Philipp Meyer celebrates Cormac McCarthy’s dark and violent Western, Blood Meridian: Or, The Evening Redness in the West:

“[Blood Meridian] – his masterpiece – marks both a pinnacle and a turning point in his career. It is the first of his western novels and the last of his darker, meaner books. With one exception, all the books that follow Blood Meridian have a softer edge – sympathetic protagonists engaged in sympathetic quests.”

More at Picador.

Dwight Garner (The New York Times) on the cultural legacy of Bret Easton Ellis’ most controversial novel

american-psycho-movie-musical-news-culture.jpgWhen Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho” was about to be published in 1991, word of its portrait of a monster — an amoral young Wall Street serial killer named Patrick Bateman, who nail-gunned women to the floor before doing vastly worse to them — was met with outrage.

There were death threats. A book tour was scuttled. The Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women proposed a boycott of the novel’s publisher. An advance review of “American Psycho” in The New York Times Book Review was titled “Snuff This Book!” Some stores refused to stock the novel.

I didn’t read “American Psycho” at the time. I was two years out of college in 1991, and while I’d eagerly ingested the stylish mid-80s debuts of the so-called “brat pack” writers, of which Mr. Ellis’s novel “Less Than Zero” (1985) is a crucial artifact, I’d moved on.

Yet it disturbed me that, in the moral panic over “American Psycho,” so many smart people made a rookie mistake: They’d confused author with character. Bret Easton Ellis and Patrick Bateman were pariahs. (more…)

Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
From a 1992 interview with Richard B. Woodward (The New York Times)

“You know about Mojave rattlesnakes?” Cormac McCarthy asks. The question has come up over lunch in Mesilla, N.M., because the hermitic author, who may be the best unknown novelist in America, wants to steer conversation away from himself, and he seems to think that a story about a recent trip he took near the Texas-Mexico border will offer some camouflage. A writer who renders the brutal actions of men in excruciating detail, seldom applying the anesthetic of psychology, McCarthy would much rather orate than confide. And he is the sort of silver-tongued raconteur who relishes peculiar sidetracks; he leans over his plate and fairly croons the particulars in his soft Tennessee accent. (more…)

Why read a ‘difficult’ book?
Emily Temple (Flavorwire) has compiled a list of ’50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers’. Their toughness varies from the sheer bulk of the volume (eg. Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Stein’s The Making of Americans), to their stylistic virtuosity (Finnegans Wake, anyone?). But despite their daunting reputations, there can be something special about reading a ‘difficult’ book.

(more…)