A Quick Word On McCarthy

I was asked today what my favorite opening line in a book is. (I’m pretty sure the person got the idea to ask this question because of Inside the Actors Studio, but no matter.)

I eventually answered Whitman’s ‘I celebrate myself’. Anyone who is familiar with me and my writing will all take a collective gasp now.

In these three words is the conception of America’s greatest book of poetry. It is Emerson’s Poet realized. These three words are what got me into poetry ; Song of Myself was the first bit of writing to bring me to tears. ‘I celebrate myself’, when it comes down to it, is why I write.

Interestingly though, to me at least, ‘I celebrate myself’ was not what immediately came to mind. It was another three words: See the child. These three words are the opening line of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. From this ostensibly simple statement we get a sense of MCarthy’s entire voice. Dispassionate, objective, universal, unapologetically brutal. That McCarthy’s voice is captured in three words is akin to Whitman in this respect.

There is brilliance in a writer’s ability to communicate so simplistically and yet so profoundly, to have their voice shine through in three words.

I celebrate myself.

See the child.

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