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Outer Dark

They crested out on the bluff in the late afternoon sun with their shadows long on the sawgrass and burnt sedge, moving single file and slowly high above the river and with something of its own implacability, pausing and grouping for a moment and going on again strung out in silhouette against the sun and then dropping under the crest of the hill into a fold of blue shadows with light touching them about the head in spurious sanctity until they had gone on for such a time as saw the sun down altogether and they moved in shadow altogether which suited them very well.

The opening sentence of Cormac McCarthy’s second novel, Outer Dark – a hidden gem in the Cormac canon, published in 1968 when he was just 35 years old. It’s dark, twisted, and a bit disjointed, but there’s no denying that it shows flashes of his distinct, sparse prose style, dialogue, and thematic arcs that we’ve become accustomed to in later, more celebrated works.

Young Rinthy Holme gives birth to a child by her brother, Culla – right there we’re thrown off balance by the incest – who decides it best if Rinthy thinks the child has died, so he leaves the baby under a tree in the woods. This is early 20th-century Appalachia, so naturally a tinker happens along the babe and takes him in – long enough to give him to someone else in trade. When Rinthy discovers that the child has not died, Culla takes off running and she sets out across the land to find her son. The resultant tale is of their divergent paths across this dusty, rural landscape, searching, wandering, struggling. Not a happy tale, even by Cormac’s standards and the added element of a trio of murderous chaps also wandering the countryside lends an extra sinister air to the whole thing. But still, if you’re at all a fan of any of his other books, you might not have stumbled across Outer Dark in your travels to date & I’d recommend you check it out.

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This entry was posted on June 4, 2011 by in Cormac, review.
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