Friday, July 20, 2007

Cormac McCarthy and the Deathly Hallows

Today is some sort of literary Harmonic Convergence: One of this country's very best writers is celebrating his 74th birthday on a day or, more precisely, an evening, that in the general vicinity of bookstore registers will be like D-Day but without the shooting and the sand.

It is a good day indeed for booklovers, I would say.

I was going to try to write a parody based on the title of this post, but the title was the best part of what I came up with--not a good sign. So instead I thought I'd link to two older posts of mine, coincidentally written within a week of each other in July of 2005: this one, in which I mark McCarthy's 72nd birthday by writing about Blood Meridian; and this one, which recounts the trip the Mrs. and I made to Wal-Mart(!?) to buy our copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I know, I know--read to see why).

A quick word about the latter post: It seems that with the release of each Potter book there has also come along a peripheral discussion on the topic of, if I may broadly characterize it, "But is it any good?" (Embedded in that discussion is, inevitably, "Is it any good for us?") The same has been true this time around as well, though I'm deliberately avoiding a lot of the chatter this year lest I accidentally bump into spoilers and I, too, be reduced to tears. But that post says all that I would want to say about the matter anyway, so why repeat myself?

In yet another strange confluence, though, that same post mentions Oprah's Book Club and its influence on book marketing . . . and we all know what just happened in that little corner of the cosmos . . .

Anyway: Happy Birthday, Mr. McCarthy, and many happy returns of the day to you. Thank you for the gifts of your novels, which harrow the soul and give us not just glimpses but the most intense sorts of meditations on our darker and better natures. Thanks also for not yet beating me up over the title of this humble blog. And to Ms. Rowling, thank you for giving countless people--in particular my daughters--not just pleasure but much of consequence to think about, and thank you most particularly for treating children everywhere with such genuine respect and care.

6 comments:

emawkc said...

FYI and on a bit of a tangent, since you first discussed The Road, I've read it and All The Pretty Horses, and I'm just now finishing up The Crossing.

Thanks for the recommendations.

John B. said...

I remember reading your review of The Road. You're most welcome.

You may already know this, but it bears repeating: In November the Coen Brothers will be releasing their film version of No Country for Old Men (here is the trailer). If I could just get over my aversion to seeing brains splattered every which way . . .

Winston said...

In the last few days I have heard (radio) and read (newspaper) that this Potter book marks the end of book publishing and the beginning of the decline of book reading, book sellers, etc.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows this long, slow downward slide started a few years ago, and we can hardly pin it on Ms. Rowling. If anything, her Harry Potter series has injected a dose of rejuvenation into the printed word, albeit a temporary pip on the downward curve.

A random visit to any Barnes & Noble or Borders store also makes one wonder if interest in the printed word is indeed in a waning mode. Newspapers and magazines -- yes. Circulation numbers don't lie. Maybe the entire story was another media construct by someone seeking a sensational twist to the Harry Potter story -- as if it did not bring enough of its own sensation.

John B. said...

Winston,
Yes--periodicals are waning, but I do know that children's publishing is very healthy these days. The Potter books have lots to do with that, but not all of it. Of course, I still remember hearing a clerk at a Barnes & Noble in Kansas City say, "If it weren't for Oprah and Harry Potter, we'd have to shut down this place."

Granted, Barnes & Noble doesn't have 300 or so people in it every night like "mine" did on Friday, but it is a busy place most days, with people of all ages there. But perhaps the clearest sign is that Barnes & Noble is building a brand new store from scratch here in town. Seeing as it's about 9 blocks away from "my" B&N, the new one will most likely take its place. But building a new store in a town that doesn't strike me as being especially bookish would seem to me a vote of confidence in the future of bookselling.

Amy said...

My reduced-to-tears daughter who read the spoiler is well through the book now and says the deaths have been different from the spoiler. But she may be saying that just to be nice to me. Such levels of intrigue.

John B. said...

Amy,
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope your daughter enjoys what she'll find.

I wonder, by the way, if she did what I did when I started reading--I deliberately didn't look at the table of contents out of anxiety that the chapter titles might give something away. Silly, perhaps, but I wanted to do all I could to preserve the surprise.