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In this taut, chilling novel, Lester Ballard--a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape--haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail.  While telling his story, Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.


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In this taut, chilling novel, Lester Ballard--a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape--haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail.  While telling his story, Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.

30 review for Child of God

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. ”The dumpkeeper had spawned nine daughters and named them out of an old medical dictionary gleaned from the rubbish he picked. Uretha, Cerebella, Hernia Sue. They moved like cats and like cats in heat attracted surrounding swains to their midden until the old man used to go out at night and fire a shotgun at random just to clear the air. He couldn’t tell which was the oldest or what age and he didn’t know whether they should go out with boys or not. Like cats they sensed his lack of resolution. T ”The dumpkeeper had spawned nine daughters and named them out of an old medical dictionary gleaned from the rubbish he picked. Uretha, Cerebella, Hernia Sue. They moved like cats and like cats in heat attracted surrounding swains to their midden until the old man used to go out at night and fire a shotgun at random just to clear the air. He couldn’t tell which was the oldest or what age and he didn’t know whether they should go out with boys or not. Like cats they sensed his lack of resolution. They were coming and going all hours in all manner of degenerate cars, a dissolute carousel of rotting sedans and ni**erized convertibles with bluedot taillamps and chrome horns and foxtails and giant dice or dashboard demons of spurious fur. All patched up out of parts and lowslung and bumping over the ruts. Filled with old lanky country boys with long cocks and big feet.” You could say that those country boys and those daughters of the dumpkeeper are uneducated, disenfranchised, white trash, but don’t put them too far down the rungs of the evolutionary ladder because you still need room for Lester. If you were to compose a ballad of Lester Ballard it would not be one of heroism, of self-sacrifice, or of kindness. It would be a song of the grotesque, of darkness, and of the human mind degraded to the point of madness. If Lester were an animal. He would be a dog with rabies. You’d put him down because he wouldn’t be safe walking around with normal people. The sheriff, after yet another issue with Lester, gives him a warning that, of course, didn’t make even the slightest impression on Lester. ”Mr. Ballard, he said. You are either going to have to find some other way to live or some other place in the world to do it in.” What the sheriff should have done, if he’d had any inkling of what was to come, was to gunnysack Lester, and throw him in a deep river. He could have tried driving him across the state line and leaving him to be someone else’s problem, but Lester is just that kind of bad penny that always turns up again. 2013 movie poster for Child of God It all begins when Lester’s ancestral home is put up on the auction blocks. Now it ain’t much. There is maybe some good timber on it, and getting bids is not easy, but land will always sell. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t really say, but usually when land gets sold at auction there is a back tax issue. Lester doesn’t seem like the type that would ever think paying taxes was in his best interest. What this does is make Lester into a wandering bundle of mischief. He steals. He spies. He plots vengeance. Not that anyone in the county seems to have any prospects to achieve prosperity (anything above the poverty line), but Lester falls into that category of negative digits. His attempts at wooing women, let me see your titties, are met with disdain and rejection. Even the dumpkeeper’s daughters, who will hump just about anything, would crush him under the heel of a calloused foot rather than give him a whiff of the pleasure of feminine kindness. Lester is an annoyance, but comical, inspiring the shaking of matronly heads, and laughs between men over a bottle of shine. If truth be known they think he is a troubled, but relatively harmless dumbass. It’s not like he’d have ever thought of it on his own. It just fell into his lap. He comes across a jalopy running in the woods with the radio on. A boy and a girl with clothing disarrayed are in the backseat dead. The girl...well...she is still warm and unlike other girls she ain’t saying no. Yeah he did it. Lester had such a good time he brought her back to an abandoned house he’d been using for shelter. He’d been lonely of course. ”Alone in the empty shell of a house the squatter watched through the moteblown glass a rimshard of bonecolored moon come cradling up over the black balsams on the ridge, ink trees a facile hand had sketched against the paler dark of winter heavens.” Well the girl wasn’t much for conversation, but if he brought her close to the fire and warmed her up she could almost feel alive. ”He took off all her clothes and looked at her, inspecting her body carefully, as if he would see how she was made. He went outside and looked in through the window at her lying naked before the fire. When he came back in he unbuckled his trousers and stepped out of them and laid next to her. He pulled the blanket over them.” Just as Lester is settling into his new domestic arrangement tragedy strikes. He builds the fire too big and the whole house catches on fire. He saves his beloved rifle, the bears he won at the carnaval, and his bedding, but his new plaything, kept in the attic so she would refreeze, was lost. Except for the fickleness of fate Lester might have remained a happily contented necrophiliac for the rest of the winter. Now summer would have brought on different issues. The smell of decay might have even put a damper on Lester’s lustful stirrings. Homeless and womanless Lester decides to try and fix both those problems. As women disappear and the law is powerless, for lack of evidence, to do anything about Lester’s predilections, the White Caps decide to take matters into their own hands. In Indiana back in 1873 farmers started forming this secret society that would violently inflict justice on people who seemed to be beyond the law. As this movement spread South the organization took on some racial overtones and started disguising themselves similarly to the KKK. Merchants who were buying up too much land and black men who had thoughts of becoming land owners were targeted in a time when poor white farmers felt they were losing everything. They were farmers not law enforcement officers. Lester escapes. ”He’d long been wearing the underclothes of his female victims but now he took to appearing in their outerwear as well. A gothic doll in illfit clothes, its carmine mouth floating detached and bright in the white landscape.” Lester starts out being strange, just a bit different. Not different in an Einstein pondering the universe kind of way. More like two brain cells drifting around in his head that collide once in a while creating a spark kind of guy. Once he has been banished from any center hold in the community he becomes feral, a man caught in a permanent state of flight or fight. He becomes dangerous and unhinged. The grotesque becomes as normal to him as white picket fences are to the rest of us. Cormac McCarthy Cormac McCarthy will always expose you to a form of human being that will make you uncomfortable. You will twitch in your seat. You will check the doors and windows one more time before going to bed. You will start to make a more indepth analysis of your crazy cousin Larry. You will reluctantly come away with a broader understanding of the spectrum of people making up humanity. You will question your own sanity and wonder if it is possible for you to ever be as crazy as Lester Ballard. Would Lester have been able to stay a hair’s breadth away from insanity if he’d had one normal friend? Just one person who could give him a bead to follow. A person who could say ‘that ain’t right Lester’ at a critical moment. I do ponder questions like that late at night when I wonder if I could be stable enough and patient enough to keep someone else sane. I would probably be too practical to put myself in the path of a psychopath. We just hope the madness doesn’t find us. I also have read and reviewed Suttree by Cormac McCarthy If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.’ There is a quote by David Foster Wallace that ‘good fiction's job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ Cormac McCarthy’s trim third novel, Child of God, is an optimal example of this sentiment, as it manages to provide the counterparts of the both comfortable and disturbed elements within the reader by offering them an unflinching portrait of baseness and demanding reaction. The short novel chronicles the hellis ‘Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.’ There is a quote by David Foster Wallace that ‘good fiction's job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ Cormac McCarthy’s trim third novel, Child of God, is an optimal example of this sentiment, as it manages to provide the counterparts of the both comfortable and disturbed elements within the reader by offering them an unflinching portrait of baseness and demanding reaction. The short novel chronicles the hellish descent of Lester Ballard into the maelstroms of human depravity, from simple onanistic voyeurism to murder and necrophilia. Yet, McCarthy reminds us that Ballard is ‘a child of God much like yourself perhaps,’ and reminds us of how human we really are. Through sparse and stupendous prose, McCarthy drags the human soul through the mud and muck of this gruesome parable to show us the degradation of humanity when chased into the shadows by isolation and ostracization, showing us wickedness and making us feel,—much to the reader’s discomfort—equal parts disgust and empathy. To open a McCarthy novel is to step into a nightmarish wasteland of the soul built out of breathtaking bricks of penetrating prose. Through language that borders on biblical and flourishes effortlessly like tangled ivy on Greek pillars, McCarthy brings the reader into the dirty dregs of a small Tennessee town and makes them practically smell the damp soil and sweaty backs and gunpowder of the novel. Broken up into three parts, each unique in style and execution, McCarthy unfolds the story of Lester Ballard through the eyes and ears of the locals as well as his omniscient narration. Each voice is a piece of the puzzle to understanding Ballard, fleshing him out by examining him from many angles and views while also constructing a penetrating look at those around him. Child of God is another impressive addition to the American mythology of darkness that McCarthy has built. The story of Lester Ballard is not for the squeamish as McCarthy illuminates his depravity without ever shielding the readers eyes from the disgusting sights. It is what readers of McCarthy have come to expect; McCarthy is an expert in probing the depths of the human soul and rubbing in our faces all the darkest and most disturbing elements the imagination can find down there in the shadows we try to conceal and forget. Ballard does the unthinkable and inexcusable again and again, yet McCarthy does not create him as a flat, pure-evil character. He has much more in store for our souls to digest and wrestle with. Chronicling his life, McCarthy depicts Ballard as a man alienated by his community, chased like a rat into hiding because of his differences and difficulties putting on a normal persona in the world. Ostracized, isolated and with no one to turn to, Ballard has little choice but to give in to his alarmingly abominable ways. Occasionally he is called out of the darkness, some old shed self that came yet from time to time in the name of sanity, a hand to gentle him back from the rim of his disastrous wrath However, being so withdrawn and removed from society, the voice of civilized reason is most often lost in the wilderness of wickedness. His criminal acts seem a way he has found to give voice to a sense of impotence and alienation he has felt all his life. 'You ain't even a man. You're just a crazy thing,' a girl says to him. It is easy to just consider him a 'thing', a being removed from us so that we can despise and scorn him without inner-remorse. It keeps us safe from identifying with him, from having to understand him or see life through his eyes. But is he just a 'thing', or is he still a man? We are reminded that Lester Ballard is a ‘child of God’ and not so different from you or I. Those of the religious faith are taught to forgive and love thy brothers and sisters, as we are all cut from the same cloth. Ballard too. And to deny him of this would be to deny God’s word, and this is the skillful and wonderfully ironic moral conundrum McCarthy imposes on the reader. ‘Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone,’ is a statement from the Bible pointing out that we all bear the scars of sin, and can we really judge Ballard without then judging ourselves? Religious or not, this is a quandary that tests our moral judgment and reminds us that all of us are capable of evil. All the bleakness aside, it is hard to not be astounded by McCarthy’s dexterity with prose styling and his way with diction. And, despite the grim context, this is actually quite a darkly comical novel at times. Ballard gets swindled trying to sell watches, bootleggers are too drunk to find their own hiding places, and other sorts of gross yet somehow humorous elements keep the book from being too flatly dark. It is not an ‘enjoyable’ read, yet there is much enjoyment to keep the reader thinking and turning pages. It is short as to not begrudge the reader with too much darkness and entertaining and engaging enough so that most can finish it in a sitting or two. This is a bleak novel with little to nothing in the way of redemption within the book. However, this is because the redemption rests within the reader; can we look into the heart of another man and disregard him as pure evil? Is everything black or white or can we feel pity even for those who are the epitome of depravity. Lester Ballard is chased from society, eventually having to hide in caves like a wild beast or a descent into hell, and we must question if he is just an evil man or a product of his circumstances. This isn’t to say that he is to be cleared of his crimes, but it does make an interesting point about humanity. I was glad to have read this book on a bright sunny day beside a case of fine IPAs, which lasted the duration of reading this book, as the novel left me feeling cold and hard and hollow on the inside. Child of God might be my least favorite of McCarthy's novels (Suttree toping my list), but it still packs a wallop of a punch. Bleak and brutal, yet darkly funny, this book is not for everyone. But if you are willing to stare into the eyes of darkness and voyage into the deepest recesses of the human heart, McCarthy is the ideal tour guide. 4/5 ‘What sort of meanness have you got laid out for next.’

  3. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    “He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.” If someone were crazed enough to breed a descendant of Fenton Breece with that of Granville Sutter from William Gay’s Twilight, I’m pretty sure you’d end up with Lester Ballard. Except McCarthy’s Ballard was hatched more than three decades before Gay’s book. Still, it’s kind of fun to ponder. But before “He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.” If someone were crazed enough to breed a descendant of Fenton Breece with that of Granville Sutter from William Gay’s Twilight, I’m pretty sure you’d end up with Lester Ballard. Except McCarthy’s Ballard was hatched more than three decades before Gay’s book. Still, it’s kind of fun to ponder. But before you start to think I’m some sort of morbid weirdo, I swear I did not deliberately read two books featuring such perversions in the span of six months! Seriously, I do not go out looking for this stuff! Another confession. I just finished reading McCarthy’s Outer Dark just one month prior to this book. I know. But that one was a frolic to the candy store compared to this. Child of God or not, I couldn’t muster up any sort of sympathy for Lester Ballard as I did for those pitiful siblings in Outer Dark. Nope. Not even when a tear was shed. Cry, you sick monster!! Lester Ballard is the stuff of nightmares. Just when you gasp at one vile act and think it can’t get any worse – it damn sure does. And this guy is so resilient. I mean, he’s unstoppable. Maybe when someone is sunk so far to the ground already, it’s difficult to take your heel and grind him in any further. “You could say that he’s sustained by his fellow men, like you. Has peopled the shore with them calling to him. A race that gives suck to the maimed and the crazed, that wants their wrong blood in its history and will have it.” No. I won’t take blame for men like this. I’ve always been polite to strangers and kind to those I care for. There are no Lester Ballards roaming and terrorizing the countryside on my account. But that’s exactly what happens here in 1960s eastern Tennessee. And as grotesque as this story is, it’s told with the same startling and wonderful prose that I’ve come to expect from Cormac McCarthy. How he can weave such magical words in between such threads of horror is beyond me. It’s also why I’ll keep going back for more. But not right away. I need a break. Really, I do. “You think people was meaner then than they are now?” “No,… I don’t. I think people are the same from the day God first made one.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    film-of-the-book update : None other than James (I'm handsome and I can do anything) Franco directed a version of this last year & I just saw it; and - damn, James, I hate to say this but - it was really good! And faithful! Really great performance by Scott Haze as Lester. You probably shouldn't watch it while you eat your tea nor should you be watching it with any elderly relatives but if you know what the story is about you probably would not do that. Unless you want to kill them off with shock film-of-the-book update : None other than James (I'm handsome and I can do anything) Franco directed a version of this last year & I just saw it; and - damn, James, I hate to say this but - it was really good! And faithful! Really great performance by Scott Haze as Lester. You probably shouldn't watch it while you eat your tea nor should you be watching it with any elderly relatives but if you know what the story is about you probably would not do that. Unless you want to kill them off with shock and horror. This time round I spotted that Child of God starts just like Omensetter's Luck, with a rural auction. Kind of a really useless fact. And now the actual review. ME AND CORMAC, WE GO BACK A LONG WAY. This was a re-read, my first for years, and once again I loved Cormac's outrageous, daring style. I gave it five stars all those years ago and I give it five now. I felt again that I was in the presence of a writer who could dip all the other American writers in his Weetabix and mush em all together and eat em up and go for another bowl of em. This guy is the real deal. Well allright! So how come I didn't like any other CMcC book if he's such a wow? Good question, you know. I had a go at "Blood Meridian", and as everyone knows, that's like reading the Bible if God was Sam Peckinpah. Beautiful beautiful writing completely squandered on an endurance-test Western with zero story and zero character. So I failed there. "All the Pretty Horses" - well, that was better, and I did finish it, but by now Cormac's style has got ever more outre, he's much more deeply in love with the conjunction and and by then he'd got too mythtastic for my taste. I still like my soap-opera, thank you, I’m just this suburban gentleman in a semi-detatched house with a cat and a bottle of real ale and a High Llamas cd. Myths? Not so much. So I think Cormac and me had a parting of the ways. But if I recall right, before we bade farewell and he took the road west, we shook hands cordially. It felt cordial, that is, although his face betrayed no expression. THIS WILL MELT YOUR FACE As to "Child of God" - this book is a total treat, but I got to warn you, the main character is a little unsavoury. Lester Ballard, our grisly necrophile protagonist, has quite a bit of the old Ed Gein about him. Which if so would make him the fourth fictional incarnation of Ed, so inspirational was he, and that is leaving aside the biopic about him, which is called "Ed Gein". There was Hitchcock's Psycho, there was ol' Leatherface in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (was ever a film so aptly titled - it was in Texas, there was a massacre, it was done with a chainsaw) and there was the regrettable Buffalo Bill in "The Silence of the Tiny Little Baa-Lambs" with his human skin dresses. Now Barbara Gowdy, in her arresting story "We So Seldom Look On Love", makes a case that there are indeed true necrophiles, people that only love people if they're dead. (Imagine the fate of a necrophile who's looking for commitment! I guess the only solution there would be taxidermy.) But I argue that the great majority of necrophiles wind up with the dead through poor lifestyle choice and low self esteem. They are just lonely. But in a special way. You and me, we may have been through lonely times, you may still be going through those times, and I only wish I could reach my hand through this screen and give your shoulder a little squeeze, wouldn't that be nice, hmm, maybe it wouldn't, can you imagine if you booted up your computer and all these arms came out, wiggling around? Doesn't bear thinking about - I digress - this loneliness that we have suffered was still on the planet Earth, it was a recognisable, common emotion. We could have been rescued at any time. These necrophiles though, the loneliness of these guys is a cold cold moon of Pluto. They are off the scale of ordinary inabilities to communicate, to invite affection, they are the antimatter of human dalliance. They make autists look like quiz-show comperes. The only date they've been on is where they shoot em in the back of the head and lug em home. That's a date. Of sorts. Now Lester Ballard, if he could only of met a nice girl some time in his early life and could of settled down somewhat, it may have been the making of him. But he never met the right gal. And he took the wrong turn in life. The way it goes sometimes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Great day in the morning! He is making me homesick! Just the speech patterns which McCarthy nails. It reminded me of River's Edge although the movie seems mild by comparison. Maybe, I'm just grateful that it used an inflatable doll. Dennis Hopper as Feck and Daniel Roebuck as Samson "John" Tollet from River's Edge (1987) Great day in the morning! He is making me homesick! Just the speech patterns which McCarthy nails. It reminded me of River's Edge although the movie seems mild by comparison. Maybe, I'm just grateful that it used an inflatable doll. Dennis Hopper as Feck and Daniel Roebuck as Samson "John" Tollet from River's Edge (1987)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Child of God, Cormac McCarthy Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960's, Child of God tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends literally and figuratively to the level of a cave-dweller as he falls into crime and degradation. The Child of God, Cormac McCarthy Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960's, Child of God tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends literally and figuratively to the level of a cave-dweller as he falls into crime and degradation. The novel is structured in three segments, each segment describing the advancing isolation of the protagonist from society. *Spoiler Alert* In the first part of the novel, a group of unidentified narrators from Sevierville describe Lester to the audience and frame him within that community's mythology and historical consciousness. The second and third parts of the novel increasingly leave culture and community behind as Lester goes from squatter to cave-dweller to serial killer and necrophile as he becomes increasingly associated with premodern and inanimate phenomena. The novel ends with the dehumanized and mutilated Ballard dying in incarceration, his remains eventually dissected by medical students and then interred outside the city, while the long-hidden corpses of his victims are unearthed from his former subterranean haunt. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه نوامبر سال 2015 میلادی عنوان: فرزند خدا؛ نویسنده: کورمک مکارتی؛ 1993؛ در 59ص؛ این رمان در سه بخش است، و هر بخش توصیف کننده ی جدایی پیشرو از جامعه است؛ در بخش نخست: گروهی از راویان ناشناس، از «سوییرویل»، «لستر» را برای خوانشگر توصیف میکنند، و او را با اساطیر و آگاهیهای آن جامعه آشنا میکنند؛ در بخش دوم و سوم ...؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Child of God: Cormac McCarthy's Outcast First edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1973 "He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps. The setting is Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s. Our protagonist is twenty-seven. He is an orphan. His life between the suicide of his father and the loss of his home is an unanswered question. We are dropped into his story in media Child of God: Cormac McCarthy's Outcast First edition, Random House, New York, New York, 1973 "He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps. The setting is Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s. Our protagonist is twenty-seven. He is an orphan. His life between the suicide of his father and the loss of his home is an unanswered question. We are dropped into his story in medias res in the finest Faulkner style. As the story opens, the small, unclean, unshaven man watches his home place go on the auction block. I have a long and uncomfortable history with Cormac McCarthy. He has repeatedly held me breathless with his novels full of violence and human degradation. But he has said that these are usual conditions of life. I cannot argue with him. Consider Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the Ted Bundys of this world. I am constantly reminded of the words of John Steinbeck from East of Eden: "You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.” Child of God is McCarthy's third novel, published in 1973. I had read three of what I call his "Southern Quartet." However, this one remained on the shelf. Call it taking a hiatus. Or, call it a necessary breather, particularly after being wrung by the neck by Outer Dark. It took the novel being selected for a group read by members of "On the Southern Literary Trail" to cause me to begin to turn the pages. I began last night. It was after 10:00 when I turned to the first page. I turned the last around 3:30 this morning. McCarthy had done it again. I was drained. Sleep refused to come to me. I do not know when I drifted off to sleep. How can one like a novel about a murderer who exercises his lust on his victims? It is a testament to the craft of McCarthy. He unflinchingly portrays the life and tragedy of Lester Ballard. Scott Haze as Leroy Ballard in James Franco's film, "Child of God," 2013 It is discomforting that he builds sympathy for this devil. However, McCarthy does not ask forgiveness for him. In the final analysis, we confront the question,"Is man the product of nature or nurture?" While every man may be a child of God, it is the lack of, or indifference of community that unleashes a monster. Nor should that assertion be taken as an excuse for the behavior of McCarthy's Lester Ballard. Harold Bloom named Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West the most disturbing book he ever read. Disturbing, yes. However, it is Child of God that claims that spot on the shelf for me. How many times have you walked past a stranger and not acknowledged their presence? Or, how many times have you made assumptions about a person based on their appearance, small, uncleaned, unshaven? Unavoidably I am drawn to a poem by Marie Howe, "The Star Market," in her collection The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems. "The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat— looking for cereal and spring water. Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?" OTHER MATERIAL My reviews of McCarthy's other works in his Southern Quartet may be found at, The Orchard Keeper, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Outer Dark, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and, Suttree, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zoeytron

    There is something inherently wrong with Lester Ballard. As he skulks through the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee, a hunting rifle is his only companion. Ballard's skewed thinking, awkward ways, and repugnant proclivities render him unfit to be around other people. Darkly disturbing, fascinating and repellent. Another walk in the dark with Cormac McCarthy. This is his territory. There is something inherently wrong with Lester Ballard. As he skulks through the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee, a hunting rifle is his only companion. Ballard's skewed thinking, awkward ways, and repugnant proclivities render him unfit to be around other people. Darkly disturbing, fascinating and repellent. Another walk in the dark with Cormac McCarthy. This is his territory.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. HE SEEZ DEAD PEOPLE. THEN FUCKS THEM.

  10. 5 out of 5

    J. Kent Messum

    How far can one book go? How objectionable can the subject matter be? What hellish level can a lead character descend to and still garner some sympathy from readers? Well, take a southern degenerate raised in an abysmal state of affairs and trace his downward spiral into serial murder and necrophilia… that’s what McCarthy did in ‘Child of God’. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This novel is a descent into the darkness that can befall an uneducated and amoral man when left to his own device How far can one book go? How objectionable can the subject matter be? What hellish level can a lead character descend to and still garner some sympathy from readers? Well, take a southern degenerate raised in an abysmal state of affairs and trace his downward spiral into serial murder and necrophilia… that’s what McCarthy did in ‘Child of God’. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This novel is a descent into the darkness that can befall an uneducated and amoral man when left to his own devices; someone abandoned on the fringes of civilization and left to fend for themselves with what little they possess. When basic needs aren't met and baser desires are never addressed or fulfilled, the human reaction is often extreme and appalling. History has taught us this time and time again. Lester Ballad is quite possibly one of the most reprehensible characters in modern literature, yet it is impossible to hate him completely. What made me squirm was Cormac’s ability to actually get me to relate to the lonely outcast and feel some sympathy for him, showing me the human side to a character we would all regard as subhuman. We are products of our environments, the results of upbringings and teachings. What happens to those who have been locked out of normality by the same societies that judge them? 'Child Of God' is like nothing you've ever read before. If you know anything about Cormac McCarthy, you'll know that the brilliant author is not known for holding back or giving a single shit about how "offended" you might be by some of the harsh realities humanity has to offer. Read this book and you will be shocked. You will be upset. But above all, you will be wading into territory very few writers have the fortitude to map and conquer. 'Child Of God' is a game-changer, a short novel that will push the limits of what you thought great content could be. It is a must read for any avid adult reader; a book that is both brave and depraved at the same time. You have been welcomed. You have been warned. This book was one of the '10 Books That Made Me Squirm' piece I wrote. See which other books made the list: https://jkentmessum.com/2014/04/14/10...

  11. 4 out of 5

    *TANYA*

    Creeeeepy!!! I couldn’t help but think of Ed Gein while reading this book. Yuck!! Very morbidly entertaining. Lol.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I have no words to describe this, except to say the title should have been Spawn of Satan. The horrifying thing about this novel is that I know there are real people like this walking around among us. It is a testament to McCarthy's talent that I kept reading till the end. Not one I will ever read again. I have no words to describe this, except to say the title should have been Spawn of Satan. The horrifying thing about this novel is that I know there are real people like this walking around among us. It is a testament to McCarthy's talent that I kept reading till the end. Not one I will ever read again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ 3.5 Stars Allow me to introduce you to my new boyfriend, Lester Ballard . . . . Ha! Just kidding. There’s apparently even a limit to how weird I like ‘em. However, just in case you think Mitchell and I are slipping, please note that this title was added to the TBR once we discovered it was about a necrophile, which is basically our literary equivalent to . . . . As I said before, the story here is about a man named Lester Ballar Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ 3.5 Stars Allow me to introduce you to my new boyfriend, Lester Ballard . . . . Ha! Just kidding. There’s apparently even a limit to how weird I like ‘em. However, just in case you think Mitchell and I are slipping, please note that this title was added to the TBR once we discovered it was about a necrophile, which is basically our literary equivalent to . . . . As I said before, the story here is about a man named Lester Ballard . . . . “A child of God much like yourself perhaps.” ^ That simple little phrase might end up being one of the most thought-provoking ones I’ll ever read. Much like other experiences with Cormac McCarthy, we readers are kind of plunked down in the middle of the goings on. With right at 200 pages, you don’t get a lot of Lester’s history. You know his mother left when he was a boy and that his father hung himself. Child of God picks up as Lester’s family home is being auctioned off – complete with the old noose still swinging in the background. To say things go downhill for Lester from there would be the understatement of the century because by Part II . . . . The more you get into the story, the more you get acquainted with Lester’s neighbor, the dumpkeeper, and his bevy of female children and you get to meet some of Lester’s gal pals as well. Let’s just leave it with those girls are . . . . If you don’t enjoy McCarthy’s style of writing, the shock and awe factor won’t be enough to turn you into a fan because it is still sparse and he is still allergic to quotation marks. Really, even if you do enjoy McCarthy’s style of writing, the sheer amount of shock and awe factor contained in this one might turn your stomach and turn you away from picking up his stuff in the future. As for me? I have to say McCarthy did a pretty freaking stellar job writing Lester Ballard, since I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him at times. I'm also haunted by the question that begs to be answered – was the man born a monster or was it man who turned him into a monster? I’d normally be inclined to give this one 3 Stars but I’m going ahead and rounding it up to 4 simply for the fact that McCarthy is so ready to embrace the muses and go wherever they lead him – no matter how vile the subject matter.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “He did not know how hawks mated but he knew that all things fought.” ― Cormac McCarthy, Child of God And HE has sent me here?* Look, I've read a lot (ok all) of Cormac McCarthy and this is not your mother's McCarthy. I think this novel was the final pupa-state before McCarthy emerged as THE absolute dark monster of American fiction and heir to Faulkner's title of ambassador to the strange malevolence of America's soul. It wasn't as absurdly redeeming as Suttree or as coldly beautiful as Blood Meri “He did not know how hawks mated but he knew that all things fought.” ― Cormac McCarthy, Child of God And HE has sent me here?* Look, I've read a lot (ok all) of Cormac McCarthy and this is not your mother's McCarthy. I think this novel was the final pupa-state before McCarthy emerged as THE absolute dark monster of American fiction and heir to Faulkner's title of ambassador to the strange malevolence of America's soul. It wasn't as absurdly redeeming as Suttree or as coldly beautiful as Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, but had the surreal shock and awe of both. His themes of isolation, perversity, depravity and violence make you feel like climbing into bed with Hannibal Lector or Jame Gumb for warmth and spiritual succor. A great novel, just not a novel that everyone should read. Wander into the dark, damp cave of this McCarthy novel at your own damn risk. * Sorry, this is sorta an inside joke. There is an old Mormon children's song called "I am a Child of God." The title of this book just always reminds me of that innocent and rather wholesome nugget from my youth. The contrast and juxtaposition (for me at least) with the book is spectacular.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    'Child of God' is the third McCarthy book that I have read over the past few weeks. I usually try to stay away from any kind of review or description of a book just prior to reading, but I had recently come across the fact that this was supposed to be McCarthy's darkest work. Boy, I'll say. This book will make you feel like you need a long shower afterwards. I believe that this was the same affect that Ellis was going for in 'American Psycho', but I think that McCarthy out-Batemaned him on this on 'Child of God' is the third McCarthy book that I have read over the past few weeks. I usually try to stay away from any kind of review or description of a book just prior to reading, but I had recently come across the fact that this was supposed to be McCarthy's darkest work. Boy, I'll say. This book will make you feel like you need a long shower afterwards. I believe that this was the same affect that Ellis was going for in 'American Psycho', but I think that McCarthy out-Batemaned him on this one. This book caused many more squirmy moments for me than 'American Psycho' did. The reason for the four stars is because of McCarthy's writing style. He intrigues me as a writer because his prose seems to be very sparse, yet at the same time oddly descriptive. In any given scene he seems to focus on the things that no other writer would focus on, and this gives his work a certain eerieness. 'Child of God' evidently falls into what is known as McCarthy's "Appalachian Period". What this means as far as this book is that we get to witness the ugliness of life that is brought about by extreme poverty and ignorance with little possibility of a reprieve from either. Leading the charge is main character Lester Ballard, who is on a real redneck rampage. Imagine the character of Ernest T. Bass from the Andy Griffith show and Buffalo Bill from 'Silence of the Lambs' having a love child. Then imagine this child having all of the charm and warmth of the toothless fellow that defiled Ned Beatty and his tighty whities in 'Deliverance' and you pretty much have a composite sketch of Lester Ballard. The tone of the story reminded me of 'No Country For Old Men' in that it is basically McCarthy saying "here's a disturbing story, let's take a closer look...". The sheriff in this one is not as fleshed out as a character as the one in 'No Country', so I didn't even pick up on any higher moral messages that may have been afoot. Basically, if you like McCarthy beyond the sphere of Oprah, you have probably already read this book. If you like that squirmy feeling that arises during off-kilter scenes of violence and sex, by all means give this one a try. Now it's time for a couple of tangents for my own amusement... First, does anyone else have a fixed mental image of a writer when reading a literary work? The most obvious example of this would be the one picture everyone has seen of Poe or Emily Dickinson. My mental image of McCarthy was always that of the wisened old guy of amazing reproductive prowess. If you don't know the one I speak of, go to the quotes section and type in his name. However, I learned from the back cover of this book that back in the Seventies he was the John Holmes of reclusive, literary types. If you care to see for yourself, here's a link... http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/images/... Second and more seriously, I am intrigued by the potential history of a book. If it's used or from the library I always wonder who else has held this book and what did it mean to them? Of course at the same time I am hoping against hope that it was not a nose-picker or chronic pimple-popper, and so it goes. The reason for bringing this up is because I checked this book out from the same library that I often frequented as a small child. The copyright is 1973 and the library stamp is 1974, so the book has been there almost as long as i've been alive. I'm just curious how many times I may have tottered past the shelf on my way to play with the puppets or check out 'The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins' for the twenty-seventh time completely unaware of this little seething slab of darkness that awaited. Also, this town is the epitome of conservatism and fundamentalism (rush limbaugh grew up here, if that gives you a clue) so what the heck is this book doing in our library? The only other McCarthy books that they have in stock are the "Big Three" from the last few years. Was the person in charge of ordering books in '74 simply unaware, or was it all a part of a plan to throw a monkey wrench in the system? Alas, some questions can never be answered and all self-indulgences (including this one) must come to an end.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lori Keeton

    Well, that will certainly not be making my top 10 list this year or ever, but Cormac McCarthy is a genius writer who knew what he was doing when he wrote this. It’s not for the faint of heart with some very graphic horrors happening. Lester Ballard is depraved and perverted. Just know that if you’re squeamish, you might want to try something else by McCarthy. The Road is fantastic! Well, that will certainly not be making my top 10 list this year or ever, but Cormac McCarthy is a genius writer who knew what he was doing when he wrote this. It’s not for the faint of heart with some very graphic horrors happening. Lester Ballard is depraved and perverted. Just know that if you’re squeamish, you might want to try something else by McCarthy. The Road is fantastic!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    An intense and downright repulsive character study. Beautiful writing as always from McCarthy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    This is one of those books that, when you read it, and really like it, it makes you wonder if you should be worried about yourself. I mean it’s kind of like finding something brown and wondering if it might be chocolate and tasting it and discovering that it really is something vile and disgusting. But then you should have known better. I mean you found the brown thing on the floor, so there was no way you REALLY could have been expecting chocolate and then, Oh look! There’s another something br This is one of those books that, when you read it, and really like it, it makes you wonder if you should be worried about yourself. I mean it’s kind of like finding something brown and wondering if it might be chocolate and tasting it and discovering that it really is something vile and disgusting. But then you should have known better. I mean you found the brown thing on the floor, so there was no way you REALLY could have been expecting chocolate and then, Oh look! There’s another something brown and you taste it again! I mean this book is written by Cormac McCarthy – so I knew what it would be like. The main character is like those people you try to avoid in The Road but this book takes place before whatever catastrophic happening brings down civilization. There’s necrophilia, incest, cross-dressing with a creepy twist and plenty of stinky bathroom references. But I might just read it again. If you like this you should also read And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave and Ironweed by William Kennedy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Lester Ballard is one sick puppy. This is so sick you almost hate to like it. But it is masterfully written and you cannot deny the skill and genius behind it. It is Cormac McCarthy. Don't read it with a full stomach. Enough said. Lester Ballard is one sick puppy. This is so sick you almost hate to like it. But it is masterfully written and you cannot deny the skill and genius behind it. It is Cormac McCarthy. Don't read it with a full stomach. Enough said.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    There was two main reasons for re-reading this novel in the month of October 2012, one was due to reading William Gay's novel The provinces of night of which the title is taken from the opening sentence of a chapter from this novel. The second reason was Donald Ray Pollock's recommendation to read this in a recent interview I had with him. I am now more convinced that we have in our midst a great writer. In the first read of this and The Road I payed less attention to the prose and the whole way There was two main reasons for re-reading this novel in the month of October 2012, one was due to reading William Gay's novel The provinces of night of which the title is taken from the opening sentence of a chapter from this novel. The second reason was Donald Ray Pollock's recommendation to read this in a recent interview I had with him. I am now more convinced that we have in our midst a great writer. In the first read of this and The Road I payed less attention to the prose and the whole way it was presented, and due to this it did not fare as well as it did now. This story is the opposite to what the title may lead you to believe it is about, the main character is ungodly almost like he is a devilish entity creating havoc across the land. McCarthy has crafted together a story successfully with master craftsmanship, containing a subject matter that is at times one of the most brutal and gruesome you would read of in a story. This story reads like it was penned as a collaborative work by Jim Thompson and William Faulkner. Reminiscent of a recent good story with a similar darkness, The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock. The main protagonist is a an individual whose disturbed, a sociopath, who does the unspeakable with the dead. There are shocking moments, repulsive and bizarre, in one place in the story he carried off a dead woman, along with the squirrels he hunted, to a resting place to partake in unspeakable acts. He also has the murder of a child to his name, there is yonder much toil, blood, and darkness. The tale is shockingly, vivid, and terrible in content, but told in great sentences, with words in the right places. Told by an author who can make the groutesque and terrible beautiful with his lyrical craftmanship. The right length of novel that would linger in your mind either in shock or awe. "To watch these things issuing from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps. Wasps pass in a through the laddered light from the barnslats in a succession of strobic moments, gold and trembling between black and black, like fireflies in the serried upper gloom." "Among the pines on the ridge the sound of the autioneer's voice echoed muted, redundant. An illusion of multiple voices, a ghost chorus among old ruins." "Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them. Lying with his fingers plugged in the bores of his ears against the strident cheeping of the myriad black crickets with which he kept household in the barren cabin. One night on his pallet while half asleep he heard something scamper through the room and vault ghostly (he saw, struggling erect) through the open window. He sat there looking after it but it was gone. He could hear foxhounds in full cry, tortured wails and yelps nigh unto agony coming up the creek, up the valley. They flooded into the cabin yard in a pandemonium of soprano howls and crashing brush." "Going up a track of a road through the quarry woods where all about lay enormous blocks and tablets of stone weathered gray and grown with deep green mots, toppled monoliths among the trees and vines like traces of an older race of man. This rainy summer day. He passed a dark lake of silent fade where the moss walls rose sheer and plumb and a small blue bird sat slant upon a guywire in the void." " He had that rifle from when he was just almost a boy. He worked for old man Whaley settln fenceposts at eight cents a post to buy it. Told me he quit midmornin right in the middle of the field the day he got enough money. I don't remember what he give for it but I think it come to over seven hundred posts. Ill say one thing He could by god shoot it. Hit anything he could see. I seen him shoot a spider out of a web in the top of a big redoak one time and we was far from the tree as from here to the road yonder. They run him off out at the fair one time. Wouldn't let him shoot no more." "He would arrange her in different positions and go out and peer in the window at her. After a while he just sat holding her, his hands feeling her body under the new clothes. He undressed her very slowly, talking to her. Then he pulled off his trousers and lay next to her..."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    Per the proposed new GR rating system: 4 goatheads; 4 pentagramatical swords; color: heliotrope! * Goddamn, look at me feeling all sentimental! Maybe it’s because I hadn’t read this book in nearly 20-years, or because I’ve just generally been on a Southern Gothic kick as of late, but I’m giving this bastard a grade it really doesn’t deserve. Why? Why not! It’s just all so much fun, so obviously intended to pick up the impossible legacy that Flannery O’Connor left behind. Had O’Connor’s preternatu Per the proposed new GR rating system: 4 goatheads; 4 pentagramatical swords; color: heliotrope! * Goddamn, look at me feeling all sentimental! Maybe it’s because I hadn’t read this book in nearly 20-years, or because I’ve just generally been on a Southern Gothic kick as of late, but I’m giving this bastard a grade it really doesn’t deserve. Why? Why not! It’s just all so much fun, so obviously intended to pick up the impossible legacy that Flannery O’Connor left behind. Had O’Connor’s preternaturally-attenuated hand penned the same story, it would have been one for the ages—this breed of Southern arboreal satyr was her default tonic key, F(uckingNuts)#maj. Make no mistake: McCarthy is stealing from the Mistress here and the fruit is largely ripe. That isn’t meant as a swipe; this was the last necessary growing pain that enabled Suttree, and McCarthy with it, to emerge so masterfully a few more blood drops down that willow-canopied road. McCarthy does come up with some fantastic framing devices, interstitial chapterettes that read like bad true crime television interviews (‘I mean, shoot, Wilbur and Wilma loved my Jell-O molds…and boiling people alive, apparently.’) There’s no point getting into the plot, as this review is already threatening to have a higher word count than the novel itself (let’s just say Random House paginated generously). You honestly could have read twenty-five percent of the book by the time you finish this sentence. Now twenty-seven percent. So I’ll say this: if you think, like I certainly do, that more books could benefit from hillbilly ghouls ticking scratchscratchscratch against the lens of your eyeball with the yellowed filepoints of their fingertips, then Child of God be with you. But first ask yourself this: are you prepared to never conceptualize stuffed animals innocently again? Good. Then I leave you with the greatest metaphysical/ontological question that the inestimable and epoch-defining German philosopher Glenn-heinz Danzig challenged the 20th century with: “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?”

  22. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    Such a Cute Little Novel about a Cave-Dwelling Necrophiliac Murderer The narrator of this short novel describes the main character, Lester Ballard, as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." A 27-year-old hillbilly outcast in 1960s, Sevier County (Smoky Mountains), Tennessee. He had no parents, recently lost his home and cannot carry on normal relationships with women. When he finds a couple dead in a parked car, he takes the woman with him to be his necro-concubine in a house in which h Such a Cute Little Novel about a Cave-Dwelling Necrophiliac Murderer The narrator of this short novel describes the main character, Lester Ballard, as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." A 27-year-old hillbilly outcast in 1960s, Sevier County (Smoky Mountains), Tennessee. He had no parents, recently lost his home and cannot carry on normal relationships with women. When he finds a couple dead in a parked car, he takes the woman with him to be his necro-concubine in a house in which he's squatting. When the house burns down, along with the woman's corpse, he goes out to harvest other women to meet his needs by shooting/killing them and taking their corpses to a cave in which he takes up residence. The writing was good, covering themes of violent cruelty, sexual deviancy and moral degradation., but it's a difficult read because McCarthy experimented with various styles and didn't use quotation marks. I cannot recommend this unless you feel compelled to read the entire McCarthy collection.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Urges

    Going up a track of a road through the quarry woods where all about lay enormous blocks and tablets of stone weathered gray and grown with deep green moss, toppled monoliths among the trees and vines like traces of an older race of man. This rainy summer day. He passed a dark lake of silent jade where the moss walls rose sheer and plumb and a small blue bird sat slant upon a guywire in the void. Ballard leveled the rifle at the bird but something of an old foreboding made him hold. Mayhaps the Going up a track of a road through the quarry woods where all about lay enormous blocks and tablets of stone weathered gray and grown with deep green moss, toppled monoliths among the trees and vines like traces of an older race of man. This rainy summer day. He passed a dark lake of silent jade where the moss walls rose sheer and plumb and a small blue bird sat slant upon a guywire in the void. Ballard leveled the rifle at the bird but something of an old foreboding made him hold. Mayhaps the bird felt it too. It flew. Small. Tiny. Gone. Some of us are born luckless. It makes us rot.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annet

    What a grim story.... and what a grand writer. Beautiful scenery described in a very dark story. This may be a spoiler... 'In the evening, a jeep descended the log road towing a trailer in the bed of which lay seven bodies bound in muslin like enormous hams. As they went down the valley in the new fell dark basking nighthawks rose from the dust in the road before them with wild wings and eyes red as jewels in the headlights....' What a grim story.... and what a grand writer. Beautiful scenery described in a very dark story. This may be a spoiler... 'In the evening, a jeep descended the log road towing a trailer in the bed of which lay seven bodies bound in muslin like enormous hams. As they went down the valley in the new fell dark basking nighthawks rose from the dust in the road before them with wild wings and eyes red as jewels in the headlights....'

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I loved this book. But before you go and add it to your must read list this isn't some cozy, happy, feel good book. However, if you like the feeling of unease, awkwardness, uncomfortable, edgy, strained, restless, troubled, anxious, rattled, twitchy and discombobulated then this is a "must-read". McCarthy has a way of painting a picture so vividly whether you want a vivid picture or not. One can only imagine how he came up with this Lester Ballard character. I loved this book. But before you go and add it to your must read list this isn't some cozy, happy, feel good book. However, if you like the feeling of unease, awkwardness, uncomfortable, edgy, strained, restless, troubled, anxious, rattled, twitchy and discombobulated then this is a "must-read". McCarthy has a way of painting a picture so vividly whether you want a vivid picture or not. One can only imagine how he came up with this Lester Ballard character.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    " You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said. The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said. I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one." Lester Ballard is a child of God much like you or me... unless you have a penchant for murder and necrophilia that is. This novel gives" Blood meridian" a run for its money in terms of darkness and depravity. As banal as it sounds, this book is not for the faint of heart. " You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said. The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said. I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one." Lester Ballard is a child of God much like you or me... unless you have a penchant for murder and necrophilia that is. This novel gives" Blood meridian" a run for its money in terms of darkness and depravity. As banal as it sounds, this book is not for the faint of heart.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said. The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said, I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one. Never has madness been coincided with so fitting an atmosphere. A representation of fizzled humanity and self-preservation is often regarded as morally inept. But there's no doubt that our hero is Ballard, romping through a desolate landscape with his "dark lusts," poisoning Tennessee with his indulg You think people was meaner then than they are now? the deputy said. The old man was looking out at the flooded town. No, he said, I don't. I think people are the same from the day God first made one. Never has madness been coincided with so fitting an atmosphere. A representation of fizzled humanity and self-preservation is often regarded as morally inept. But there's no doubt that our hero is Ballard, romping through a desolate landscape with his "dark lusts," poisoning Tennessee with his indulgences. And yet this barely-human, almost troll-like figure has no intent to make a statement. He is only usurping from society satiation for himself. When it begins, our protagonist, "a child of God much like yourself perhaps," has been shed of his land, his home, and as the novel progresses as does his descent into the pits of the mind, drawn from the built world not only physically, as he isolates himself further and further geographically, but mentally. From the veins of leaves to the red clay mud on snow, the environment seems more nurturing and/or menacing to Ballard than any of the characters; not that Ballard himself is any creature worth praise. But isolation has always been a topic of interest for me, and carrying a book with little interaction between characters seems a bore, but when the world is described with the menacing and enchanting pen of McCarthy, there's no need for consistent dialogue. When it is sparsely applied, it's nerve-wracking and hard-hitting, regardless of how simple. For example: He's alive. She watched him. He spooned up some applesauce and looked at it and put it down again. He opened the carton of milk and drank from it. You don't really care one way or the other do you? she said. Yes I do, said Ballard. I wish the son of a bitch was dead. On technicalities, McCarthy, as usual, abandons the conventions of writing, ridding his work of quotations or names in many cases. It does not confuse, it declutters, and in this instance, almost sets a tone. Of immediacy. Of purpose and need, and not names or faces that Ballard does not care about. My favorite scene in particular is one in which Ballard is purchasing food on layaway, the shopkeep saying that it'll take a hundred and four years to pay back what Ballard owes at the rate in which he's piling on his debt. It's our first look into Ballard's surprising youth, and his blunt, almost humorous exchange sets in something almost likable about him, regardless of, or perhaps due to, his flippancy. Like The Road, the land is hostile and giving in equal amounts, but nearing the end, there's a terrifying scene of claustrophobia and darkness so intense that the madness culminates not in the actions of people, but in the collapsing of the psyche. You can almost emulate the stilted breath and encapsulating walls, so nerve-wracking the reader, no matter how open her space is, might hyperventilate. But our madman works routinely and meticulously and vacantly at riddance of his limitations. And in the open world again, nature once again becomes a relief. Locations are absolutely central to the work, and a writer has never proven himself more masterful than McCarthy at describing the vividness and allegorical implications that the world surrounding a man creates. He'd laid his finger open and sat with it in his mouth, the earth's rusty taste mingled with the ironrust tincture of blood. Dry dirt sifted down from the hole. He could see treelimbs against the sky. [...] He cast about among the stars for some kind of guidance but the heavens wore a different look that Ballard did not trust. He crossed through the woods and climbed a fence and crossed through a field until he came to a road. It was no place he'd ever stood in before. Seeing that uphill it led towards the mountains he took the other way and soon was hobbling along weak but able, the night being as fine as you could wish and a faint bloom of honeysuckle already on the air. Simplistic and evocative, dreamy and savage, the transportation into the mind of Ballard is disturbing and poignant in its misunderstanding of basic human conventions. Going through the robotic motions of survival, McCarthy's Ballard is a man and a creature unforgettable, and Tennessee is a landscape hazy and shadowed, lurking with undertones of violence, betraying and nursing and secretive. Child of God is a novel to be hallowed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bojan Gacic

    While browsing the Internet I stumbled upon a comment : ''Didn't like Child of God, couldn't get comfortable with it''. Rape, murder, necrophilia? Who could be/get comfortable with any of it? One could claim it is only instinctive and usual to flinch at the mere sight of such perversions- even if they remain descriptive in nature. Thinking even further.......McCarthy.......when were any of you comfortable with his work? In here lays the core of our preference for his distinctive narrative. It is While browsing the Internet I stumbled upon a comment : ''Didn't like Child of God, couldn't get comfortable with it''. Rape, murder, necrophilia? Who could be/get comfortable with any of it? One could claim it is only instinctive and usual to flinch at the mere sight of such perversions- even if they remain descriptive in nature. Thinking even further.......McCarthy.......when were any of you comfortable with his work? In here lays the core of our preference for his distinctive narrative. It is impossible to remain ''in the middle''- you either grasp the gruesomeness and machoisms submerged in Southern Gothic, or pick something more balanced. I'm not judging, far from it, not all wish to spend most of the reading time in apprehension- holding onto the dictionary, and thinking: ''What the hell does this mean?''. That's the story with Cormac, every page holds a novel unexpectedness, be it a new word or the latest bloodthirsty detail. After reading most of his work, my mind has reached a conclusion as to why I'm an enthusiastic McCarthy admirer. The answer would be humbleness. Words, paragraphs, even pages go on without me being able to fully understand what every aspect of his writing represents. We can only be in awe of his skill and ability to manipulate language, and turn ordinary scenery into exceptional blends of violence and gore. However, in spite of the perpetual mystifications, the message remains clear- human degradation in its purest form. ''Child of God'', although far from his finest work, even now, exactly four decades after publication, possesses more imagination than most national, international, multi-trillion bestsellers of our time. Yes, the violence is ever present, when you reach a point reasoning that this is as bad as it gets, McCarthy will cross the line with such blasé- take reason out of the equation, or forget ''Child of God'' . Cormac McCarthy has a trademark ability to elicit empathy for his protagonists no matter how terrible their actions are. -''A child of God much like yourself perhaps''. - From the start he cautions the reader not to inflict judgment, for we may never have the experience to settle in our minds how such a persona came to be molded. Lester Ballard- murderer, rapist, madman, threat to society, etc. Labels,tags, classifications, every single one of the aforementioned conveniently puts Ballard into dismissive context. Certainly, he is one sick fuck who needs to be dealt with. One question, though. How did he come to be such a vile, unsavory character? It will not take much for you to perceive the profound loneliness hindering his narrow soul constrained by personal history and circumstances. All of us turn and run at the mere sight of him, yet one must wonder how humanity is turning out to be preponderated by deviance. By all means, point fingers. Just not at the victimized individuals. There are Ballards roaming everywhere. The decadence of society-finally admitted by the media and the ruling political mechanisms- it was extant for quite a while, but not spoken of. Read ''Child of God'' and don't turn your head when it gets ugly. Why should you, it tells the absolute truth.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    My review just got completely deleted. I'm starting over, and it will be EVEN BETTER maybe. There's a creek that winds along behind my parents house in downtown Indianapolis. It's barely more than a trickle, barely enough to get your feet wet when you're wearing shoes with thick soles. It was just wide enough that my ten year old self had to jump to make it across. But it was the wildest, most natural thing I'd known at that age, and I followed that son of a bitch. I walked down one direction to My review just got completely deleted. I'm starting over, and it will be EVEN BETTER maybe. There's a creek that winds along behind my parents house in downtown Indianapolis. It's barely more than a trickle, barely enough to get your feet wet when you're wearing shoes with thick soles. It was just wide enough that my ten year old self had to jump to make it across. But it was the wildest, most natural thing I'd known at that age, and I followed that son of a bitch. I walked down one direction to where it reached a sewage pipe. (This review will get gross. Let me warn you now.) Not to be deterred, I bought a flashlight from the grocery store and walked through the pipe for a long time, finally coming out on the other side of a busy road. Feeling accomplished, I walked back overground, knowing where my next adventure along the creek would start. That was the pattern: I'd bike to the last place where I'd followed the creek, hide my bike, and then continue following. It became more and more time consuming as it wound farther and farther from our backyard. It became wider, wilder, as it went. One day, I came to an old tool box buried in the dirt. I dug it up, hoping to find some buried treasure, or at least some forgotten toys some other kid had buried. All I found inside was water and dirt, but I returned awhile later to put some treasure in the box: some old toys I didn't play with anymore. Eventually, I wandered down that creek far enough to reach the end in one direction. The narrow creek had gradually expanded by that point to ten or eleven feet across, but now it blossomed into a tremendous lake. Or so it seemed at the time. This small lake was surrounded by high grass, trees, some weed-like flowers, and a light dusting of garbage from downstream and from the nearest roads. You could see two busy roads far in the distance, but I wanted some private piece of nature bad enough that it felt to me like a nature preserve. I spent about half of the day exploring around the lake, and got in a shitstorm of trouble when I got back home. According to Mom, that wasn't a "lake" I'd been exploring; it was a "gravel pit," which was very "dangerous," and I should never go back. I went back. If I had to explain my love for McCarthy's writing, I don't know that I could. I could tell you that, ever since childhood, I've prefered the cracked and broken to the new and shiny. I could tell you I've written dozens of poems about moss and gravestones, and am uninterested in writing about anything much more complicated. It's an ingrained aesthetic, and I don't know what childhood trauma or early experience lies behind it, but it carries over into the books I read, the colors I like, and just about everything. Anyway, to conclude my review of the book: Cormac McCarthy is me. Lester Ballard, his protagonist, is the river. Lester has gravel pits and leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, and he's not there to make you happy, but McCarthy pursues his dark character so perfectly that you kind of end up feeling for the backwoods pervert by the end of it all. (The river/Ballard is the pervert, not McCarthy/me.) This is yet another terrific book by McCarthy, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading about depraved backwoods hilljacks who do just about everything gross imaginable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dayna

    It's not as clear of a narrative, like No Country, it's kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The feeling of dread that builds throughout the book is excruciating - similar to the way I felt about Chigurh. The writing style is very sparse - the descriptions of nature are poetic, in contrast to the ugliness of some of the action. I don't want to say too much about what happens, but it is truly shocking. The story starts out with the town auctioning off Lester Ballard's property - he It's not as clear of a narrative, like No Country, it's kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The feeling of dread that builds throughout the book is excruciating - similar to the way I felt about Chigurh. The writing style is very sparse - the descriptions of nature are poetic, in contrast to the ugliness of some of the action. I don't want to say too much about what happens, but it is truly shocking. The story starts out with the town auctioning off Lester Ballard's property - he has defaulted on payment and the whole town has come out to see it sold, like a carnival. The town is excited and are basically eating up the entertainment of the auctioneer while this man's livelihood is being taken away and he is now homeless. The bottomless pit of loneliness that this man, Ballard, lives in is deeply sad and hopeless. His desperate attempts to have some kind of connection with other human beings ultimately drives him insane. The cruelty displayed toward him is thoughtless, and you can actually see what drives him to do what he does. There are some amusing asides that remind me of the stories that the sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones character) tells in No Country - little nuggets of life in a nothing little town - that are great. Overall, I think this is a great book - it made me feel an immense amount of compassion for this man - some might think he is a monster, but you see how everything played out, you see what was driving him to that point in his life.

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