I just sent this letter to Esquire Magazine

Mainly because I hate to see such slip-shod hackery result in a writer getting paid a fee that probably amounts to my rent. Venturing a strong guess that it will not get published, I’m posting it here.


In regards to September?s ?Big Book of the Month? entry, it might behoove Esquire to choose a writer that has at least a passable knowledge of the subject at hand. Tom Chiarella, who I was astonished to find credited with “fiction editor and writer at large” in the masthead, is clearly not the man to assess Cormac McCarthy. His first paragraph, a descriptive blanket statement showcasing a cursory knowledge of post-apocalyptic B-movies and similar novels that is perhaps appropriate metaphor for describing The Road, belies the problem that follows. Chiarella claims The Road to be “so intensely unlike his previous work that you might be left wondering if this really is the same author of those hard-bitten west-Texan narratives Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses.” Any reader that finished McCarthy’s previous novel, last year’s No Country for Old Men, would not wonder this at all. No Country for Old Men is a road story so bleak that one is convinced of an ugly outcome after the first chapter. That novel?s 1980 could easily be a post-war wasteland, and the respective dead-end travels of its three principles, if anything, trademark a particular side of McCarthy?s fiction. There is no mention of No Country for Old Men, which I take to mean that Chiarella has yet to read the book. That?s ok, as he has obviously never read Blood Meridian either, or he would have known that it?s not a ?west Texan narrative? (the novel is primarily set in northern Mexico), nor would he have associated it with All the Pretty Horses. The two books couldn?t be more dissimilar. Blood Meridian is one of most brutal books in American fiction, and like No Country?, belongs with the McCarthy that created The Road and other darker novels like Suttree and Child of God. All The Pretty Horses is part of the ?Border Trilogy? ? McCarthy?s mild 90?s fare that made him famous and endeared him to adventurous housewives everywhere. To Chiarella?s credit, it is in fact set in west Texas, and has little to do stylistically with Blood Meridian. This carelessness and McCarthy illiteracy would come as no surprise in the pages of a garden variety daily paper, but in Esquire?

-Andrew Earles

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