Cormac McCarthy and the Bible

I was given my first Cormac McCarthy novel by my wife's writer dad. It was a gift for earning a graduate degree in divinity. I was hooked. I appreciate all of McCarthy's work but I was especially moved by his recent book The Road. I can honestly say that I experienced God as I read it.

Get the book and read it!

Here are some of my spiritual reflections on the novel:

The frailty of everyting revealed at last.
McCarthy's novel takes place in an ashen world. It is our world after we caught up with us. The glitter of the modern experience is made grey by human sin. The world is plastic and metal. In the midst of this the man and boy tote "essential things" and read old newpapers filled with "quaint concerns." Knowing the true frailty of things helps us all focus on the essential matters. When we fail to see clearly we spill blood over the trivial.

You have my whole heart.
The man and the boy illustrate the power of community. They plod along together. They are pilgrims together on the road. They are each other's world entire. Like Jonathan and his armor bearer and Ruth and Naomi we all need heart partners for the journey.

Sustained by a breath.
McCarthy makes use of the biblical image of the breath of life. The Hebrew Ruach brooded over the earth giving it life. It revived dry bones and filled the supplicants at Pentecost. Jesus breathed on his disciples and his breath continues to bring life out of death.

Are you carrying the fire?
The good men of McCarthy's world carry the fire. The fire was in Jeremiah's bones and in the upper room. The fire called Moses to free the slaves. The fire saved Pascal. The fire is the vitality of essential things. Do you carry it?

He stayed three days and then he walked out to the road and looked down the road and he looked back the way they had come. Someone was coming.
The novel ends with a type of Easter hope. Three days of deep darkness and then light. Someone was coming. Someone is coming. The fire, wind, rock, and water is coming. He is coming to reveal the frailty that is and the life that will be.

This wonderful novel is filled with many more powerful images. These are just a few that called me to some life giving passages in scripture. Read the novel. Read the bible. Leave the quaint concerns and travel the road. Give your heart to another.

Happy reading!

16 comments:

John B. said...

Matt,
I just read your comment at my blog and so i thought I would pay a return visit.
I don't know if you followed the links to the other conversations on this novel that I linked to, but if you did you'd see that the hope you speak of isn't shared by some other readers. As of this comment, I still haven't finished it, so I (still) can't answer definitively as to that; but as I said in my post, The Road is filled with its main characters' determination to feel hope that is notably missing from his other work. To the mind of someone who has been reading and thinking and even a little writing about McCarthy for about 15 years now, that presence is unmistakable. I think that the very fact that it is so hard to find, if it exists at all, in the other novels is what makes it so visible here.
At any rate, thank you for visiting and commenting. I look forward to returning soon.

Matt Snowden said...

john b.

The most hopeful thing we can do is tell the truth. The thing I have always like about McCarthy is that he helps break the spell of modern anthropology (as a subset of theology).

The truth is we are radically broken and can't repair ourselves. We are also radically valuable to the One that can.

One question for you - What do you make of Ely 136-147?
I think the Ichabod of worthless sons is a real contrast to the Man and Boy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with John b. about the other works. In McCarthy's old age it seems like he's making his themes and symbols more and more clear. The Sunset Unlimited is even more so.

It's awesome to meet some believers who have also found McCarthy's works (which are often thought of as nihilistic) to have spiritual, even Christian elements to them. Part of my thesis will be arguing this very thing about Blood Meridian. Make sure to check out this blog:
http://bittersweetblue.blogspot.com/
Once a few more of us have finished the Road (I'm about 100 pages in), we're going to have a lively discussion! Look forward to reading more!

Matt Snowden said...

I'm in on the discussion. I love McCarthy. I'm a Mississippian and grew up on good literature. We grow 'um good down here. He reminds me of Barry Hannah and Faulkner. I have seen spiritual themes in all the works I have read. He came from the same Christ haunted South as Flannery and the rest.

I have used this blog to communicate with congregants and fellow pastors. I am excited about discussing literature with ya'll. Maybe a pastor has something to add to the discussion.

Thanks

Ariel said...

Looks like a great discussion is percolating here! It also looks like I'll have to buy a copy of The Road - Blood Meridian is the only McCarthy novel I've read so far, but it left a strong impression.

Matt Snowden said...

I would love for a good discussion to take place here. I'm a simple minister. Having literary minds gather here would be a great honor for me.

You do need to buy the book.

R. Sherman said...

Hi,

I found you via A.J. at Bittersweet Life. I posted a review, sort of, at my blog, http://musingsfromthehinterland.blogspot.com.

Cheers.

Matt Snowden said...

Thanks,

I deeply appreciate it.

R. Sherman said...

Hi,

My previous comment was too quick, as I was trying to do too many things at once.

My "review" of The Road is here. I didn't throw as much in, because I didn't want to have a "spoiler alert."

Suffice it to say, I think you're spot on vis a vis McCarthy's biblical view of the world.

There are other biblical themes in the novel which I want to explore in subsequent entries.

Cheers.

Matt Snowden said...

r. sherman,

The book is filled with biblical themes. I think the image of the faithful son is a stong one with Ely (Eli?) serving as a contrast. Remember the Ichabod story in the Hebrew bible? There are many more that are worth exploring. I will be watching you posts. Check back here to see if anything is going on.

Thanks

Matt Snowden said...

oops,

your posts

Andy said...

Wow...quite the discussion here. Thanks for inviting me in.

I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't finished the novel yet, but upon reflection, the ending makes me think about Rev 7:17.

I concur with your assessment, Matt - I'll be back as others finish the novel and this discussion explodes with commentary.

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt Snowden said...

Andy,

Thanks for your comment. I look forward to a fruitful discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just thought I'd stop by and mention that I just posted my own rather long rant about The Road that makes connections to Christianity in a loose sense.

Matt Snowden said...

Thanks

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