Counterfeit Commonality

1. Wonder and Awe

2. Doubt

3. Forsakenness; retreat to self.

Karl Jaspers talked at me about this.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Do you take thee, in dullness and violence?

The connection between Cormac McCarthy and Joel and Ethan Coen is already recognized. The brothers are obviously fans of McCarthy's writing. They try to make very similar work in mood; dark, absurd, malevolent. And, of course, they've adapted his work into film. I just finished Outer Dark, a novel published in 1968. All these artists seems to be asking: what kind of God could there be, how can we not be anything short of abandoned?

I think the key difference is that the Coen brothers take full advantage of abusing their characters relentlessly. They are coldly brow-beaten with a smirk and a condescending shake of the head. McCarthy's isn't exactly always a compassionate or empathetic vantage point either, but his is a presentation still more stark and aching with the pathetic human stain precisely because it is bereft of any clear bias. All judgement has been brushed aside in order to examine the plight of humans. And his prose constructs a painfully gorgeous landscape in which his characters struggle and flounder.

It howled execretion upon the dim camarine world of its nativity wail on wail while he lay there gibbering with palsied jawhasps, his hands putting back the night like some witless paraclete beleaguered with all limbo's clamor.

The imagery falls over itself, turning and folding again and again.

I like the Coen brothers' work. It's just a different medium and they squeeze the storytelling in finding their voice. Maybe the characters are simply dumb animals or violent animals too much of the time. Maybe I am just dismayed to hear about us described as such.

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