28 October 2012

Review of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God

Child of GodChild of God by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coming to this book, I knew only that the main character, Lester Ballard, had some strange ways, but I didn't know how strange until several chapters into the book. It is an interesting read; McCarthy has a way of making it seem dream-like: broken up, but still flowing together. I'm not sure that makes sense, but that's how it reads to me. He kept the chapters short, most being only a single scene: some shorter, some longer. The short chapters coupled with Lester's bizarre behavior keeps you turning the pages, not to mention the "need" to know what happens....

There is a strong link to mythology in most of McCarthy's work and this book is no different. There are trips to the underworld, shape-shifting and tragedy among other motifs.

Without giving away too much, I will say that this book is not for the faint of heart. If Nabokov's Lolita bothers you, then there is a possibility that this will, too. It isn't exactly the same as Lolita , but the deviance of Lester, the main character, is very pronounced as is that of Humbert Humbert. But, in the case of Child of God, Lester is not the narrator.

I wonder if you could still call Lester a protagonist? He does change, but not much. The reader gets the sense that he is depraved right from the beginning. It's the level, or depth, of his depravity that changes.

The writing itself will not disappoint fans of McCarthy. His prose, as always, is tight and musical; the critics like to call it poetic, which it is. It damn near sings. I give it four stars simply for the prose. The content gives me pause; that's not to say that we should ignore it, it's just more unsettling than a book with a happy-go-lucky attitude and a bright happy ending. McCarthy almost never has happy endings and this is no exception. He does have "just" endings on occasion, or endings in which those who deserve it get it, if you get my drift.

I will read it again, simply because I love McCarthy's writing and want to learn from him. If I were reading it as a reader only, once would be enough--maybe more than enough.

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