McCarthy’s Gnosticism

A TLS review of two books of the Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy notes the hints of holiness in his novels:

“Often in his work, however, there are residual glimmers of the numinous. McCarthy, who was raised a Roman Catholic, is often read as an unconventional religious writer, or Christian existentialist, even if his is a decidedly negative theology. ‘The Priest’s Tale,’ a mock-scholastic section of The Crossing . . . dedicated to saying what God is not. The Road can be read as a via negativa, until we reach the end of the book, which suggests a more positively Christian consolation. In much of McCarthy’s work, God, though often invoked, has receded to such a distance from earthly violence and suffering that his existence seems moot. In Outer Dark, a tinker observes: ‘I’ve seen the meanness of humans till I don’t know why God ain’t put out the sun and gone away.’ With God so far removed, the sublunary world often seems more like the demesne of some cruel demiurge; as various contributors to the Companion point out, Gnosticism interests McCarthy (as it does other important post-war writers like Burroughs and Pynchon), not least as a rich vein of metaphor.”

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