Donna Everhart

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?

10 thoughts on “OUTER DARK, Another McCarthy Review”

  1. Sorry you’ve been disappointed with McCarthy’s other books. I’ve not read any, so I can neither sympathize or dispute with you. All I can hope is that you’ve learned something from them that will help your own writing. Like avoid repetition? As if you didn’t know that already… 🙂

    I’m reading a craft book at the moment that I easily put aside for Stephen King’s SECRET WINDOWS… and I’m not sure I want to pick it back up again. Some of the writing advice the authors offer… AKKK! I’ve been tempted to write them suggesting they visit Janet’s blog for some serious tips.

      1. Guess what. I skipped blithely right over the “or.” LOL! I wouldn’t have noticed it. You’re a lot like me. If I notice any mistake I make in comments or whatever, I MUST fix it! That’s the thing about Janet’s site. I can’t fix anything I mess up b/c I sign in under my WordPress account, and there aren’t any buttons/tools to correct my reply. I think only Google+, Blogger, maybe the others do, not sure.

        I do realize McCarthy is a talented writer. I just think, for me, I’m not loving his style anymore. Maybe he’s the sort of writer one can only take in stages – like read one book and don’t read another for a year.

        You know, Colin, some craft books send me running. And I especially don’t care for writing prompts, for example that are in some of them. Writer’s Digest (a magazine I love) will do prompts for pictures, or maybe a sentence, and that’s okay, it’s just the one suggestion. But sometimes they have an articles all about prompts – like 25 different suggestions to develop character, scenes, premise, setting, dialogue. I’ve never done them – not one. I prefer to spend my time writing within a project.

      2. Ha. For years I submitted to WD prompt stories and first lines. A few years ago I convinced my youngest daughter to submit a short story using their first sentence. She had never read a WD, let alone submitted a story to them . I don’t even think she ever wrote a short story. Anyway, My story was pretty good, hers was pretty good, we submitted. Out of 750 entries mine didn’t get a mentioned and hers came in second. She never submitted again and …neither did I.

        I just finished THE ROAD.
        I liked it but it made me think of the movie, PERFECT STORM. The captain, I think it was George Clooney, kept yelling, “another wave.” After a while, “another wave” was an , enough already, phrase. In THE ROAD, I thought “enough already” with the hunger, cold, wet , hiding the cart, lets get to the climax. I thought the ending was perfect.

        Actually, I really liked the book because I like the whole post apocalyptic genre. I haven’t read any of his other stuff and probably won’t.

      3. I remember you telling that story before – your daughter’s and your submission. I didn’t remember it being WD though, so that’s very cool.

        Yeah, the post apocalyptic stories are okay – although I’m no judge b/c I think THE ROAD might be the only one I’ve read. IDK. Maybe THE STAND by King? It’s been so long since I read that one, I can’t recall if it was apocalyptic or not, I just remember a vicious virus of some sort that I think was threatening everyone and it was a book about good vs evil.

        The funny thing about McCarthy’s works? They have made some great movies. ALL THE PRETTY HORSES – seen that, loved it, and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I think that’s b/c you get to bypass all the hoopla writing he does in the narrative while his dialogue is always awesome.

    1. I had to get my fill, I suppose, to make my decision. I’m right beside you now, eyes rolling. Do you think we look insane? Oh well.

  2. I read THE ROAD.

    I loved NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and thought the storytelling, as it’s really about the sheriff, was outstanding.

    I made my way through BLOOD MERIDIAN, and it was tough for many reasons (subject matter, language, etc…) — that said, I believe this book will eventually become as lauded and studied in American Literature as MOBY-DICK, as his research on how the west was really won is so thorough. One day I will read it again.

    This has been enough McCarthy for me. I applaud you for trying so many. My husband is a huge fan and has read all of his books, which only goes to show how different our reading interests are.

    1. I was hoping you’d see this and respond b/c I remember you mentioning your husband liking him. Maybe as a writer I’m busy seeing too much of the same thing, whereas, your husband likes the style, and wants more. (assuming your husband’s not a writer.) If that makes sense.

      Yeah, over and out on McCarthy. For now. Will definitely have to tackle BLOOD MERIDIAN at a later date, but with what you said, it does inspire me to read it.

  3. Pingback: This Is A Movie? | DONNA EVERHART

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