Prime Child of God By Cormac McCarthy –

Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them. There is a quote by David Foster Wallace that good fiction s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable Cormac McCarthy s trim third novel, Child of God, is an optimal example of this sentiment, as it manages to provide the counterparts of the both comfortable and disturbed elements within the reader by offering them an unflinching portrait of baseness and demanding reaction The short novel chronicles the hellish descent of Lester Ballard into the maelstroms of human depravity, from simple onanistic voyeurism to murder and necrophilia Yet, McCarthy reminds us that Ballard is a child of God much like yourself perhaps, and reminds us of how human we really are Through sparse and stupendous prose, McCarthy drags the human soul through the mud and muck of this gruesome parable to show us the degradation of humanity when chased into the shadows by isolation and ostracization, showing us wickedness and making us feel, much to the reader s discomfort equal parts disgust and empathy To open a McCarthy novel is to step into a nightmarish wasteland of the soul built out of breathtaking bricks of penetrating prose Through language that borders on biblical and flourishes effortlessly like tangled ivy on Greek pillars, McCarthy brings the reader into the dirty dregs of a small Tennessee town and makes them practically smell the damp soil and sweaty backs and gunpowder of the novel Broken up into three parts, each unique in style and execution, McCarthy unfolds the story of Lester Ballard through the eyes and ears of the locals as well as his omniscient narration Each voice is a piece of the puzzle to understanding Ballard, fleshing him out by examining him from many angles and views while also constructing a penetrating look at those around him Child of God is another impressive addition to the American mythology of darkness that McCarthy has built.The story of Lester Ballard is not for the squeamish as McCarthy illuminates his depravity without ever shielding the readers eyes from the disgusting sights It is what readers of McCarthy have come to expect McCarthy is an expert in probing the depths of the human soul and rubbing in our faces all the darkest and most disturbing elements the imagination can find down there in the shadows we try to conceal and forget Ballard does the unthinkable and inexcusable again and again, yet McCarthy does not create him as a flat, pure evil character He has much in store for our souls to digest and wrestle with Chronicling his life, McCarthy depicts Ballard as a man alienated by his community, chased like a rat into hiding because of his differences and difficulties putting on a normal persona in the world Ostracized, isolated and with no one to turn to, Ballard has little choice but to give in to his alarmingly abominable ways Occasionally he is called out of the darkness, some old shed self that came yet from time to time in the name of sanity, a hand to gentle him back from the rim of his disastrous wrath However, being so withdrawn and removed from society, the voice of civilized reason is most often lost in the wilderness of wickedness His criminal acts seem a way he has found to give voice to a sense of impotence and alienation he has felt all his life You ain t even a man You re just a crazy thing, a girl says to him It is easy to just consider him a thing , a being removed from us so that we can despise and scorn him without inner remorse It keeps us safe from identifying with him, from having to understand him or see life through his eyes But is he just a thing , or is he still a man We are reminded that Lester Ballard is a child of God and not so different from you or I Those of the religious faith are taught to forgive and love thy brothers and sisters, as we are all cut from the same cloth Ballard too And to deny him of this would be to deny God s word, and this is the skillful and wonderfully ironic moral conundrum McCarthy imposes on the reader Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone, is a statement from the Bible pointing out that we all bear the scars of sin, and can we really judge Ballard without then judging ourselves Religious or not, this is a quandary that tests our moral judgment and reminds us that all of us are capable of evil.All the bleakness aside, it is hard to not be astounded by McCarthy s dexterity with prose styling and his way with diction And, despite the grim context, this is actually quite a darkly comical novel at times Ballard gets swindled trying to sell watches, bootleggers are too drunk to find their own hiding places, and other sorts of gross yet somehow humorous elements keep the book from being too flatly dark It is not an enjoyable read, yet there is much enjoyment to keep the reader thinking and turning pages It is short as to not begrudge the reader with too much darkness and entertaining and engaging enough so that most can finish it in a sitting or two.This is a bleak novel with little to nothing in the way of redemption within the book However, this is because the redemption rests within the reader can we look into the heart of another man and disregard him as pure evil Is everything black or white or can we feel pity even for those who are the epitome of depravity Lester Ballard is chased from society, eventually having to hide in caves like a wild beast or a descent into hell, and we must question if he is just an evil man or a product of his circumstances This isn t to say that he is to be cleared of his crimes, but it does make an interesting point about humanity I was glad to have read this book on a bright sunny day beside a case of fine IPAs, which lasted the duration of reading this book, as the novel left me feeling cold and hard and hollow on the inside Child of God might be my least favorite of McCarthy s novels Suttree toping my list , but it still packs a wallop of a punch Bleak and brutal, yet darkly funny, this book is not for everyone But if you are willing to stare into the eyes of darkness and voyage into the deepest recesses of the human heart, McCarthy is the ideal tour guide.4 5 What sort of meanness have you got laid out for next. In This Taut, Chilling Novel, Lester Ballard A Violent, Dispossessed Man Falsely Accused Of Rape Haunts The Hill Country Of East Tennessee When He Is Released From Jail While Telling His Story, Cormac McCarthy Depicts The Most Sordid Aspects Of Life With Dignity, Humor, And Characteristic Lyrical Brilliance Great day in the morning He is making me homesick Just the speech patterns which McCarthy nails It reminded me of River s Edge although the movie seems mild by comparison Maybe, I m just grateful that it used an inflatable doll.Dennis Hopper as Feck and Daniel Roebuck as Samson John Tollet from River s Edge 1987 film of the book update None other than James I m handsome and I can do anything Franco directed a version of this last year I just saw it and damn, James, I hate to say this but it was really good And faithful Really great performance by Scott Haze as Lester You probably shouldn t watch it while you eat your tea nor should you be watching it with any elderly relatives but if you know what the story is about you probably would not do that Unless you want to kill them off with shock and horror This time round I spotted that Child of God starts just like Omensetter s Luck, with a rural auction Kind of a really useless fact.And now the actual review.ME AND CORMAC, WE GO BACK A LONG WAY.This was a re read, my first for years, and once again I loved Cormac s outrageous, daring style I gave it five stars all those years ago and I give it five now I felt again that I was in the presence of a writer who could dip all the other American writers in his Weetabix and mush em all together and eat em up and go for another bowl of em This guy is the real deal Well allright So how come I didn t like any other CMcC book if he s such a wow Good question, you know I had a go at Blood Meridian , and as everyone knows, that s like reading the Bible if God was Sam Peckinpah Beautiful beautiful writing completely squandered on an endurance test Western with zero story and zero character So I failed there All the Pretty Horses well, that was better, and I did finish it, but by now Cormac s style has got ever outre, he s much deeply in love with the conjunction and and by then he d got too mythtastic for my taste I still like my soap opera, thank you, I m just this suburban gentleman in a semi detatched house with a cat and a bottle of real ale and a High Llamas cd Myths Not so much So I think Cormac and me had a parting of the ways But if I recall right, before we bade farewell and he took the road west, we shook hands cordially It felt cordial, that is, although his face betrayed no expression.THIS WILL MELT YOUR FACEAs to Child of God this book is a total treat, but I got to warn you, the main character is a little unsavoury Lester Ballard, our grisly necrophile protagonist, has quite a bit of the old Ed Gein about him Which if so would make him the fourth fictional incarnation of Ed, so inspirational was he, and that is leaving aside the biopic about him, which is called Ed Gein There was Hitchcock s Psycho, there was ol Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was ever a film so aptly titled it was in Texas, there was a massacre, it was done with a chainsaw and there was the regrettable Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Tiny Little Baa Lambs with his human skin dresses Now Barbara Gowdy, in her arresting story We So Seldom Look On Love , makes a case that there are indeed true necrophiles, people that only love people if they re dead Imagine the fate of a necrophile who s looking for commitment I guess the only solution there would be taxidermy But I argue that the great majority of necrophiles wind up with the dead through poor lifestyle choice and low self esteem They are just lonely But in a special way You and me, we may have been through lonely times, you may still be going through those times, and I only wish I could reach my hand through this screen and give your shoulder a little squeeze, wouldn t that be nice, hmm, maybe it wouldn t, can you imagine if you booted up your computer and all these arms came out, wiggling around Doesn t bear thinking about I digress this loneliness that we have suffered was still on the planet Earth, it was a recognisable, common emotion We could have been rescued at any time These necrophiles though, the loneliness of these guys is a cold cold moon of Pluto They are off the scale of ordinary inabilities to communicate, to invite affection, they are the antimatter of human dalliance They make autists look like quiz show comperes The only date they ve been on is where they shoot em in the back of the head and lug em home That s a date Of sorts Now Lester Ballard, if he could only of met a nice girl some time in his early life and could of settled down somewhat, it may have been the making of him But he never met the right gal And he took the wrong turn in life The way it goes sometimes. FIGLI DI UN DIO MINORE Mi colpisce nell opera di McCarthy il ruolo che sempre affidato alla natura grande coprotagonista di tutte le storie, dura, selvaggia, violenta, ostica, ma non cattiva, non maligna racchiude la colpa e il peccato, e una sua qualche redenzione Questa e le due immagini che seguono sono prese dal film omonimo scritto, diretto e co interpretato da James Franco nel 2013, mai uscito in Italia, e mai uscito in un sacco di altri paesi il film ha partecipato a qualche festival, ma ha avuto distribuzione molto limitata.Uso questi termini perch le pagine di McCarthy hanno sempre una forte connotazione biblica.Non per niente, il titolo esplicito in questo caso.In questo ambiente naturale, l uomo emarginato, in abissi di solitudine la violenza sembra essere l unica comunicazione possibile, l unica condivisa Figli di dio fa pensare a Dostoewskij, ovvio, ma anche tanto a Jim Thompson medesima attrazione per personaggi abietti, fuori dal coro, improvvisamente sanguinari.Thompson in apparenza stempera il quadro con l ironia e l umorismo, in realt lo rende ancora pi agghiacciante e raccapricciante.McCarthy non risparmia nulla, non mitiga, non acquerella ma sembra che i suoi personaggi siano quasi giustificabili, comprensibili, che si riesca a sentirne le motivazioni, ad accoglierli nella confraternita umana dei figli di dio E questo spaventa e ammalia al contempo, perch come guardare dentro il cuore di tenebra. Child of God Cormac McCarthy s Outcast First edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1973He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence Saxon and Celtic bloods A child of God much like yourself perhaps. The setting is Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s Our protagonist is twenty seven He is an orphan His life between the suicide of his father and the loss of his home is an unanswered question We are dropped into his story in medias res in the finest Faulkner style As the story opens, the small, unclean, unshaven man watches his home place go on the auction block.I have a long and uncomfortable history with Cormac McCarthy He has repeatedly held me breathless with his novels full of violence and human degradation But he has said that these are usual conditions of life I cannot argue with him Consider Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the Ted Bundys of this world I am constantly reminded of the words of John Steinbeck from East of Eden You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous Child of God is McCarthy s third novel, published in 1973 I had read three of what I call his Southern Quartet However, this one remained on the shelf Call it taking a hiatus Or, call it a necessary breather, particularly after being wrung by the neck by Outer Dark.It took the novel being selected for a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail to cause me to begin to turn the pages I began last night It was after 10 00 when I turned to the first page I turned the last around 3 30 this morning McCarthy had done it again I was drained Sleep refused to come to me I do not know when I drifted off to sleep.How can one like a novel about a murderer who exercises his lust on his victims It is a testament to the craft of McCarthy He unflinchingly portrays the life and tragedy of Lester Ballard Scott Haze as Leroy Ballard in James Franco s film, Child of God, 2013 It is discomforting that he builds sympathy for this devil However, McCarthy does not ask forgiveness for him.In the final analysis, we confront the question, Is man the product of nature or nurture While every man may be a child of God, it is the lack of, or indifference of community that unleashes a monster Nor should that assertion be taken as an excuse for the behavior of McCarthy s Lester Ballard.Harold Bloom named Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West the most disturbing book he ever read Disturbing, yes However, it is Child of God that claims that spot on the shelf for me.How many times have you walked past a stranger and not acknowledged their presence Or, how many times have you made assumptions about a person based on their appearance, small, uncleaned, unshaven Unavoidably I am drawn to a poem by Marie Howe, The Star Market, in her collection The Kingdom of Ordinary Time Poems The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.An old lead colored man standing next to me at the checkoutbreathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard andhawking into his hand The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Markethad declared a day off for the able bodied, and I had wandered inwith the rest of them sour milk, bad meat looking for cereal and spring water.Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost carin the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would havebeen lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have creptout of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their handsand knees begging for mercy.If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought,could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around OTHER MATERIALMy reviews of McCarthy s other works in his Southern Quartet may be found at, The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, and, Suttree,. HE SEEZ DEAD PEOPLE THEN FUCKS THEM. There is something inherently wrong with Lester Ballard As he skulks through the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee, a hunting rifle is his only companion Ballard s skewed thinking, awkward ways, and repugnant proclivities render him unfit to be around other people Darkly disturbing, fascinating and repellent Another walk in the dark with Cormac McCarthy This is his territory. Find all of my reviews at StarsAllow me to introduce you to my new boyfriend, Lester Ballard Ha Just kidding There s apparently even a limit to how weird I like em However, just in case you think Mitchell and I are slipping, please note that this title was added to the TBR once we discovered it was about a necrophile, which is basically our literary equivalent to As I said before, the story here is about a man named Lester BallardA child of God much like yourself perhapsThat simple little phrase might end up being one of the most thought provoking ones I ll ever read Much like other experiences with Cormac McCarthy, we readers are kind of plunked down in the middle of the goings on With right at 200 pages, you don t get a lot of Lester s history You know his mother left when he was a boy and that his father hung himself Child of God picks up as Lester s family home is being auctioned off complete with the old noose still swinging in the background To say things go downhill for Lester from there would be the understatement of the century because by Part II The you get into the story, the you get acquainted with Lester s neighbor, the dumpkeeper, and his bevy of female children and you get to meet some of Lester s gal pals as well Let s just leave it with those girls are If you don t enjoy McCarthy s style of writing, the shock and awe factor won t be enough to turn you into a fan because it is still sparse and he is still allergic to quotation marks Really, even if you do enjoy McCarthy s style of writing, the sheer amount of shock and awe factor contained in this one might turn your stomach and turn you away from picking up his stuff in the future As for me I have to say McCarthy did a pretty freaking stellar job writing Lester Ballard, since I couldn t help but feel sorry for him at times I m also haunted by the question that begs to be answered was the man born a monster or was it man who turned him into a monster I d normally be inclined to give this one 3 Stars but I m going ahead and rounding it up to 4 simply for the fact that McCarthy is so ready to embrace the muses and go wherever they lead him no matter how vile the subject matter. How far can one book go How objectionable can the subject matter be Well, take a southern degenerate raised in an abysmal state of affairs and trace his downward spiral into serial murder and necrophilia that s what McCarthy did in Child of God But that s just the tip of the iceberg This novel is a descent into the darkness that can befall an uneducated and amoral man when left to his own devices someone abandoned on the fringes of civilization and left to fend for themselves with what little they possess When basic needs aren t met and baser desires are never addressed or fulfilled, the human reaction is often extreme and appalling History has taught us this time and time again Lester Ballad is quite possibly one of the most reprehensible characters in modern literature, yet it is impossible to hate him completely What made me squirm was Cormac s ability to actually get me to relate to the lonely outcast and feel some sympathy for him, showing me the human side to a character we would all regard as subhuman We are products of our environments, the results of upbringings and teachings What happens to those who have been locked out of normality by the same societies that judge them Child Of God is like nothing you ve ever read before If you know anything about Cormac McCarthy, you ll know that the brilliant author is not known for holding back or giving a single shit about how offended you might be by some of the harsh realities humanity has to offer Read this book and you will be shocked You will be upset But above all, you will be wading into territory very few writers have the fortitude to map and conquer Child Of God is a game changer, a short novel that will push the limits of what you thought great content could be It is a must read for any avid adult reader a book that is both brave and depraved at the same time You have been welcomed You have been warned This book was one of the 10 Books That Made Me Squirm piece I wrote See which other books made the list