaptation is almost as big a curse to the creative community as the dreaded remake. of course adaptation doesn’t harm the film making community by devaluing the previous incarnation of the film in the way that remakes tend to, but it does harm the original story, the book, the thing that is the guts of what they seek to put up on the screen.

the road by cormac mccarthy is a  great book. fucking loved it. and so i think a film, no matter how great, can never compete, and what would be the point in trying? the film is a very faithful adaptation but can only ever fall short of the book. and not only because a book describes more, tells us more, has more time with us to immerse us in its world. there is a saying that was much touted upon the release of zack snyder’s the watchmen: “a masterpiece has already found its perfect medium.” the watchmen was another fairly faithful adaptation, still the film fell short, and how could it not?

but, the argument goes, the very fact that a book and a film are such different mediums means that they cannot be compared. apples and oranges. but i would argue, the fact that they are such different mediums means that 9 times out of 10 you just shouldn’t cross breed em. most of the time an appange or an orpple tastes like shit. and even when they’re adapted in a way that stays close to the book, it can render them strangely bland to those who read the original. a manuscript is not a shooting script. i think if an adaptation is going to work it should, perhaps perversely, not be too faithful.

apocalypse now, for instance is not an argument for adaptation, it is not an adaptation of  conrad’s heart of darkness, it is instead, to use hollywood language, a ‘radical re-imagining‘ of it. likewise the film fight club took a book which to be honest fizzled out towards the end and gave it the courage of its convictions.  so perhaps change is the best way to make it work.

but then, as we all know, fear of the original stains studios exec’s sheets nightly: “the horror… the horror…”  but then the damage can work both ways. gore vidal once wrote, concerning his novel myra breckinridge: “this time a film was made. although i have never seen it, i do know that despite the iconic presences of raquel welch and mae west, the film was so bad that the book stopped selling for a decade.”

i read with genuine horror on imdb that an adaptation of mccarthy’s biblically violent and superb blood meridian is in production. call me a pessimist but i cannot conceive how they won’t fuck that up.

but i know i’m being churlish. and yet i think this is a genuine problem, if not perhaps the film community’s biggest. i can’t blame hillcoat for making the road, i’m guessing he read it, loved it and as a film maker thought he could do it justice. maybe he has. but should he have bothered? ask someone who hasn’t read the book.