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Cities of the Plain:

What's being attempted is clearer on a second reading, though I'm still lost re. the many pages of dog killing.

So the things Billy says are startlingly similar to those Eduardo does, something Eduardo forces him to recognize in their two meetings. Billy's attached to John, and to good, brave people in general, but doesn't have a view of the world justifying this - for him the world cannot be understood, and the only thing left to do is cling to personal comfort and safety, which will prove temporary even when they can be found. To do otherwise is merely folly, never admirable. He can't live by this philosophy, but it's there; similarly Eduardo can't either, as he simultaneously thinks the world is unfathomable and that the takers will prevail. In an echo of the Judge he calls his attempt to kill John an act of "naming," and clearly prides himself on thoroughly understanding how confused non-takers think. His own realization that there is no justice has made him embrace its opposite. That you can't know anything, strictly speaking, would be a self-erasing proposition; accepting it, then, you make some pragmatic division between levels of knowledge, denying only one - Billy lets himself help his friend, change tires for strangers etc., follows an ethical code basically, but refuses to admit it in speech. He claims to never have known what he wanted, in fact, but we know he once wanted very much to save an animal, then another, then a person. He claims to believe in what's in front of him, but he can't operate without reference to justice. But he can't admit or logically justify this, and that's a sickness.

So the point of the book is not that John is a hero but who he's a hero to: he saves Billy. This is symbolized by the puppy. Remember Billy's momentary refusal of compassion for a dog (itself referring back to his increasing negligence of the dog who'd loyally followed him and his brother)? John can't reach the last puppy - grabs a dead one instead - but Billy's arm is longer. Billy grabs it for John, but ends up taking care of it. The fate of this final dog is one of the many things elided in the sudden passage of fifty years, but I think we're to understand it's key to there having been fifty years, since it was the only thing he had left to care about. John gave Billy an example of an approach to life that made life worth continuing - proved to be the second brother the shaman had prophesied Billy would meet. He could neither accept nor refuse John's view of life, but even that kept him going, prevented terminal moral sickness like Eduardo's, left him ready for some final reconciliation.

The last Mexican he meets (and gives his only food to) provides that reconciliation by making him understand John's state of mind when sacrificing himself for what he took to be the good. Truly accepting the unknowability of the world means grasping what it is about it that you do know - that others are more or less in your shoes. Your plans, including your whole future life, are mist and rumor next to this small but present fact. That cowardice prevents most, maybe pretty much everyone, from acting quite as John and the Mexican's dream-hero do doesn't erase our need to contemplate such people and use them as our moral standard, a la "WWJD" - McCarthy is basically using Stevens' "Notes" position against Shelley's (at least momentary) assumption that the only people capable of mastering life were the principled world-leavers, like the legends of Jesus and Socrates (as compared to historical counterparts where who even knows what happened). To know what we should do is to know enough to go on, to center our values, even if we're prevented by our fear and other limitations from following through in a principled way.

The book's ill-structured, but the various cowboy vignettes mostly feed into this message: no one's exactly religious, but most have a sort of worship for a lost loved one who would always do the brave, right thing, enabling them to be a little braver and righter themselves. McCarthy tries hard to underline that many of these heroes are female, though of course he's much better at the gaucho stuff so the women show up as cameos or in anecdotes. He's also uncomfortable with the notion of females sacrificing themselves - seems like there's a separate salvation standard for women, Marian rather than Christy, where direct exposure to violence isn't required to teach them what's right - e.g. the cook whose name translates to "Succor." (One thinks of his bewildered dismissals of Proust and James - maybe stand-ins for female authors, who he absolutely never alludes to or mentions.)

No Country continues on from this pretty directly: Bell speaks of his wife in pretty much the same terms Mac does, with I think one phrase exactly repeated, and the breakdown of law embodied by Chigurh causes one of the two kids who let him go to get to where Billy and Bell are. The other one not so much - McCarthy does admit that violence and lawlessness create dickheads and psychopaths as reliably as it makes genuinely good people (which explains his two kinds of Mexican), but holds that high civilization creates neither - Cole's mother is tellingly an actor. Even that judge guy from AtPH is a Bell-type figure, after all, vividly remembering when the Southwest was effectively as lawless as mid-century Sonora: McCarthy might agree with Cather that civilization only exists in the initial gulf-shoot of civilizing, of ordering some new world. In part McCarthy's settings are extreme because he's looking for test cases, mocking up a kind of lab, but there also seems to be a thick vein of only half polite, almost Flannery-worthy contempt for the Northern, Eastern, modern, prosperous, safe in the post Blood Meridian books. After a thousand pages of Border Trilogy that gets a little wearing, whereas with O'Connor you're mostly amused to be dismissed as Satanic, maybe even a little flattered, like Europeans surely are when reading James.
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UK Amazon has an untitled McCarthy book listed as due out late next year.
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Two passages I posted earlier, separately, (and near as I can tell the respective culminations of these two authors) now strike me as closer than I suspected:


Every god is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal enters the hall of the firmament: there is he alone with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thrones, - they alone with him alone.


I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me - to whom the sun was servant - who had not gone into society in the village - who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; the trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out, as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor - notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat-of-arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum - as of a distant hive in May - which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my mind even now while I speak, and endeavor to recall them and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.

Thoreau's is halfway to the Little, Big coda, "Once Upon a Time." The hall of the firmament one was born to walk and the gods one is charged to surpass are a little more past, hypothetical, fabular - and then more so with Crowley, at the end anyway.

The ruined house in Suttree, on the other hand, is pretty much a nihilistic version of "Directive" - or like Robinson's "House on the Hill" or Kipling's "Way Through the Woods" extended into intolerably detailed, almost masochistic probing of the rot of loss.

Need to reread Melville's "Piazza" and "I and My Chimney" I think.
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Castle of Crossed Destinies, p. 13:

He comes to his senses, opens his eyes, and what does he see? (This was the narrator's miming--a bit over-done to tell the truth--inviting us to wait for the next card as if for a revelation.) The Popess, mysterious, nun-like crowned figure. Had he been given succor by a female monarch? His eyes, staring at the card, were full of horror. A witch? He raised his imploring hands in a gesture of devout terror. The High Priestess of a secret and sanguinary cult?

p. 46:

The innkeeper-lord, our host, is not long in telling his tale. We can assume that he is the Page of Cups and that an unusual guest (
The Devil) has turned up at his inn-castle. With certain customers it is a good practice never to offer free drink, but when he was to pay, the guest said: "Host, in your tavern, everything is contaminated, wines and destinies."

"Your Honor is not content with my wine?"

"Quite content! The only one who can appreciate all that is mingled, two-faced, is myself. So I wish to give you much more than
Two Coins!"

Yes, I could be going mad. But these could also have been sources. We call only one person your honor in America. And there is no picture of the devil in the deck Calvino draws on. He leaves it blank.
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Sunset Limited to be an HBO movie, directed by Tommy Lee Jones, acted by Jones and Samuel L. Jackson! Hard to even imagine what that one's like performed. On the page it's even more of a direct assault than his very "hey, quit it" last two novels proper.

I really, really liked Jones' Three Deaths of Melquiades Estrada, though it got his daughter her Mad Men role I'm not always thrilled with [EDIT: not his daughter (Meatwad voice: I dumb)]. One of those actors who annoys you by doing some things real well and rather ruining those by screwing up others. Not that she's un-metonymic of the show in general in that regard.
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HB: Well, we have four living writers in America who have, in one way or another, touched what I would call the sublime. They are McCarthy, of course, with Blood Meridian; Philip Roth, particularly with two extraordinary novels, the very savage Sabbath’s Theater and American Pastoral, which I mentioned before; Don DeLillo’s Underworld, which is a little long for what it does but nevertheless is the culmination of what Don can do; and, of course, the mysterious figure of Mr. Pynchon. I don’t know what I would choose if I had to select a single work of sublime fiction from the last century, it probably would not be something by Roth or McCarthy; it would probably be Mason & Dixon, if it were a full-scale book, or if it were a short novel it would probably be The Crying Of Lot 49. Pynchon has the same relation to fiction, I think, that my friend John Ashbery has to poetry: he is beyond compare.

Startling upset by Mason? Though Bloom does call Blood Meridian the best book since As I Lay Dying elsewhere in the same interview. Might have some time to try M&D again next month.
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Lugones has written that in Cordoba, before magazines came in, he had many times seen a playing card used as a picture and nailed to the wall in gauchos' shacks. The four of copas, with its small lion and two towers, was particularly coveted. (from Borges' "Autobiographical Essay" of 1970)


Been looking at old Argentine and other decks: looks like the four of cups was traditionally where the deck manufacturer identified itself, since there's so much space in the middle. Some just give their names, others have a picture logo. Haven't been able to locate this small lion & two towers one with my limited googledy skills. In McCarthy the card makes two appearances but the picture is never mentioned.

Borges was the literary find for McCarthy's generation, and the only known mixer of gauchismo and gnosticism pre-McC. Been reading them in tandem these last weeks (along with Calvino, who makes me think of Kafka, Borges and Abe constantly but never McCarthy) and the one makes me think of the other quite often. Today it was the second of two poems in In Praise of Darkness on Durer's Ritter, Tod und Teufel etching, where the Knight is praised as able to withstand both Devil and Death and ride forever on, unlike mere Borges, painfully lacking the luxury of being imaginary - like in City of the Plains' "Epilogue" and the relationship between the two protagonists in that book. Figured the connection was fanciful but then read the above and redescended into cartomania.
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1. Blood Meridian's antecedents include what? Obviously Moby Dick. I'd say "Young Goodman Brown" and "My Kinsman Major Molineux" are also structural sources, and presumably Aguirre. Banville adds Dante and Homer, Bloom would say Shakespeare and maybe Milton. The Trial seems to me to be at least as important. Once I mentioned the book seemed like a hellified Faerie Queene, and maybe one could say as much re. Huck Finn. The two burst-out scenes in Karamazov contribute: Jesus v. Inquisitor in the jail, the devil needling Ivan. Would he have read any Carpentier? And Faulkner, but what thing more than others in Faulkner? And I keep failing to think of something prior to Catch-22 that anticipates the falling away of friends and enemies alike, and in droves, in the 2nd halves of both BM and Suttree - that Gashlycrumb Tinies effect.

Oh, wait, that's in Crying of Lot 49, which shows many other signs of being a presence here (the silly-ass parts of the book so neatly obscure its greatness). Lot 49 effect, then, or trysterosion or something.

2. Reminds me: in the Kroger parking lot yesterday I mentioned that there should be a word for the specific disappointment you feel when the radio starts playing "Under Pressure" but then Vanilla Ice is there. And my wife agreed and said "why don't you BLOG about it" - her scorn and amusement were all for the word, I hope, which always makes her laugh. Quod erat bloggandum.

1. Back to McCarthy: seemed like there were some specific tributes to predecessors, at points - the phrase 'as he lay dying,' the judge travelling with the idiot being compared with a king exiled by his own stupidity accompanied by his fool, a 'unanimous dark' echoing Borges' 'unanimous night', a ridge that looks like a white whale. So discrete that I can't tell if the Faulkner and Borges ones are even there, or anyway deliberate.
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I'd unaccountably never read Socrates' second oration in Phaedrus till now. Past gratitude and amazement and love and disturbance and quickened pulse and the conviction I'll be going back to this within days, I have these observations:

1. I am tickled pinker than pink that Christianity owes more than half of itself to a dialogue about the proper conduct and uses of pederastic cruising. Seriously, I'm going to be howling over this on my deathbed. What fact could be more fun? Not even the Clement letter suggesting Jesus may have himself been leader of a homosexual mystical cult--very, very distant runner-up.

2. It's astonishing how many paragraphs in a row I could agree with completely as an atheist. A Shelleyan atheist, anyway--Shelley's reading of Plato was ingenious but possibly not very inaccurate, and it comes from exactly here much more than even the Symposium. So much else comes from this: the Garden of Adonis, via Virgil, Wordsworth's children by the shore. Obviously all of Dante and Danteism, Petrarch and Petrarchism. Much in Little, Big (the synthesis of this with A Midsummer Night's Dream in which = also ingenious, beautiful, crucial) and Aegypt. Shakespeare satirized it, every aspect, with the greatest sympathy, didn't he? We escape the trap into a worse one.

3. This is also the source, or a major one, of McCarthy's view of the world: specifically, what he exactly reverses for his take on the war between earth and sky (in one of his modes: in another, all you can do to live is evade this war, by whatever evasive means present themselves). It additionally strikes me as the generic source of his Cities epilogue, and perhaps various other Border Trilogy recitations ("The Grand Inquisitor" and "Before the Law" chapters in D. and K. were their more direct models): the absolute explosion of some literary work in progress by another voice speaking a story deeper than and prior to both the work interrupted and the mind of the reader reading, which the literary work, when resuming, can only discuss.

4. The quest tradition itself is a sort of a parody. The progression seen as episodes and extent, all through ambiguous, in place of a possible inward and upward enhancement.
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2nd half was amazing. This book is weird as hell though, in part because it's one of those half-absolute, half-apprenticeship works. Presumably he hit his stride while writing it but couldn't wrestle down what he'd already come up with. Parts could be tossed into The Orchard Keeper without penalty ("apprentice" McCarthy = still astonishingly good), others, tiny changes being made, would fit in Blood Meridian. Many others you'd find in Suttree and nowhere else in the world, granted.

The initial evasion of sex is fascinating, as are the bizarre, belated succumbings to it: on the model of Byron's Haidee cantos in the Wanda episode, and in some ways weirdly parallel to Beckett's "First Love" in the Joyce one, presumably because of similar life experiences rather than familiarity with it (Joyce = surely a tribute; was Bodine? The Crying of Lot 49, esp. the night walk & falling away of everyone, is a presence here.)

Parallels with Engine Summer are fascinating also, given the shared publication year and likely overlap in years of composition. The daterape by the witch surely involves details of an actual acid experience, as I'm absolutely convinced a crucial episode in Crowley's did.

Bloom sees Absalom, Absalom! as the unsuccessfully staved-off precursor work. I have no idea what he's talking about, for once. He must mean the diction, but that's as much out of Shakespeare, KJB, Melville and Joyce and is one of the book's glories, though probably unspeakably silly out of context--or at all, to many. I do see The Sound and the Fury here, esp. the first half of it (probably As I Lay Dying too), sometimes as a channel for Ulysses. All of the Stephen episodes are relevant except the library one (Suttree avoids reading books as resolutely as McCarthy's said to avoid talking about them)--though Nighttown gets mixed in with delirium tremens for the typhus sequence, which mostly left me cold. Strange to think of this book as a grandchild of Peer Gynt, great-grandchild of Faust. I guess the Alastor tradition gets in only through the Pynchon? The emphasis on passivity is always acute in McCarthy, even when that quest tradition finally sweeps him up, via Moby-Dick in Blood Meridian and more directly in The Border Trilogy. Even The Drunken Boat seems closer than Childe Roland, here.

Touches of Hemingway's dialogue and cruelty, Steinbeck's comic mode, Flannery O'Connor's sweet bright smile.

I'd nominate Sentimental Education as the nearest equivalent to Suttree, though. It's also curiously plausible as a sequel to Pierre, should Pierre have survived.
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If there's ever time again, just 50 pp to go of Suttree, afurfle with sad bathwatered blossoms of grime, vile and vehement thesaurus of the phleggy damned, its emanants pubid, extern.
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Just past halfway through Suttree after...I don't know, a year? It's a beautiful book, but with no narrative momentum whatsoever and a large amount of extremely dense writing (usually even more beautiful). Sketches from a gnostic dropout-fisherman's album, almost. After this I'll be caught up on him--he'll join Crowley as the only living novelist of whom I've read everything, not counting hidey hole odds and ends. Roth stumped me with When She Was Good and The Great American Novel, and I've not yet dared open Letting Go though it's said to have its fans. I haven't made it through Carson's two prose books yet, despite their being clearly awesome.

Took stock of last year's reading--25 books, employing a charitably wide definition of "book". Not abnormal for the last few years but still depressing. Read lots of book chunks, also typical lately. I think I do read much more attentively now, at least. I read to possess, or at least more so--the longest human attention span is still pretty short, and mine's far, far from the longest. But I read to get and remember all I can more than get to what's next. A point comes when you feel you know what's next, when the bigger mystery becomes what the hell just happened, what the hell is ever happening.
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Hadn't thought of that before, how the end of the Border Trilogy is like that of Peer Gynt--itself following Faust 2 & followed by Joyce's "Ithaca" (rather ruined by the commaless Mollylogue, I still insist). All three of the latter being ripped off--and Catholicized? couldn't tell--in the film Pickpocket.

Can a circle be drawn around this kind of literature--what, speculative visionary autobiography (often male? always male?), w/ all three of those terms properly blurred or qualified?

I ask because it seems to encompass pretty neatly most of what I truly value. Shelley's right there in the center of that, and in some respects is its inaugurator. Spenser kept it too general, Milton's Satan was caged, Shakespeare's Hamlet lived upstairs; they're doing slightly different things. Wordsworth came to berry. Goethe often seems a tourist in his own life. But why quibble, they're all members.

Melville lives there with his chimney. Beckett too, but I'm still not comfortable with how he rearranges the furniture. Crane, can't deny it, annoyingly drunk. Frost visible from the window, out past the garden. Browning visits so often they gave him a key.

Crowley and McCarthy have their shops set up there as we speak, back to back unacquainted.

Tolstoy, Roth and Proust somehow keep vision alive in the recognized real. I love Tolstoy's dreams though. Somehow I think of Hazlitt along with these. Mann too. Woolf?

Dickinson? Bishop definitely, beautifully--& Carson! so not always male.

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...and involving the last lines too, so, er, *spoiler warning*.

Someone on the McCarthy Forum in an old post notes how well Betty's final reply to Billy fits a Jesus line:

"I'm not what you think I am. I aint nothin. I dont know why you put up with me."

"Well, Mr Parham, I know who you are. And I do know why. You go to sleep now. I'll see you in the morning."

"Yes mam."

The Jesus line being approximately, Whatever you do for the least of your brothers you do for me.

But that in turn can also be read through McCarthy's universalization of Jesus: any man dying is Jesus, is doing it for us (in a sense I'm still failing to grasp). Billy's dying for Betty. So does the Christian scripture line really fit? Not unless least inevitably implies dying, as perhaps it very nearly did at the time. But rhetorically it fits beautifully and troublingly.

Troublingly, because the Christ-free reading of those lines is so much more beautiful.
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s: Yeah, right, so we're the sparks or at any rate our lives are. We're something implicit in matter released by the action of some engine of the God of this world, that flare upon the night and then are gone.
s: Now, either the Judge is that God, and fears the mystery inside things, and wants to free it by calculating and corrupting it, so that it becomes a tool of his or assimilated to his principle (the black, alien sky)...or the wandering driller is some still more foreign God interested in fire for its own sake and the Judge is the air desperately seeking to snuff out whatever sparks it can. Not because they'll start a blaze but because they are proof of some order beyond his ken, sharers of the life of fire.
s: McCarthy leaves it deliberately ambiguous, I think; just as it's ambiguous whether the Kid has any real victory over the Judge. He resists, but not firmly or in the name of some other way of doing things. And the Judge basically says, huh, okay, then I'll take you down the OTHER way. So the divinity/value of the spark is an open question. Dark, no?
s: Is life anything more than a brief eddy in the seagoing river of death, or is it something in itself, some other world.
s: Read the Border Trilogy and find out! And then explain it to me!
s: The most recent books have their own answers, but those don't mesh well even with each other.
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Cities of the Plain

I drank too much of the strong tea and stayed up all night finishing the book yesterday, because I knew I wasn't sleeping, but was too tired and jittery to make full sense of the Epilogue. I liked some of the book and disliked some. All the Pretty Horses is an excellent and very fun book, The Crossing less good and much less pleasant but greater, great and haunting. This last one I need to think about more.

I wonder most of all what the exploding dog episode meant. Grady being pulled apart by the competing ties of principle/El Paso/America/Cole-ness and fate/Juarez/Mexico/Billitude? Heh, surely something, though presumably not that.

The thing with the Epilogue is I wasn't sure if it was talking about McCarthy's writing the book or Billy's having somehow dreamed Grady. Billy's story is I suppose the more dreamlike--the first two books are versions of one another--but John's is a traditional narrative, a novel, infused with how things ought to be. Realistic but perhaps ultimately unreal, where Crossing is surely meant to be symbolic but of true things.

Anyway, whoever dreamed it, it is the dreamed figure who has the gnosis--a curious one merging total freedom and contingency, as though consciousness were just matter from the inside (?; as I read it)--and is able to accept death and save the girl, who is surely named Mexico whatever her limits turn out to be. The real one can't do it, and apparently needs women to save him.

Freaked out by this coincidental IM exchange simultaneous with my writing the above:

D: i keep having really long action-movie dreams
D: last night was set in some jungle swamp, like vietnam or Southern Comfort
S: Actual nightmares?
D: there were lots of bugs.
D: they cant be nightmares cause i'm not really in it. there's a main character who i occassionally inhabit.

Like what the authorial Mexican spoke of. Like Billy I don't think I ever did this. Going to have to reread the whole Epilogue clearly.
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Cities of the Plain

Women's love is different, is the last thing shown, and kind of a chorus throughout. Men's you apparently get because they were you and you'll be them, but women's you don't see how you deserve and can't even really talk about. Interesting.
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Noticing some parallel career aspects among McCarthy, Crowley, Roth and wondering if there's anything to them (dates from my memory and/or ass):

1. Early, very personal novel they work on for a decade or two, while publishing other books that mean less to them. Suttree c. 1959-1979; Engine Summer c. 1966-1979; My Life As a Man c. 1962-1974

2. Subsequent dense, mature masterpiece. Blood Meridian 1985; Little, Big 1981; Sabbath's Theater 1994

3. Late-career series of long, connected books almost but not quite as good, to some degree retreading and ramifying material of that central work. The Border Trilogy to 1998; Aegypt to 2007; The American Trilogy to 2000 or 2001

There's problems, of course: some of us prefer the first four Zuckerman books (late 70s-early 80s) to the Faulknerian '90s trilogy, and all these guys were publishing other books throughout. But I wonder if there's something to that format: breakthrough, masterpiece, paradigmatical cleanup. Maybe we can see two such cycles in Roth: Portnoy/My Life (reassigning it)/Zuckerman, then Shylock/Sabbath/Am. Trilogy. And the Everyman/The Road parallels may speak of a fourth, "coda" phase.

How true is this for other novelists' careers? And does the series phase inevitably involve dealing more closely with the history of one's times? A youth, maturity, rumination model--then maybe the fourth, facing down death.

I don't think many match it neatly. Many do start autobiographical, though, and it's often this phase of their work that they find most problematic themselves, delaying publication for years while revising, or writing on and on and publishing just to be done with it. The A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or V. phase. What else can we shove into this? Sons and Lovers--but wasn't that written rather hurriedly? Early Tolstoy squishes together into one autobiographical novel well enough, and The Cossacks fits the delayed/multistage publication model. War and Peace can be seen as a series I suppose (as can perhaps Underworld?--an American Trilogy all blended up). Anna Karenina is clearly on a fault line, maybe between stages 3 and 4, though it's more of a central statement about people, and W&P was both that and a meditation on history. None of this is clean.

Shakespeare doesn't fit it very well either. He didn't have much of a chance to be autobiographical, of course, and the history genre's heyday was the '90s.

Autobiography to vision to history to death.

Another characteristic of careers at their onset is parody, of course. Titus, The Torrents of Spring, Northanger Abbey.

Poetry? Paradise Lost is 2 and 3, The Prelude is 1 going on 2. The Faerie Queene entirely refuses conformity here and everywhere. 1 through 4 seem simultaneously present in Shelley at every point, sometimes all in the same work.
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Nearing the end of The Crossing. The Border Trilogy feels increasingly like The Faerie Queene to me. All the different quests for justice, the American boys' and the Mexicans' in those great recitals, better even than the landscapes, tense encounters, shocks, humor moments and dreams. And everything bursting with peculiar theologies, wildly incompatible but for their ultimate vagueness. Spenserian to the endcurls of the S's.

In Mexico we lured a seagull into our room with bread but some other gulls saw and suddenly there was a gang of them edging the balcony.

South Carolina feels half Mexican sometimes, because of the dead dogs and cats and the racial class split, blatant corruption and religion and haphazard infrastructure. Unemployed black men sitting on the curb at noon with their hands on their faces, looking at nothing. And the timelessness and heat and beating rains. And new colors and grains to things sifted down this far, some other kind of melt of sky and land. At twenty I lusted most for women a few years older, where something had begun to turn, some run in the texture bespoke a handle. I wonder why. This place, when it doesn't remember to be like all the others, just troubles me now. The crossing, for me, is into NC. Charlotte is already home and cleanliness and cool breezes and justice and Bob Evanses. Julie's best friend said at her Wright State interview that she'd applied around in the South and they said Why? and she said we'd moved down here and they said Why? Oh, reasons. Despite which I stare at the offer papers on the refrigerator and keep not signing and sending them. I'll do it Monday.
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A PDF interview with Bloom from 2000 about Blood Meridian:

I think he's wrong about the epilogue: surely we are those sparks.


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