Monday, March 19, 2012

weekend reading and the Cormac McCarthy Story

This weekend I read Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. I got it through Librarything's Early Reviewers. It started very strong: her tales of her absurd childhood in rural Texas with a taxidermist father read almost like a slapstick version of The Liars' Club, and I laughed hysterically for the first three or four chapters. Unfortunately, then the chapters become what I assume are just blog posts put onto the page, and they consist of things like four pages of mock Post-It notes left for her husband about the revenge she's going to take on him for leaving the towels on the floor, and this is not even one-tenth as funny as Lawson thinks it is. Her struggles with fertility and mental illness are not handled in particularly interesting or insightful fashion, and the chapter about her dog dying couldn't decide whether it wanted to be tragedy or farce (it could have been both, but she didn't commit to that either). The chapter about working in HR is funny, but other than that I found everything after the first fifty pages kind of a chore.

Then I whipped through Hangman, by Faye Kellerman. Kellerman is what I read when I don't quite have the attention span for a decent movie. Predictable is the word, although this one ended rather interestingly by leaving the crimes unsolved.

I am in the home stretch of The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible and so far it is 75% amazing and 25% irritating. Apparently "agon" is the new "paradigm": Bloom cannot stop using that word; and apparently Cormac McCarthy is the last inheritor of the KJB language, or at least Blood Meridian (which I have not read) is*. This makes me snort, because:

The Cormac McCarthy Story

Many years ago Claudio and I visited a friend of his in upstate New York. This friend was a professor at a nearby university, and at the party he threw that night I found myself cornered by another professor from the university and the professor's twenty-year-old son. Claudio was briefly present, talking about bikes, but when it became apparent that these two were Expert Guys, Claudio wandered away, leaving me to their mercy. (In retrospect, the marriage may always have been doomed.)

The professor leaned into my personal space and asked, "So, your husband has bicycles; do you have an avocation?"

Now, I could already tell that these guys were not the type to whom you can actually say, "I read," in response to that question. Reading is my avocation, obviously, but they would have then asked what I read, and when I replied, "Everything," instead of "Biblical apocrypha in the original Greek," they would assume I meant Danielle Steel and Dan Brown (and if I answered "Biblical apocrypha", they would then claim to be Experts on that). So, asked about my avocations, I hesitated.

The son leaned into my personal space and said, "It means 'hobby'."

They chuckled, condescendingly, in unison.

Not wanting to spend one more minute talking to these guys than necessary, I said in what I hoped was a dismissive tone, "No, I don't," and prepared for that to end the conversation.

They shook their heads. "That's a very bad sign," said the father. "Cormac McCarthy - have you heard of Cormac McCarthy? He's an American writer -"

Dear Lord. "I know who Cormac McCarthy is," I said.

"Greatest author since the war, in my opinion," he said solemnly. (His exact words. I am not making any of this dialogue up.) "Cormac McCarthy said in an interview that [insert long rambling story about McCarthy's childhood with which I will not bore you because it is bad enough that one of us had to hear it, but the point of which is:] you can tell a person's intelligence by how many hobbies they have, and the smarter the person the more hobbies they will have."

They smirked at me, delighted with themselves for having cornered a complete stranger at a party and informed her that she's an idiot.

"Huh," I said, and walked away.

This is Claudio's favorite Expert Guy story. It is only my second favorite - the guy at the performance of Henry VIII was amazing, and I will share that story at some point - but it is why to this day I cannot encounter the name Cormac McCarthy without hearing a pompous voice saying, "Greatest author since the war," and cracking up.

You'd think a story I tell all the time would at least end with a witty comeback on my part. I never have witty comebacks. Even with Henry VIII Guy, when I turned around in my seat and actually confronted him about being completely wrong, he got the last word in, because it was such an astonishing last word that I had no reply. It has been something like six years since the Cormac McCarthy Guys, which means I've taken over 2,000 showers since then, and I still don't have a witty comeback. I'm okay with that. Because once you've asked someone with a literature degree from the top college in the country if she's heard of Cormac McCarthy, and said, "Greatest author since the war," in any year other than 1930, you don't need me to make fun of you.

*I've read All the Pretty Horses and The Road. My respective opinions were "Meh," and "Are you serious?" I just went and read the first thirty pages of Blood Meridian, and my opinion is, "Bloom, what is your DEAL?"

No comments:

Post a Comment