Review: Outer Dark

Outer DarkOuter Dark by Cormac McCarthy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one left me a little speechless. If you read to the end, then you will understand why. While not my favorite of McCarthy’s books that I have read so far, it carries with it a weight that will linger long after you’ve put it down. You’ll feel the book and its characters for some time, calling to you there just out of reach like a phantom limb.

I’m not sure I would go dwelling on it, though. Outer Dark offers a particularly bleak examination of life and diminishes our importance in it.

“You ain’t no different from the rest. From any man borned and raised and have his own and die. They ain’t one main in three got even a black suit to die in.”

It is my experience that people either love or hate McCarthy. It’s either beautifully and brutally rendered literature or it’s poetic, run-on-sentenced shite that is barely readable. I am proudly in the camp of the former. So I will offer that Outer Dark is written in the style and dark, plodding tone that many of McCarthy’s early works have become known for. The final few pages make the rest of the novel – which was ponderous at times – worth having slogged through.

At first, I was unsure of what I was supposed to glean from this book. I was horrified by it. What bit of humanity, then, was supposed to have been conveyed to me? Of course, what we take away from a work of fiction is very subjective but I think maybe I now understand what it was for me. It is alluded to in this line from the last few pages:

“I like to keep a good fire. A man never knows what all might chance along. Does he?”

In a primal sort of way, we are all huddled around our own campfires to keep us warm and safe and alive. Out there, beyond the reach of the firelight, is the world. And it is a frightful, savage place.

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