Thursday, November 5, 2015

McCarthy and the Mundane

Beautiful passage on page 22 of The Crossing:
"He took the deerhide gloves our of the basket and pulled them on and with a trowel he dug a hole in the ground and put the drag in the hole and piled the chain in after it and covered it up again. Then he excavated a shallow place in the ground the shape of the trap springs and all. He tried the trap in it and then dug some more. He put dirt in the screenbox as he dug and hen he laid the trowel by and took a pair of c-clamps from the basket and with them screwed down the springs until the jaws fell open. He held the trap up and eyed the notch in the pan while he backed off one screw and adjusted the trigger. Crouched in the broken shadow with the sun at his back and holding the trap at eyelevel against the morning sky he looked to be truing some older, some subtler instrument. Astrolabe or sextant. Like a man bent at fixing himself someway in the world. Bent on trying by arc or chord the space between his being and the world that was. If there be such a space. If it be knowable. He put his hand under the open jaws and tilted the pan slightly with his thumb."

Couple of ideas here.

McCarthy excels at the complex compound sentence, like Faulkner and Morrison before him. His repetition of the conjunctions makes the sentence go on and on and on.

But at the end the image of a man bent against the shadowy sky, "fixing himself." That image is illuminating. Billy and his father are out setting traps to catch a wolf that is killing members of their herd. This "quest" (more on that later) is completing these men. Billy's father is becoming himself while doing this semi-mundane and pedestrian task--setting traps. But all of a sudden it becomes the most important task in the entire world. Maybe because he is passing knowledge on to his son. Or perhaps because man needs a quest; man needs something to do. Billy sees his father in a much more ancient light. Like he is some renaissance man measuring the universe. And why can't he be?

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