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Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles (American Literature Readings in the 21st Century) Paperback – February 2, 2010

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Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles (American Literature Readings in the 21st Century) + Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy (Southern Quarterly Series) + Understanding Cormac McCarthy (Understanding Contemporary American Literature)
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Product Details

  • Series: American Literature Readings in the 21st Century
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230619673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230619678
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“With tremendous narrative drive, unpretentious grace, and a thorough grasp of McCarthy’s themes, Kenneth Lincoln invites the reader into McCarthy’s astonishingly creative and dramatic writing. Lincoln’s timely study covers writing hybrids of mytho-poetic saga and red-dirt realism for our age. McCarthy’s wise, dubious, existential edge reflects on the deepest American themes of regeneration through violence, particularly the roles of men in the creation of our inescapable national identity. His stories ask readers whether a country so created out of blood and greed can ever redeem itself.  Lincoln limns the writer’s deepest probings with enthusiastic invitations, excellent plot summaries, and thoughtful provocations. Cormac McCarthy allows students and general readers to ask the essential question: Can we survive our own culture of blood and violence?”—Peter Nabokov, Dept. of World Arts and Cultures, UCLA

"Bringing together narrative power and a poetic style, Lincoln offers a significant treatment of one of the US's most prolific and prominent writers. While maintaining the idea of hyperrealism as defined by Jean Baudrillard and others, the author demonstrates that McCarthy's subject matter may be closer to the truth of human nature and psychology than readers may like to consider . . . This book provides a full description of the elements that again and again bring readers back to McCarthy's canon. McCarthy enthusiasts and anyone interested in writing about the American West will welcome this resource."--Choice

About the Author

Kenneth Lincoln is Professor of Contemporary Literature, UCLA. Beginning with Native American Renaissance, The Good Red Road, and Indi’n Humor, he has published many books in American Indian Studies, chaired the country’s first interdisciplinary Master’s Program in the field, and written novels, poetry, and personal essays about Western Americana.  His latest books are White Boyz Blues: A Memoir and Speak Like Singing: Classics of Native American Literature.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Pangburn VINE VOICE on December 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Poet/Native American scholar Kenneth Lincoln's stated mission is to provide "a Cormac McCarthy guide for the common reader." An overview with condensed plot threads, one work at a time. As such, for the beginning and curious McCarthy reader, it rates five stars.

The text is only 177 pages long--193 pages with the Selected Criticism, About The Author, and Index. So few pages, so much to say.

Dr. Lincoln distances himself from academics by quoting William Carlos Williams: "Such must be the future: penetrant and simple--minus the scaffolding of the academic."

"Many literary critics, particularly the bricoleurs of postmodernist theory, have fallen from their scaffolds on blunt swords. Beyond some fine scholars and perceptive readers, I've come to hedge writers on writers over literary pundits, to avoid academic in-groups, to take the characters and stories clean, to trust my own hunches."

He says in his introductory note ("HEADNOTE: PENETRANT AND SIMPLE") that "CORMAC MCCARTHY: AMERICAN CANTICLES is a roadmap to the author's artistic life and work written for the generally literate public--a grounded, minimally scaffolded, book-by-book engagement...No post modern theory, no theme park, no identity politics, no rhetorical haze. What do we make of the words and the story in our own time?"

But there is a rhetorical haze in Kenneth Lincoln's own writing style. Don't get me wrong, I know he is a poet and this is his style. At times he turned poetic and oblique when I wanted him to be accurate and concrete. Otherwise, I enjoyed his breezy style.

Some chapters are better than others. A couple of them made me wince, including his chapter on BLOOD MERIDIAN--which is a much better book than he makes it out to be.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chris Dacus on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kenneth Lincoln's interpretation succeeds admirably in describing McCarthy's work in ways often neglected by other critics. The nuts and bolts of Lincoln's interpretation are certainly not extraordinary, but it is important to keep in mind that Lincoln is not writing for McCarthy specialists but rather for a "generally literate" audience familiar with the tradition within which McCarthy is self-consciously writing. The value of Lincoln's interpretation consists in his description of McCarthy's metaphysical holism. This is different than most contemporary literary criticism which looks for historical, biographical/psychological, and/or political details, and then attempts somewhat mechanistically to reduce most or all of an author's work to the effect of a particular cause or relatively small set of causes. Of course the two methodologies are not mutually exclusive and it is neither possible nor desirable to overlook one completely for the other; however, one method or the other usually predominates and acts as the unifying thread for an interpretation. In adopting a holistic method Lincoln does not disregard the particular matters on which bottom-up methodologies concentrate, but his unifying thread is decidedly more systematically organic. In my view, it is clear that McCarthy himself does not write the kind of realistic narratives that accommodate bottom-up and etiologically reductive interpretations but is more of a metaphysical thinker who imbues the material world with an uncanny metaphysical presence.Read more ›
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike on November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Sentimentality, which has become common place with the multitudes and reviewers, and the myriad historicisms driven by a myriad of political agendas and languages litter the current topography of McCarthy readings in popular media reviews and academic writing. As opposed to these agenda-driven studies composed by those in search of political succor, who cringe at the arrival and impending violence of the real, Lincoln's cogent study of McCarthy's writings bluntly considers the politically futile, blood-soaked, hopeless fictions, including McCarthy's dramas and novels, in their sequential publication in order to open up discussion addressing the violence and unresolved injustices of modern existence alongside the great traditional writings. Most important, Lincoln does so without using the commonplace modern tools of Freud and Marx and their postmodern progeny.
The introductory chapter "Canticles Down West: Hyperrealism", employs an etymological study to reclaim the term "hyperreal" from such influential contemporary thinkers such as Baudrillard, Eco, and Deleuze (to name a few); and then uses biblical prophecy and other classic and modern writers to establish McCarthy as a writer composing "threnodies" for those who are still human. Each proceeding chapter is dedicated to each of McCarthy's work up to The Road, McCarthy's most recent publication to date.
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