Morrow quotes McCarthy as saying that “even people who write well can’t write novels… They assume another sort of voice and a weird, affected kind of style. They think, ‘O now I’m writing a novel,’ and something happens. They write really good essays… but goddamn, the minute they start writing a novel they go crazy“
In early 2008 Texas State University announced they’d acquired Cormac McCarthy’s papers. The next year they made them available to scholars. Now two books based on rummaging around in these notes have appeared.
This one, by Michael Lynn Crews, explores the literary influences McCarthy drew on, which authors and books he had quotes from buried in his papers.
The quote about novelists going crazy is from a letter exchange McCarthy was having re: Ron Hanson’s novel Desperadoes, which McCarthy admired.
This one, by Daniel Robert King, takes more of a semi-biographical approach, tracing out what we can learn about McCarthy from his correspondence with agents and editors. A sample:
Bought these books because it gives confidence to observe that somebody whose writing sounds like it emerged pronounced from the cliffs like some kind of Texas Quran had to work and revise and toss stuff and chisel to get there.
From these books it is clear:
- McCarthy is a meticulous and patient rewriter
- it took decades for his work to gain any significant recognition
- he was helped with seeming love and care by editor Albert Erskine.
- he was patient, open, yet confident in editorial correspondence
These books are not necessary for the casual personal library, but if you enjoy gnawing on literary scraps, recommend them both. From King:
However, in this same letter, he acknowledges that “the truth is that the historical material is really – to me – little more than a framework upon which to hang a dramatic inquiry into the nature of destiny and history and the uses of reason and knowledge and the nature of evil and all these sorts of things which have plagued folks since there were folks.”
On one of the episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour Bob Dylan himself says that the actual highway 61 is boring now, nothing but ads for riverboat casinos. That may be true south of Vicksburg but north of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum and the Catfish Row Art Park, I found the road compelling.
Mississippi Fred McDowell was born of course in Rossville, Tennessee.
It was Dave [David L. Cohn] in God Shakes Creation who said, “The Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg.” He was always welcome at the Peabody; they were glad to see him – he stayed there whenever he was in Memphis – but they never even gave him a cup of coffee, and he thought it was rather amusing that they had so little appreciation of this publicity.
So says Uncle Shelby, of Greenville and Memphis:
Since we’d been to Memphis we steered towards Oxford Miss to visit Faulkner’s house:
On Highway 61 lots of blues type sites, Muddy Waters’ birthplace for instance:
marked by signs for the Mississippi Blues Trail. But many signs tell you you are also on the Mississippi Mound Trail.
Mounds make a thousand or more years ago by some lost culture, perhaps connected to the people who built Cahokia:
And where in the beginning the predecessors crept with their simple artifacts, and built the mounds and vanished, bequeathing only the mounds in which the succeeding recordable Muskhogean stock would leave the skulls of their warriors and chiefs and babies and slain bears, and the shards of pots, and hammer- and arrow-heads and now and then a heavy silver Spanish spur.
So says Faulkner in his essay Mississippi. In Sanctuary he says:
The sunny air was filled with competitive radios and phonographs in the doors of drug- and music- stores. Before these doors a throng stood all day, listening. The pieces which moved them were ballads simple in melody and theme, of bereavement and retribution and repentance metallically sung, blurred, emphasised by static or needle – disembodied voices blaring from imitation wood cabinets or pebble-grain horn-mouths above the rapt faces, the gnarled slow hands long shaped to the imperious earth, lugubrious, harsh, and sad.
You can only listen to so much of that though; when I pulled over for Dunn Mounds I was listening to Maron interview Jennifer Lawrence.
The Raven map tells the story of the Delta. Another flooding bottomland is the Nile delta:
where they also kept slaves, and built mounds.
great tour of the Blues Trail sites here on Wiki by Chillin662.
Horwitt says that, when Alinsky would ask new students why they wanted to organize, they would invariably respond with selfless bromides about wanting to help others. Alinsky would then scream back at them that there was a one-word answer: “You want to organize for power!“
This anecdote had stuck in my mind from whenever I had first read it. Found it in a March 2017 New Republic piece about then-Senator and candidate Obama.
Hillary wrote her college thesis on Alinsky. Both the last two Democratic nominees for president found the same man in Chicago to study. (And think of how many Bushies were said to learn from Leo Strauss? And Milton Friedman! Chicago, dude).
How should the candidate approach his job?:
This is a tough, realistic worldview:
“Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
“Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
“Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
“A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
“A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
“Keep the pressure on.”
“The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
“The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
“If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside”
“The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
Using the world enemy is a little dangerous for me, unless you have a Zen-like transcendent understanding of the meaning of enemy and the mutability of enemies.
That TNR piece by the way written Ryan Lizza.
My friend Clarke Tucker is running for Congress as a Democrat in Arkansas’ 2nd district. He’s just the kind of guy you want doing legislative work. A solid citizen.
In his gentle and careful yet warm manner Clarke reminds me of another Southern state legislator:
Meanwhile, out in the desert and the Eastern Sierra, they’re trying to put Marge in charge.
Marge Doyle that is. I saw her speak on Sunday and was really impressed. Her passion to run stems from her frustration with current Congressman Paul Cook and his Republican party-line votes that would’ve hurt the health care people in the district depend on.
Had the chance to hear Marge give her message and came away real impressed. She came to her campaign through hard, slow work on health care issues in the district, and spoke of her belief in her ability to find solutions through common values.
Happened to meet Katie Hill when she turned up at a meeting of the SELAH (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater, Hollywood) Homeless Coalition.
She grew up in California’s 25th district, and seemed like just the person to knock off the distasteful Steve Knight and represent the people of Lancaster, Palmdale, Pearblossom, Acton, Santa Clarita, and the rest.
(oh and none of them are paying me or nothing. This is just my own Take!)
Was struck by this one in Quincy Jones interview (the GQ one, with Chris Heath).
Rolled my eyes at this week’s essay title.
If your job is writing a weekly essay and going on Bill Maher, then YOU live on campus. Not seeing evidence the rest of us do?