No Country- IV- The style.
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Author:  Ophelia [ Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:40 am ]
Post subject:  No Country- IV- The style.

IV- The style.

1- Can you give examples of what you consider to be characteristic of Cormac McCarthy's style in No Country for Old Men?

a- punctuation
sentence construction

b- use of point of view.

2- What effect does this style have on you?

I've read many comments like this one on the net:

"I find McCarthy has the wonderful ability to write in conversational tones that I have witnessed in my time growing up in the south. I personally find that, more often than not, this lends a certain level of authenticity to his stories and his characters."

Is this your impression, too?

3- If you have read other novels by McCarthy (I haven't) , is the style in No Country different from that of his previous novels?

And if so, do you think there is a reason?

Author:  JohnShadeFan [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:56 am ]
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He read the Faulkner and the Hemingway but the Faulkner mostly and then he started writing about guns and fate and men. ;-)

Author:  Ophelia [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:12 am ]
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Hello John,

Here is a terse answer from a mysterious BT member.

It's a long time since I read Faulkner and I can't think of a link, but it seems that you didn't mean your answer to be taken at face value.

Would you like to elaborate?

And also, would you like to write an introduction in the "Introduce Yourself" threads to tell us a little about yourself?

Author:  JohnShadeFan [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:21 am ]
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I found this bit on a random page in AS I LAY DYING, the last Faulkner I read:

Because I said will I or wont I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we got to the woods it wont be me.

To me, McCarthy writes in a very similiar vein (few or no commas or apostrophes, character's thoughts blending with the narrative voice, etc.). This isn't a bad thing, mind you. I happen to like the style.

What effect does it have? I thought about this question and didn't come up with much. It adds a sense of urgency, I suppose. I want to say that it reads faster, but sometimes I find myself having to re-read a sentence to figure out where the commas should go before the sentence makes sense.
I posted an introduction, by the way. I assure you that there is nothing very mysterious about me. Sadly.

Author:  Ophelia [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 2:48 pm ]
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I think my answer would be just what many reviewers wrote: the style is stripped to the bare minimum, which reflects the action and the surroundings.

Like you I sometimes had to go back and read again, so this is not exactly George Orwell's prose, "transparent like a windowpane"; yet sometimes when there were no problems with remembering which character "He" was, I really had the impression that the absence of inverted commas or other marks of punctuation allowed me to read faster, as if there were no physical obstacles for the eyes, and everything was naked. I'm not sure whether that's something I imagined or not.

I'll add that I am normally very conservative about punctuation, and I had expected to be annoyed by the liberties taken, but it wasn't a problem.

The quotation from Faulkner you give is interesting.

I've ben wondering: is this unconventional use of punctuation and style (run-on sentences, etc...) a characteristic of (some) American authors only, or can it be found in novels by British authors as well?

Author:  JohnShadeFan [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:03 pm ]
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Great question.

All I can offer is this: George Bernard Shaw thought that using apostrophes for some conjuntions was silly, and he removed them in a few of his pieces. His idea was that "d-o-n-t" is only a contraction, so no one would be confused without the apostrophe, but there needed to be an apostrophe for "i-l-l" to differentiate between "i will" and "ill" (sick).

Author:  Ophelia [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:09 pm ]
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I had forgotten about apostrophes, I was only thinking about the missing inverted commas to introduce dialogue.

I have no idea what McCarthy meant by "dont" as opposed to "don't".

I'll paste something from another thread (about the Americanness of the novel).

Steve wrote:

Have you ever noticed the change in the style of writing over the past 70 or so years? A Russian novelist like a Tolstoy will take a page just to describe what one his characters is wearing. By the 1940's it drops to a paragraph. By the 1960's its a couple lines. The 90's brought as description by brand name. "He wore a Burberry trench coat an a Oyster Rolex. In this book there was almost none.

Yes, amount of description is central to style ...and theme in a way.

I remember reading Victor Hugo's Les Miserables at school. Or perhaps Balzac is even more charactersitic of the old school: in Le Pere Goriot, before he introduced the characters, he described everything about where they are, the building where they live, the other tenants in the building... and all those pages were essential to understanding the theme.

Yet, after reading reviewers praising MCCarthy's minimalist style, I found at least three examples of new (postapocalyptic?) motel scene descriptions like this:

p 107: "He (Moss) paid and put the key in his pocket and climbed the stairs and walked down the old hotel corridor. Dead quiet. No light in the transoms. He found the room and put the key in the door and opened it andwent in and shut the door behind him. He set the bags on the bed and went back to the door (..) he went into the bathroom and got a glass of water and sat on the bed again. He took a sip and set the water on the glass top of the wooden bedside table. "

Wells, page 145: "He went on to his own room and set his bag in the chair and got out his shaving kit and and went to the bathroom and turned on the light. He brushed his teeth, and washed his face and went back into the room...".

MCCarthy has the reputation of being a very able writer.
There must be a reason for telling us the characters opened their motels rooms with a key and then actually got into the room, and where they set their bags, but what is it?

As I read such pages I think of the author, who must have an overall plan that escapes me, and is laughing because he knows such passages will irritate people like me.

I read a review by a reader who had to make do with the French translation of No Country.
She was bewildered because she had read other novels by McCarthy ( which I haven't done) and she couldn't understand the bad writing and was wondering whether the translator should be sacked.

Author:  Ophelia [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:27 pm ]
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John: Have you read other novels by McCarthy? (I haven't).

Did you find a difference in style between No Country and the others?

Author:  WildCityWoman [ Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:45 pm ]
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The first thing I thought of when I started reading 'No Country' was Brad Pitt's voice - just as it was when I listened to that audio version of 'All the Pretty Horses'.

Just reading 'No Country' in print, I was able to remember that 'style' of writing - that conversational style that engages the reader.

Yes - the answer is YES! Emphatically!

I've read nothing else by the author yet, (other than All the Pretty Horses and I'm not sure of that . . .) mind you, so maybe I'm wrong - maybe it's different in the others.

But I think I'm going to be reading a lot by McCarthy. So I'll soon know.

Author:  WildCityWoman [ Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:18 pm ]
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I just did one of those 'daily writes' thing at WBBS . . . thought I'd share it here too - here's something from me, deliberately written in this style CM's got in NCFOM:

A Walk in the Dark

It's that kinda' day; summer's well into herself now. We're talkin' at a little more than half-past July and lookin' forward to those warm days, cool nights that get ya' goin' this time of year.

Afternoons like this, I can really get into myself, doin' that deep-body-knowin' thing the guru's always gassin' about on the dharma talks. I just lay there on my side - yeah, I know, you're supposed to be straight up on your cushion, chair and wherever one hand's settin', the other's gotta' be doin' the same - and you're not supposed to be doin' it lyin' down, 'cause ya' might just fall asleep.

But sleepin' never did me wrong; summer afternoons like this, I can sleep through and face myself in the bathroom mirror afterwards, no guilt, no regrets, no sense of lost time. It's my bed, my time and my life, and if I wanna' lie on my side, one foot restin' on the other, I'll do my meditatin' like that. Betcha' when I get to heaven, there ain't gonna' be any ex's in that black book somebody's keepin' just 'cause I didn't meditate the way the guru's said I oughta' be doin' it.

Yeah . . . just that kinda' afternoon, might just sleep right through, eat, then go back to bed till nine. Might find myself walkin' through the house in the dark around three a.m., but at this age, I don't worry about anybody comin' round to rip the 'good sleep keepin' seal' off the door.

Meanderin', y'say? Yeah, I'm meanderin' . . . just that stream-of-consciousness stuff - you can say that. But it's just my way of talkin' to myself, and when I'm up tonight, wanderin' round in the dark, I'll be havin' myself a damn good chat with myself.

Oh, summertime, and the livin' is easy . . . too old to be thinkin' about sendin' out my resume, hoping somebody's gonna' tie my ass to a secretarial chair and keep an eye on the uckfayin' clock.

Gettin' a mite cloudy out there . . . shouldn't have let the weather hear me talkin' 'bout it I guess.

Author:  WildCityWoman [ Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:40 pm ]
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I suppose there are a lot of people who object to this style; it probably grates on the nerves of english teachers everywhere, but (no offence to any teachers here) ever notice how boring english teachers can make your essay with that 'perfectly correct grammar'?

Me? I like this style - so it doesn't have quotation marks, so it uses a lot of 'double negatives', like I don't got no pen here teacher . . . but to me, it's the way people would be talking in this story. When you consider exactly where they're at, that's the way they'd be conducting their conversations.

So to me, the style's acceptable. And it works - it works just fine.

I love the conversation Moss has with the young girl he picked up on the highway . . . the humour is sensational. But it's real! That's exactly what would be going on with a guy like Moss - he's a humorous guy.

I'm discussing 'Lisey's Story' with another online group - I've noticed objections to all the made-up phrases Stephen King is using in that one . . . well, his characters, Lisey and Scott Landon are a wierd couple - they have phrases for everything. Many couples reach that point in their relationship, where they speak in words and phrases that work one to the other - even though it might not work for somebody else.

Those are the characters SK has created, and they have to speak true to form.

Some people are offended by the 'language', even though it's disguised into 'smuckin' in place of the proverbial 'f' word - well, I always figure if two tough guys are playing pool and one sinks the white ball, he ain't gonna' say 'Oh, Gee - I sunk the white ball'.

We all know what he's gonna' say and for him to say anything else, isn't going to work.

Style . . . these are CM's characters - they are the 'people of this book', and that's how they think, talk and move around. It's just one long country breeze blowin' 'cross the field.

That is what I have to say if anybody's looking for a defence on McCarthy's style.

Rock on, CM! With this book, I've become a bonafide fan. A HAWyooge fan, as SK says in LS.

Now, that calls for one of those cute little icons, methinks . . .


Author:  WildCityWoman [ Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:49 pm ]
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About using DONT instead of DON'T . . . that might be to show the reader how it's pronounced by these people . . . might be that you're supposed to pronounce it as being DAWNT . . . dunno'.

(No pun intended - ha ha!)

Author:  WildCityWoman [ Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:39 pm ]
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Oh, and I just realized something - I used punctuation, didn't I . . . apostrophes, and the like.

If I were to be true to the style, I'd have to take that out . . . well, no matter - I don't intend to be doing it all the time.

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