One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.


I’m currently reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Crossing.”  If you are not familiar with his work, some of his novels have been turned into movies like “All the Pretty Horses,” “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men Wearing Bermuda Shorts.”  McCarthy is an accomplished writer who has already won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer.  To say his works inhabit bleak landscapes is only temporary until a more suited word can be created.  “The Crossing” is no different.  It is the tale of Billy Parnum, a sixteen year-old New Mexico rancher who traps a she wolf.  But instead of shooting her, he decides to return the wayward animal to Mexico.  The story is a lot like “Dances With Wolves” except there is no Kevin Costner or dancing.  But why dance with an aging star with writing like this:

 “He sat in a kitchen that was all but dark so sheltered was it from the sun and he at frijoles from a clay bowl with a huge spoon of enameled tin.  The sole light fell from the smoke hole in the ceiling and the woman knelt there at the low clay brasero and turned the tortillas on a cracked and ancient clay comal while the thin smoke rose up the blackened wall and vanished overhead.”

 The pacing, the atmosphere, if you want to know how to write, you will find no better example.  Also, it is a little known secret that if you ever want a novel considered for a Pulitzer, the word frijoles must appear at least twenty times.  See excerpt:

 “He drew slowly on the cigarette.  He studied the rising smoke.  As if its slow uncoiling lay the lineaments of the history he told.  Dream or memory or built stone.  He tapped the ash into a bowl of frijoles.  He couldn’t believe he flecked hot ash over his dinner.  He needed to be more aware of the present instead of ruminating over the past.  Dios Grande!  Where was he going to find another bowl of frijoles?  How he loved frijoles.  How he loved the word frijoles.  How he loved to say the word frijoles.  How each syllable rolled from his dry lips like a fat plume of smoke, fri…jo…les.”

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