Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.


Filtering by Tag: Cormac McCarthy

Into the Wounds

Jayne English

Feel it—but remember, millennia have felt it— the sea and the beasts and the mindless stars wrestle it down today as ever—   —Gottfried Benn

It took me three tries to finish Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I didn’t take to the descriptions of violence and bloodletting; the dusty, desolate scenery; the barren hearts that drove people to do the things they did. Harold Bloom calls it “the ultimate dark dramatization of violence.” (And he means that in the best way.)

I kept reading because McCarthy’s sense of language drew me in. Intermingled with scalpings, shootings, decapitations and the wastelands of “buckbrush and pricklypear and the little patches of twisted grass” were quieter descriptions like this:

“The mission occupied eight or ten ares of enclosed land, a barren purlieu that held a few goats and burros. In the mud walls of the enclosure were cribs inhabited by families of squatters and a few cookfires smoked thinly in the sun. He walked around the side of the church and entered the sacristy. Buzzards shuffled off through the chaff and plaster like enormous yardfowl. The domed vaults overhead were clotted with a dark furred mass that shifted and breathed and chittered. In the room was a wooden table with a few clay pots and along the back wall lay the remains of several bodies, one a child.”

With imagery of the crumbling church, a leftover table, and the sheltering squatters, McCarthy somehow evokes a feeling of Communion in this scene or, broken as it is, a longing for its nourishing graces. Passages like this are why, though I finished the book five years ago, I still think about it. Lately I’ve been wondering if Meridian shares impulses with Expressionism. In his book, Putting Modernism Together, Daniel Albright says “Art, according to the Expressionists, should be about cutting to the core of the human.” He explains that Expressionists favored woodcuts because they felt the physical effort required to make them parallels the aesthetic effort and is “a visible reminder of the sort of wound that the artwork seeks to inflict on the mind of the spectator.” Meridian wounds the reader, its descriptions easily convincing us that “all men are unremittingly bloodthirsty here.

Are there themes of redemption in Meridian and in the work of Expressionists? I didn’t see any transformation, for good, in McCarthy’s characters. Even a priest among the group is an expriest. What’s striking about Meridian and paintings like The Scream and Red Gaze, is their intensities; violence in Meridian, and vibrant colors, horrified and haunted expressions in the paintings. Meridian’s images jar us at a gut level just like Munch’s Scream. This was the intent of the Expressionists. With a nod to Nietzsche, Albright explains, “Expressionist art depicts the patient gaze of the abyss into the deformed gibbering thing at the core of your being, the ape within.”

Albright turns to Kafka’s short story “In the Penal Colony” as a close relative to Expressionism. In the story, a machine is used to torture and execute “criminals.” It carves the condemned man’s sentence into his skin until he bleeds out and dies. Alluding to the complex diagrams that guide the machine, the eager officer explains, “You have seen it is not easy to decipher the script with your eyes; our man deciphers it with his wounds.” If there’s redemption in these works it's in the blood. They show us the heart and mind of (our) depravity until we feel it. Echoing the pattern of the Incarnation, they make us feel the wounds of the world, just as Jesus felt ours when he stepped into them.

Our Violent Muse

Jayne English

rectify-51c6dc0a6f0cf The universe is no narrow thing. - Cormac McCarthy, from Blood Meridian

Violence is a fitting theme for depravity. It paints lavish images of darkness in books like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and NBC’s new drama about Blackbeard, Crossbones. I've been following Sundance’s Rectify since last year, its first season. While the violence makes it difficult for me to stay with it, I keep returning because the characters and story are intriguing, the same reason I stayed with the other titles I mentioned.

In Rectify, Daniel Holden has just been released from death row after 19 years for the death of his 15-year-old girlfriend, Hanna. New DNA evidence clears him and he awkwardly attempts to re-enter relationships with his family and small community. At the end of season one, a group who knows the truth of Hanna’s murder leaves Daniel beaten nearly to death.

I look for something redemptive in a violent book or show and I wonder if the writers of Rectify will use the violence to point to something beyond itself. But do they need to?

When Harold Bloom speaks of the violence in Blood Meridian, he doesn't talk about it in redemptive terms. Bloom says, “The violence is the book. The Judge is the book, and the Judge is, short of Moby Dick, the most monstrous apparition in all of American literature. The Judge is violence incarnate...the book is the ultimate dark dramatization of violence.”So he says the book dramatizes violence, but he doesn’t unpack any insights for us about the violence.

Violence can point to something greater, and artists have used it in this way for centuries. In his book Faith, Hope and Poetry, Malcolm Guite talks about the Old English poem The Dream of the Rood. The poet was intent on explaining the gospel to Saxon warriors. He used a myth his audience was familiar with (about violence Odin endured on the tree Yggdrasil) to shed light on the violence Christ suffered on the cross. By doing this he in a sense redeems the violence for a significant purpose.

David Lynch did a masterful job of bringing redemption our of violence in Twin Peaks. I’ll try not to give away the story, but the rescue of the last victim in a line of serial murders involved sacrifice. Does sacrifice have to occur for violence to be considered redeemed? Maybe the writer/director doesn’t exactly have spreading the gospel as a goal, but is the gospel inherent in a myth or story that shows sacrificial rescue?

I love this phrase the Anglo-Saxon poet uses in his poem: “forwunded mid womum.”Guite translates it as “deeply wounded by defilement.”Mankind’s defilement does wound, very often through violence. The violence of prison life and violence done by a handful of the town’s people in Rectify is a fitting frame to see not just Daniel who is wounded by defilement, but his family, and the ones who are wounded by their own violence against Daniel. Should the use of violence in Rectify be redemptive? Is it enough for it to be a metaphor for depravity? If so, is there a line between gratuitous violence and violence that portrays depravity?

Telling the Depraved: Cormac McCarthy's Hard Stare at Evil

Michael Dechane

23 sunset_limited I don't think anyone paints evil like Cormac McCarthy. Part of what I mean is that I don't know of another author who has looked that deeply and clearly into what evil is, and what it does, and how it works itself out in our time. I think he's telling the way-down truth about what greed looks like, and what it does, when I watch The Counselor. I think he is speaking most honestly and most earnestly about lust when I read Child of God. I think he sees the darkness of life untethered from what is true, good, and beautiful more clearly than anyone when I try and take in The Road, or am afflicted with what I remember of Blood Meridian. That would all be horrifying and weighty enough, but I read The Sunset Limited, and I saw it played out (thanks, HBO) about as well as it could be since Michael Clarke Duncan couldn't be cast as Black. And it is dramatically more horrifying to realize that McCarthy, to a degree, gets it: he understands and can write the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ more compellingly than most pastors I listen to.

The list of things I am not, or not much of, is unbelievably long. I don't make bones: I'm no theologian. Or literary critic. But I do know a lot about work. And I know this about prophets: their work, their job, is to speak for God, to us. And I believe McCarthy is prophetic. See? I can't even say it straight, I have to edge up to it. I believe Cormac McCarthy is, perhaps unwittingly or unwillingly, but in actuality, acting and writing at the insistence of the God of the Bible, my beloved Papa, our worshiped and rejected Abba. We could try and talk (here, below in the comments thread) about epistemology, or eschatology, or a proper understanding of false prophets, or my literary pedigree, or my story and how I've come to believe I know Jesus when I hear Him. But what I really want to talk about is the mystery of how and when, and through whom, God chooses to speak.

Fargo and the Force of Evil

Ross Gale

7 article-0-1D236F0900000578-75_634x462 I tend to think of evil in three categories. The first is the snake-in-the-garden tempter. The second is an immovable force of destruction like a tornado or a hurricane. The third is a bad guy with a gun, the classic antagonist. What happens when you roll all three into one character? (Drum roll, please!) You have Lorne Malvo from the new TV show Fargo. And where you find Malvo, you’ll find the bolito.

In Cormac McCarthy’s script for The Counselor, a drug-dealing businessman describes how Mexican cartels use the bolito to kill its victims. The bolito is a loop of wire that slips around the neck. A small motor is turned on and the wire pulls tight and tighter until the victim bleeds out or is decapitated. In many of McCarthy’s stories, evil is like a powerful, motor-driven force with no off-switch. A blood bath always ensues. That same evil is the driving force in Fargo where Malvo brings a bolito to the small Minnesota town of Bemidji.

Lorne Malvo is a humorous character who fits Fargo’s Coen-esque dark-humor. But in Bernidji we find that no matter how random Malvo’s killing, no matter how silly and misinformed the good, the story still pits evil against good. And this evil is always aided by both our inability to recognize it and/or our lack of courage to hunt it out.

Fighting evil is always an active pursuit of the truth, no matter how crazy, confusing or bloody. As in much of McCarthy’s canon, the force of evil seems irresistible, enveloping the unaware and the weak. It may give great temporary power to destroy, but it will always kill them.

And Fargo demonstrates how it tears apart the fabric of the community. Duluth officer Gus Grimly asks himself, “Am I supposed to put myself in danger or just let it go?” That’s the question the town must ask itself. Is it the question we should ask ourselves?

What are we going to do?

Alan Noble


How do you tell the story of the end of the world without bothering to tell us how it ended? We get is a series of low concussive sounds, ash, fires, and cannibals. But what caused it all? Readers of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road are often troubled by absence of a clear explanation for what caused the disaster, something McCarthy has commented on:

"A lot of people ask me. I don't have an opinion. At the Santa Fe Institute I'm with scientists of all disciplines, and some of them in geology said it looked like a meteor to them. But it could be anything—volcanic activity or it could be nuclear war. It is not really important. The whole thing now is, what do you do?"

"What do you do?" Near the end of The Road, the father asks his son a similar question: "What are we going to do?" And the son replies, "Well what are we?" That answer cuts to the marrow of our modern anatomy. What you do at the end of the world is remember who you are. And by that I don't mean the collection of social and commercial preferences we identify with, or our gender, or our personality type. At the end we have no choice but ask what it means to have being.

This kind of deep questioning is hard for modern readers because we are so terribly good at being distracted all the time. Its a good day when I don't wake up and immediately reach for my phone and fall asleep with it in my hands. The electronic buzz of being (as I've called it elsewhere) sweeps us up in continual checking and embeds us thoroughly within culture. It's difficult to think of ourselves as distinct beings with weight and purpose. Our identities are culturally defined so we can't quite imagine what it means to be a person made in the Image of God.

Had McCarthy identified the disaster, he would have distracted his readers from issues surrounding their existence. Instead of having to ask, "Why bother living in a world filled with suffering and lacking all hope for the future?" we would be asking how we can stop climate change, or a nuclear war, or an asteroid.

I think for some readers, the desire to know what caused the end is itself a form of escapism, a desire to avoid the anxiety which arises when we accept the startling world McCarthy portrays, one in which our very existence is questioned. It is easy to read a book and be chastised to recycle or advocate for nuclear disarmament; it's quite another to be asked to strip away everything that seems to make us who we are, so we can see our place and our being, truly. Yet, perhaps that's exactly what the best of Christian writing will do: help us see God's grace anew.

The Gospel According to Cormac McCarthy, or, What's Greek for "bad news"?

Brad Fruhauff

The Judge is scary because he makes a lot of sense. Given the darkness of the world we live in, McCarthy’s villains are particularly frightening because they are so hard to disagree with. Evil, as portrayed in McCarthy, is not something to ignore. Yet, as Cosper writes, there is always a glimmer of hope.

Read More