I had coffee and a croissant for breakfast, in the company of a book. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote to be specific. I came across this line:
“Like Mr Clutter, the young man breakfasting in a cafe called the Little Jewel never drank coffee. He preferred root beer. Three aspirin, cold root beer and a chain of Pall Mall cigarettes – that was his notion of a proper ‘chow – down’.
That’ll put hairs on your chest. Another great literary breakfast.
“That was what the situation had been. Something black and of the night had come crawling out of the Middle Ages. Something with no framework or credulity, something that had been consigned, fact and figure, to the pages of imaginative literature. Vampires were passé, Summers’ idylls or Stoker’s melodramatics or a brief inclusion in the Britannica or grist for the pulp writer’s mill or raw material for the B-film factories. A tenuous legend passed from century to century. Well it was true.”
I love this passage. Even though you’re reading it yourself, from the pages of imaginative literature by an icon just like Stoker, you believe every word he says. And this as Matheson warns, is serious business. We’re not talking pretty vampires in black velvet cloaks, we’re talking real monsters. The fear I felt reading this, was the same fear I felt watching the ‘The War of The Worlds’ (1953 version) for the first time. As a ten year old child, I wasn’t entirely convinced of the fictionality of what was on my screen. As an adult reading this passage, I felt that same terror and excitement . It absolutely scared the pants off me and I immediately became immersed in Robert Neville’s world. As Stephen King similarly noted in an introduction written for ‘I am Legend’, Matheson is unrelenting and gives no ground. No story line is too harrowing or desolate, because this my smiling companions is life (monsters included) and that’s why I love this book.
”Now come days of begging, days of theft. Days of riding where there rode no soul save he. He’s left behind the pinewood country and the evening sun declines before him beyond an endless swale and dark falls here like a thunderclap and a cold wind sets the weeds to gnashing. The night sky lies so sprent with stars that there is scarcely space of black at all and they fall all night in bitter arcs and it is so that there numbers are no less”.
I first read this book as a twenty something commuting through a long and dark London winter. Blood Meridian is based on the historical events which took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850’s. McCarthy’s writing is visceral and bleak. Surreal at times, his words disregard conventional structure. McCarthy weaves a murky tale of violence and godless bedfellows, it’s landscapes desolate and dry. I loved this book, McCarthy’s use of language set my heart on fire. All writers should read this book, just to see how liberating prose can be.
“There comes a wet rustle from the bushes, like a dog eating lettuce…”
I choked on my coffee laughing at this sentence. Nothing like coffee in the nostrils to start the day.
“Some nights I would find myself roaming the beaches, digging up baby crabs and eating handfuls of sand – this was in the night when the sky was so clear I could see the entire solar system and the sand, lit by it, seemed almost lunar in scale. I even dragged a beached jellyfish back to the house and microwaved it early one morning, predawn, while Evelyn slept, and what I didn’t eat of it I fed to the chow.”
Say what you will about Bret Easton Ellis, his writing is exceptional. This is my favorite passage from American Psycho.