Cormac McCarthy is best known to the world as a writer of novels. These include Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. At the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) he is a research colleague and thought of in complementary terms. An aficionado on subjects ranging from the history of mathematics, philosophical arguments relating to the status of quantum mechanics as a causal theory, comparative evidence bearing on non-human intelligence, and the nature of the conscious and unconscious mind. At SFI we have been searching for the expression of these scientific interests in his novels and we maintain a furtive tally of their covert manifestations and demonstrations in his prose.
Over the last two decades Cormac and I have been discussing the puzzles and paradoxes of the unconscious mind. Foremost among them, the fact that the very recent and “uniquely” human capability of near infinite expressive power arising through a combinatorial grammar is built on the foundations of a far more ancient animal brain. How have these two evolutionary systems become reconciled? Cormac expresses this tension as the deep suspicion, perhaps even contempt, that the primeval unconscious feels toward the upstart, conscious language. In this article Cormac explores this idea through processes of dream and infection. It is a discerning and wide-ranging exploration of ideas and challenges that our research community has only recently dared to start addressing through complexity science.
President and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems, Santa Fe Institute
I call it the Kekulé Problem because among the myriad instances of scientific problems solved in the sleep of the inquirer Kekulé’s is probably the best known. He was trying to arrive at the configuration of the benzene molecule and not making much progress when he fell asleep in front of the fire and had his famous dream of a snake coiled in a hoop with its tail in its mouth—the ouroboros of mythology—and woke exclaiming to himself: “It’s a ring. The molecule is in the form of a ring.” Well. The problem of course—not Kekulé’s but ours—is that since the unconscious understands language perfectly well or it would not understand the problem in the first place, why doesnt it simply answer Kekulé’s question with something like: “Kekulé, it’s a bloody ring.” To which our scientist might respond: “Okay. Got it. Thanks.”
Why the snake? That is, why is the unconscious so loathe to speak to us? Why the images, metaphors, pictures? Why the dreams, for that matter.
A logical place to begin would be to define what the unconscious is in the first place. To do this we have to set aside the jargon of modern psychology and get back to biology. The unconscious is a biological system before it is anything else. To put it as pithily as possibly—and as accurately—the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal.
All animals have an unconscious. If they didnt they would be plants. We may sometimes credit ours with duties it doesnt actually perform. Systems at a certain level of necessity may require their own mechanics of governance. Breathing, for instance, is not controlled by the unconscious but by the pons and the medulla oblongata, two systems located in the brainstem. Except of course in the case of cetaceans, who have to breathe when they come up for air. An autonomous system wouldnt work here. The first dolphin anesthetized on an operating table simply died. (How do they sleep? With half of their brain alternately.) But the duties of the unconscious are beyond counting. Everything from scratching an itch to solving math problems.
Did language meet some need? No. The other five thousand plus mammals among us do fine without it.
Problems in general are often well posed in terms of language and language remains a handy tool for explaining them. But the actual process of thinking—in any discipline—is largely an unconscious affair. Language can be used to sum up some point at which one has arrived—a sort of milepost—so as to gain a fresh starting point. But if you believe that you actually use language in the solving of problems I wish that you would write to me and tell me how you go about it.
I’ve pointed out to some of my mathematical friends that the unconscious appears to be better at math than they are. My friend George Zweig calls this the Night Shift. Bear in mind that the unconscious has no pencil or notepad and certainly no eraser. That it does solve problems in mathematics is indisputable. How does it go about it? When I’ve suggested to my friends that it may well do it without using numbers, most of them thought—after a while—that this was a possibility. How, we dont know. Just as we dont know how it is that we manage to talk. If I am talking to you then I can hardly be crafting at the same time the sentences that are to follow what I am now saying. I am totally occupied in talking to you. Nor can some part of my mind be assembling these sentences and then saying them to me so that I can repeat them. Aside from the fact that I am busy this would be to evoke an endless regress. The truth is that there is a process here to which we have no access. It is a mystery opaque to total blackness.
There are influential persons among us—of whom a bit more a bit later—who claim to believe that language is a totally evolutionary process. That it has somehow appeared in the brain in a primitive form and then grown to usefulness. Somewhat like vision, perhaps. But vision we now know is traceable to perhaps as many as a dozen quite independent evolutionary histories. Tempting material for the teleologists. These stories apparently begin with a crude organ capable of perceiving light where any occlusion could well suggest a predator. Which actually makes it an excellent scenario for Darwinian selection. It may be that the influential persons imagine all mammals waiting for language to appear. I dont know. But all indications are that language has appeared only once and in one species only. Among whom it then spread with considerable speed.
There are a number of examples of signaling in the animal world that might be taken for a proto-language. Chipmunks—among other species—have one alarm-call for aerial predators and another for those on the ground. Hawks as distinct from foxes or cats. Very useful. But what is missing here is the central idea of language—that one thing can be another thing. It is the idea that Helen Keller suddenly understood at the well. That the sign for water was not simply what you did to get a glass of water. It was the glass of water. It was in fact the water in the glass. This in the play The Miracle Worker. Not a dry eye in the house.
The invention of language was understood at once to be incredibly useful. Again, it seems to have spread through the species almost instantaneously. The immediate problem would seem to have been that there were more things to name than sounds to name them with. Language appears to have originated in southwestern Africa and it may even be that the clicks in the Khoisan languages—to include Sandawe and Hadza—are an atavistic remnant of addressing this need for a greater variety of sounds. The vocal problems were eventually handled evolutionarily—and apparently in fairly short order—by turning our throat over largely to the manufacture of speech. Not without cost, as it turns out. The larynx has moved down in the throat in such a way as to make us as a species highly vulnerable to choking on our food—a not uncommon cause of death. It’s also left us as the only mammal incapable of swallowing and vocalizing at the same time.
The sort of isolation that gave us tall and short and light and dark and other variations in our species was no protection against the advance of language. It crossed mountains and oceans as if they werent there. Did it meet some need? No. The other five thousand plus mammals among us do fine without it. But useful? Oh yes. We might further point out that when it arrived it had no place to go. The brain was not expecting it and had made no plans for its arrival. It simply invaded those areas of the brain that were the least dedicated. I suggested once in conversation at the Santa Fe Institute that language had acted very much like a parasitic invasion and David Krakauer—our president—said that the same idea had occurred to him. Which pleased me a good deal because David is very smart. This is not to say of course that the human brain was not in any way structured for the reception of language. Where else would it go? If nothing else we have the evidence of history. The difference between the history of a virus and that of language is that the virus has arrived by way of Darwinian selection and language has not. The virus comes nicely machined. Offer it up. Turn it slightly. Push it in. Click. Nice fit. But the scrap heap will be found to contain any number of viruses that did not fit.
There is no selection at work in the evolution of language because language is not a biological system and because there is only one of them. The ur-language of linguistic origin out of which all languages have evolved.
Influential persons will by now of course have smiled to themselves at the ill-concealed Lamarckianism lurking here. We might think to evade it by various strategies or redefinitions but probably without much success. Darwin of course was dismissive of the idea of inherited “mutilations”—the issue of cutting off the tails of dogs for instance. But the inheritance of ideas remains something of a sticky issue. It is difficult to see them as anything other than acquired. How the unconscious goes about its work is not so much poorly understood as not understood at all. It is an area pretty much ignored by the artificial intelligence studies, which seem mostly devoted to analytics and to the question of whether the brain is like a computer. They have decided that it’s not, but that is not altogether true.
Of the known characteristics of the unconscious its persistence is among the most notable. Everyone is familiar with repetitive dreams. Here the unconscious may well be imagined to have more than one voice: He’s not getting it, is he? No. He’s pretty thick. What do you want to do? I dont know. Do you want to try using his mother? His mother is dead. What difference does that make?
To put it as pithily as possibly—and as accurately—the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal.
What is at work here? And how does the unconscious know we’re not getting it? What doesnt it know? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the unconscious is laboring under a moral compulsion to educate us. (Moral compulsion? Is he serious?)
The evolution of language would begin with the names of things. After that would come descriptions of these things and descriptions of what they do. The growth of languages into their present shape and form—their syntax and grammar—has a universality that suggests a common rule. The rule is that languages have followed their own requirements. The rule is that they are charged with describing the world. There is nothing else to describe.
All very quickly. There are no languages whose form is in a state of development. And their forms are all basically the same.
We dont know what the unconscious is or where it is or how it got there—wherever there might be. Recent animal brain studies showing outsized cerebellums in some pretty smart species are suggestive. That facts about the world are in themselves capable of shaping the brain is slowly becoming accepted. Does the unconscious only get these facts from us, or does it have the same access to our sensorium that we have? You can do whatever you like with the us and the our and the we. I did. At some point the mind must grammaticize facts and convert them to narratives. The facts of the world do not for the most part come in narrative form. We have to do that.
So what are we saying here? That some unknown thinker sat up one night in his cave and said: Wow. One thing can be another thing. Yes. Of course that’s what we are saying. Except that he didnt say it because there was no language for him to say it in. For the time being he had to settle for just thinking it. And when did this take place? Our influential persons claim to have no idea. Of course they dont think that it took place at all. But aside from that. One hundred thousand years ago? Half a million? Longer? Actually a hundred thousand would be a pretty good guess. It dates the earliest known graphics—found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa. These scratchings have everything to do with our chap waking up in his cave. For while it is fairly certain that art preceded language it probably didnt precede it by much. Some influential persons have actually claimed that language could be up to a million years old. They havent explained what we have been doing with it all this time. What we do know—pretty much without question—is that once you have language everything else follows pretty quickly. The simple understanding that one thing can be another thing is at the root of all things of our doing. From using colored pebbles for the trading of goats to art and language and on to using symbolic marks to represent pieces of the world too small to see.
One hundred thousand years is pretty much an eyeblink. But two million years is not. This is, rather loosely, the length of time in which our unconscious has been organizing and directing our lives. And without language you will note. At least for all but that recent blink. How does it tell us where and when to scratch? We dont know. We just know that it’s good at it. But the fact that the unconscious prefers avoiding verbal instructions pretty much altogether—even where they would appear to be quite useful—suggests rather strongly that it doesnt much like language and even that it doesnt trust it. And why is that? How about for the good and sufficient reason that it has been getting along quite well without it for a couple of million years?
Apart from its great antiquity the picture-story mode of presentation favored by the unconscious has the appeal of its simple utility. A picture can be recalled in its entirety whereas an essay cannot. Unless one is an Asperger’s case. In which event memories, while correct, suffer from their own literalness. The log of knowledge or information contained in the brain of the average citizen is enormous. But the form in which it resides is largely unknown. You may have read a thousand books and be able to discuss any one of them without remembering a word of the text.
When you pause to reflect and say: “Let me see. How can I put this,” your aim is to resurrect an idea from this pool of we-know-not-what and give it a linguistic form so that it can be expressed. It is the this that one wishes to put that is representative of this pool of knowledge whose form is so amorphous. If you explain this to someone and they say that they dont understand you may well seize your chin and think some more and come up with another way to “put” it. Or you may not. When the physicist Dirac was complained to by students that they didnt understand what he’d said Dirac would simply repeat it verbatim.
The picture-story lends itself to parable. To the tale whose meaning gives one pause. The unconscious is concerned with rules but these rules will require your cooperation. The unconscious wants to give guidance to your life in general but it doesnt care what toothpaste you use. And while the path which it suggests for you may be broad it doesnt include going over a cliff. We can see this in dreams. Those disturbing dreams which wake us from sleep are purely graphic. No one speaks. These are very old dreams and often troubling. Sometimes a friend can see their meaning where we cannot. The unconscious intends that they be difficult to unravel because it wants us to think about them. To remember them. It doesnt say that you cant ask for help. Parables of course often want to resolve themselves into the pictorial. When you first heard of Plato’s cave you set about reconstructing it.
To repeat. The unconscious is a biological operative and language is not. Or not yet. You have to be careful about inviting Descartes to the table. Aside from inheritability probably the best guide as to whether a category is of our own devising is to ask if we see it in other creatures. The case for language is pretty clear. In the facility with which young children learn its complex and difficult rules we see the slow incorporation of the acquired.
I’d been thinking about the Kekulé problem off and on for a couple of years without making much progress. Then one morning after George Zweig and I had had one of our ten hour lunches I came down in the morning with the wastebasket from my bedroom and as I was emptying it into the kitchen trash I suddenly knew the answer. Or I knew that I knew the answer. It took me a minute or so to put it together. I reflected that while George and I had spent the first couple of hours at cognition and neuroscience we had not talked about Kekulé and the problem. But something in our conversation might very well have triggered our reflections—mine and those of the Night Shift—on this issue. The answer of course is simple once you know it. The unconscious is just not used to giving verbal instructions and is not happy doing so. Habits of two million years duration are hard to break. When later I told George what I’d come up with he mulled it over for a minute or so and then nodded and said: “That sounds about right.” Which pleased me a good deal because George is very smart.
The unconscious seems to know a great deal. What does it know about itself? Does it know that it’s going to die? What does it think about that? It appears to represent a gathering of talents rather than just one. It seems unlikely that the itch department is also in charge of math. Can it work on a number of problems at once? Does it only know what we tell it? Or—more plausibly—has it direct access to the outer world? Some of the dreams which it is at pains to assemble for us are no doubt deeply reflective and yet some are quite frivolous. And the fact that it appears to be less than insistent upon our remembering every dream suggests that sometimes it may be working on itself. And is it really so good at solving problems or is it just that it keeps its own counsel about the failures? How does it have this understanding which we might well envy? How might we make inquiries of it? Are you sure?
Cormac McCarthy is a board member and senior fellow of the Santa Fe Institute.
Essay by Scott Esposito
Published in Issue 16
Discussed in this essay:
• The Orchard Keeper, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 256 pp.
• Outer Dark, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 256 pp.
• Child of God, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 206 pp.
• Suttree, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 480 pp.
• Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 352 pp.
• All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 320 pp.
• The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 432 pp.
• Cities of the Plain, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 292 pp.
• No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.00. 309 pp.
• The Road, Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 287 pp.
This essay has been broken up into multiple pages. To read the entire essay in one printer-friendly page, click here.
It is telling that critics frequently compare Cormac McCarthy’s novels to dreams. Two examples: in The New York Review of Books, Joyce Carol Oates stated that McCarthy’s work is reminiscent of one of Pascal Pensées: “Life is a dream a little less inconstant.” Earlier in the same journal, Denis Donoghue found recourse to Freud: “[a dream] does not think, calculate, or judge in any way at all; it restricts itself to giving things a new form.”
Oates and Donoghue do not resort to the tired and superficial cliché, dreamlike; rather they use the language of dreams to describe fiction at once teasingly intimate yet also fundamentally alienated from us. They acknowledge the often surreal quality of McCarthy’s fiction but imply an underlying sensibility beneath the chaos. Indeed, both quotes cut down two of the most persistent critiques of McCarthy: moral ambiguity and a lack of interest in penetrating beneath surfaces. Pascal and Freud offer rejoinders: dreams, like McCarthy, may appear unbound, but they have a power over us that belies that claim.
Still, as with many misstatements there is kernel of truth to the criticism of McCarthy: few other authors working over the last forty years have so thoroughly restricted themselves to the simple act of giving things a new form. That McCarthy does this with a singular ability is inarguable; even his detractors will grant the inherent beauty of McCarthy’s prose. In fact, more than any other postwar writer he is identified as the heir of that ultimate Southern stylist, William Faulkner; Madison Smartt Bell has even declared McCarthy one of very few authors to walk in Faulkner’s shadow and escape to tell the tale. The Faulkner comparison, of course, owes much to McCarthy’s Southern Gothic sensibilities and his obsessive mapping and re-mapping of the town of Knoxville, Tennessee; but, less superficially, the comparison is made because both Faulkner and McCarthy have discovered potent new ways to structure sentences, and because each could trammel up a deep, bassy vatic voice without estranging the surrounding prose.
McCarthy has given new shades to the English language, and that should be enough. Were he a painter or a composer, or perhaps even a poet, it probably would be, but Cormac McCarthy is a fiction writer, and fiction is generally construed to carry burdens above and beyond anything so frivolous as mere style. Stories must mean something. They must appear to argue for or against moral systems—or at least interrogate them. They must be a little less inconstant than dreams.
It is strange to charge McCarthy with not caring about anything more than surfaces, as his single most famous public utterance indicates otherwise. This is the author who declared “I don’t understand [Proust and Henry James]. To me, that’s not literature” because real literature “deals with issues of life and death.”
Here McCarthy reveals his great interest in the choices his characters make. True, he may not realize that, to Proust and James, Swann’s choice to court Odette or Isabel Archer’s choice to marry Osmond are issues just as “life and death” as any murder or tryst found in McCarthy, but the quote still flatly contradicts the claim that McCarthy is a pure formalist. And does McCarthy’s work itself back up his claim? Yes. In fact, in each of his ten novels McCarthy has showed an obsession with the rare, crucial moments when people make the decisions that will define their lives forever.
From the very beginning, McCarthy has been an author fascinated by the give-and-take between modern-day humans and the multiple systems they are exposed to in day-to-day life. These systems react potently with McCarthy’s other great novelistic concern: the alienated individual and his ultimate recognition (with McCarthy it is invariable a he) that no one can stand outside of human society, and that our codes and bureaucracies decide for us far more often than we actually decide for ourselves. McCarthy’s novels are built around the rare moments of genuine decision-making when the swell and swirl of the world pulls back to relinquish agency to the individual.
In this way, the work of Cormac McCarthy strikes deep into the heart of American literature, as his books are always rooted in that most American of themes: the search for identity. In McCarthy it is often seen as an obsession with borders: of personal identity, of physical place, and of spiritual position within an existential realm of conflicting value systems.
In exploring these borders, McCarthy has carved out what is perhaps a unique place in all of American letters; he has overseen the decline of a traditional way of life in the American South while also personalizing and reframing the rise and fall of the romanticized American West. His protagonists, so similar and yet so different, have revealed the overlap between what are generally understood as two discrete historical phenomena. And in his final novel to date, McCarthy has even showed an ability to project these typical concerns into purely speculative territory, to improbably yet powerfully fuse his earthy immediacy with the lightness of fantasy. Throughout all of this, McCarthy is grounded by his interest in moments of choice and their attendant moral consequences.
The Orchard Keeper
In McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, one sees an author so impressed with his plainly enormous literary powers that there is no thing, however small, that he will not test them out upon. The book is resplendent with visual imagery for almost every item it touches. Lightning in particular is described in so many ways that one almost longs for a clichéd bolt.
Prodigies can be prodigious, and although McCarthy’s imaginative powers here are humbling (in particular, one can hardly imagine how a thirty-two-year-old of modest means developed such an engorged vocabulary), his shovelfuls of imagery lack precise deployment. When every last thing is worthy of lyrical flights, the world is curiously flattened; imagery, like sentence rhythm, must be varied or risk monotony, and The Orchard Keeper succumbs to such a dulling. 1
Still, The Orchard Keeper clearly marked the emergence of an enormous talent, one that quite portentously appeared on the stage fully formed. In large part, The Orchard Keeper is written with the same stylistic tics that that Harold Bloom would later celebrate in Blood Meridian as, to paraphrase, the most remarkable American prose accomplishment since Pynchon. Already, we see: the fresh refurbishment of nouns and adjectives as verbs; the repeated joining of two unlikely nouns to create an adjective without precedent in English; quotation-less dialogue; language that reaches toward the portent and cadence of epic (commonly referred to as “vatic”); the frequent use of proper names and highly precise, almost scientific language to describe nature; and the casual employment of archaic-sounding, uncommon words that perfectly fit the bumps and flows of their sentences. Before The Orchard Keeper, McCarthy did publish a handful of short stories in little magazines, and in these stories it is possible to see the author unformed, but these works are hard to come by, a fact that McCarthy himself seems to take pride in: he has stated that he would not like them to be republished until he is “long buried and mouldering.” 2
Some have called The Orchard Keeper’s plot nonexistent; at the least it is heavily fractured book, like a shattered china pot whose fragments have been mussed around. What plot the book has revolves around a drifter picked up as a hitchhiker, who then inexplicably tries to kill the driver, only to be killed himself. Tens of pages later—after several jumps in time, narration, and point of view—a boy is made to swear vengeance on the unknown man who killed his father (it is only at the end of the book that McCarthy confirms our assumptions that the boy’s father is the murdered man). The Orchard Keeper is among McCarthy’s most demanding reads because of its fragmentation, the book’s heavily stylized prose, and McCarthy’s penchant for narrating pages and pages of various fragments without ever uttering a proper name or other identifying characteristic. Never again will McCarthy publish such a structurally ambitious, deliberately opaque work.
The Orchard Keeper’s plot limns themes of fathers and sons: the three main characters represent three generations of males, all fatherless and all linked by the father who is murdered at the novel’s beginning. These implied familial bonds contrast with the bureaucratized, urban morality that butts up against this more “natural” morality of rural Appalachian society. This is the recurring struggle throughout all of McCarthy’s career. He is drawn to rural outcasts, implicitly sympathizing with their plight as the modernizing United States infringes on their turf, although he rarely becomes sentimental or romanticizes their lives. Rather than offer explanations or solutions, McCarthy simply embodies this conflict. Progress is unstoppable, these men’s way of life will be erased in a generation—this much is clear and McCarthy shows no interest in dealing with what’s obvious and inevitable. Instead, what interests him are the ways in which people react to the inevitable change, especially how they attempt to apprehend this time of great uncertainty and moral confusion and what practical measures they take up in defense. McCarthy lets his men weigh the slim possibility of escape, and although he never grants the men escape, on seldom occasions he does give certain characters a measure of redemption.
This rural/urban conflict is elegantly dramatized near the end of The Orchard Keeper: Sylder, an underground whiskey-runner who is pursued by the police for much of the novel, is finally caught. As he sits in jail awaiting his sentence, he is visited by a fiercely loyal preteen boy who he has taken under his wing, and whose father he has unwittingly murdered. At first Sylder makes light of his incarceration and explains it thus:
Well I had a little disagreement with these fellers . . . as to whether a man can haul untaxed whiskey over tax-kept roads or whether by not payin the whiskey tax he forfeits the privilege of drivin over the roads the whiskey don’t keep up that ain’t taxed or if it was would be illegal anyway.
There’s a touch of bravado here and more than a little irony, but Sylder’s twisting, switchbacking remarks do honestly embody the confusion attendant to the clash of worlds. Sylder understands that he broke the law and thus must be punished, but his remarks betray his deeper sense that he did nothing wrong.
To these two moral orders a third is added when the boy vows to murder Giffords, the officer who apprehended Sylder. At first Sylder tries to casually discard the offer (“So I thank ye kindly but no thank ye, you don’t owe me nothing”), but the boy insists, forcing Sylder to lay out the case in its full confusion:
You think because he arrested me that throws it off again I reckon? I don’t. It’s his job. It’s what he gets paid for. To arrest people that break the law. And I didn’t jest break the law, I made a livin at it. . . . More money in three hours than a workin man makes in a week. Why is that? Because it’s harder work? No, because a man who makes a livin doin something that has to get him in jail sooner or later has to be paid for the jail, has to be paid in advance not jest for his time breakin the law but for the time he has to build when he gets caught at it. So I been paid. Gifford’s been paid. Nobody owes nobody. If it wadn’t for Gifford, the law, I wouldn’t of had the job I had blockading and if it wadn’t for me blockading, Gifford wouldn’t of had his job arrestin blockaders. Now who owes who?
In its yin/yang-like formulation and its final, vaguely Eastern question, Sylder’s monologue makes a brilliant summation of the central moral question that will animate McCarthy’s later works: When each side of the equation requires the other to exist, can we coherently speak of right and wrong, of justice, revenge, and “owing” each other? In regard to this question, what makes The Orchard Keeper a lesser work than later novels is that McCarthy never ventures to represent Giffords’ side of the equation, either directly or indirectly. We only see Sylder’s side and thus are implicitly asked to sympathize with him. The novels Suttree and Blood Meridian strike a much better balance in representing other perspectives in the text. They become truly polyphonic and dialectic, respectively, and as such they lead McCarthy into highly interesting territory.
But before we get there, there are the rest of McCarthy’s early works . . .
Published in Issue 16
Read More on this Subject:
More from The Quarterly Conversation:
- The Road by Cormac McCarthyA man and his pregnant spouse awaken in the middle of the night to “a long shear of light and a series of low concussions.” Sensing the worst, the man fills his bathtub with water, and his instincts are borne out. Soon the man, his wife, and his child are...
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.