LITERATURE: Child of God – Finale

Just finished McCarthy’s Child of God and honestly don’t know what to say.  I truly wish some day to continue my formal study of literature so that I can offer a more insightful review than Whew!  I seem to base my very unprofessional reviews on gut feeling and reaction to both story and writing rather than follow any acknowledged critical theory.  Maybe someday I’ll get the time and money to take  this all to a higher level.  Meanwhile…

I loved this book.  As gross and as horrifying as Lester Ballard is, and as vague about what makes him tick as McCarthy could be, I was fascinated by him.  He is so very much the darker side of us and yet in his way, he is almost innocent though he does know what he’s doing all the time.  I think the disturbing factor that McCarthy brings to Ballard–and this may well be why he does not give him a detailed history–is that he is so close, just on the other side of the line we draw for ourselves of decent behavior.

I’m thinking that what sets (for me) a book apart from being just another novel, even a good novel with story and fine writing, is when it carries the reader through it into the world of the narrative and the characters.  When it makes you stop only to need to think about or share some fine idea or bit of exceptional prose.  No doubt I definitely look for the writing style, the voice and the imagery as much as story.  McCarthy feeds my needs.  There is one other clue that tells me a book is good; I don’t want to start reading another one by a different author immediately.  It’s like brushing your teeth after a good meal and ruining the memory of it with mint instead of savoring the glory of the meal.

The end of Lester Ballard is just as jaw-dropping as his life.  On the lam he glimpses a vision of himself before what he’s become, but cannot think about it.  We just know that it bothers him a little before he goes back to the business of surviving. Child of God may describe an opinion that we are all born alike in innocence; or that we are all born alike in baseness.  What happens in our lives and our reactions steadily steer our course towards an ending.  That’s why I felt it was so imperative to discover what led Lester to choose the paths he’d taken.  Because we all begin at the same starting point.  McCarthy has pointed that out to us, and has left us to wonder if ever we, like Lester, come close to crossing that line.

Yep, McCarthy’s my man.

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