Tag : book-report

Book Report: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I finished it, so it couldn’t have been that bad. And yet…:

  1. For a book with a theme I identify with (i.e., people being born into lives not of their choosing and then having to deal with it), it seems like I should have liked it a lot better.
  2. The main character sucked. I mean, as a person. He made frequent bad decisions against advice he should have listened to, thus leading to detrimental situations for everyone around him — and was shameless (and condescending) in doing so.
  3. Which is problematic, because he was, as a result, very unsympathetic and the sparse setting and infrequent event doesn’t give you a lot else to care about.
  4. Everyone who comes to know him ends up worse off as a result. I’m not sure what the message there is. People who fight their fates really mess stuff up for everyone else?
  5. So many monologues.
  6. While it was probably very clever the first time someone submitted a punctuation-free manuscript, McCarthy’s insistence on doing so in everything he writes is just self-indulgent and makes the book harder to read (and is probably just a cynical branding function).
  7. It’s also hard to read paragraph after paragraph of dialogue in Spanish. I’m not sure how that was a good idea.
  8. The getaway/chase scene at the end was utterly unintelligible and did not seem predicated on any gun found on the mantelpiece in the first chapter.

McCarthy obviously likes main characters who, over the course of a novel, stubbornly insist on not learning anything. At least in No Country the sheriff seemed to undergo some sort of transformation even if the cowboy dude didn’t. In The Road, the father was clearly detrimentally self-focused, but that sure never changed even though there were plenty of opportunities for him to recognize his errors. From a perception of reality standpoint, I think McCarthy has a good point about an individual’s inability to adapt. From an enjoyment of reading standpoint: guh.

I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten 80-percent through with a book and then just not cared about the last 20%. I’m starting to wonder if McCarthy is overrated.


Book Report: The Making of a Hardrock Miner

My two current writing projects that I’ll never complete are:

  1. Writing the last great World War 2 novel.
  2. Writing the first great asteroid mining novel.

I needed some vernacular to move ahead with #2, and I found this book (The Making of a Hardrock Miner by Stephen Voynick) on Amazon. It’s very good. It’s a first-person account of a guy who started working in western US mines in order to fund his living the life of a seasonally-employed other-seasonally man of leisure. It’s a very outsiderish perspective on mining. The guy works short stints at mines in Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming. The outsiderness affords him insights that probably wouldn’t have been clear to someone on the inside; it also makes it easier for someone with no clue about mining to relate to the narrative.

I think there are two different kinds of first-person non-fiction accounts:

  1. Those written for money.
  2. Those written to expose truth.

I think an easy contrast between the two in World War II terms is anything by Robert Leckey was the first and Eugene Sledge’s book was the second. Most are probably the first kind. This book’s the second.

If you’re reading something written for money, it should make you skeptical of the content. The goal is to make money. People like excitement and controversy. People buy what they like. Ergo, books written for money are going to be more exciting and controversial than the actual experiences and events they describe. The Voynick book includes event. It’s unadorned and lays stuff out there for the reader to romanticize it, learn from it, or whatever.

Its central theme is also similar to one of the themes from my would-be mining novel: that certain people need risk and transience in their lives and, without it, feel insecure and ungrounded. Maybe I also identify with that sentiment. I’m probably never going to be a hardrock miner though.