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The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form Paperback – October 24, 2006

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More from Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is known for his profoundly dark fiction and masterful reflections on the nature of good and evil. Visit Amazon's Cormac McCarthy Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278364
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A brilliantly articulated piece, penned by a wildly acclaimed fiction writer. Nothing short of dazzling. So astonishingly effecting, so powerful, so stimulating!” –Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Cormac McCarthy is the author of nine novels, among other literary works. His many honors include the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Customer Reviews

This is one of my favorites so far in my Cormac McCarthy journey.
Barry Gerard
Cormac McCarthy has the same message in a more subtle way in the play Sunset Limited.
Ron B
The author's incredible use of language makes this spare drama succeed.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Dash Manchette VINE VOICE on January 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
In his brilliant book Existential Psychotherapy, the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom devotes an entire section to meaninglessness. As life has no objective meaning, we are left to construct our own. Yalom starts the section out hauntingly, with an actual suicide note of someone now dead from his own hand. In the note, the man describes a group of morons whose only purpose is to move bricks from one side of a yard to another, back and forth, without any reflection as to why. One day, one moron does so reflect and, from that day forward, is never as content to move the bricks as he was before. The author of the note states that he is that one moron.

That person, whose identity is unknown, could well be the character White, one of only two characters in this play by Cormac McCarthy. On the outside, he would seem to have things going for him. He is well educated, articulate and displays the mannerisms of someone comfortable in social class. Yet inside is an emptiness so profound that jumping in front of the Sunset Limited, a train, is seen as the only option. Indeed, White's outlook is so bleak that he does not view this as pessimistic, but rather as realistic and even something to embrace.

White's polar opposite is, not surprisingly, Black. He is the opposite of White in two ways. Externally, he is dirt poor, has a violent and misguided history and a life few would envy. More profoundly, however, is the polarity of what is inside. Black has a faith in the Bible, in Jesus, that infuses his life with a meaning totally lacking in White. Despite his hard circumstances, he sees a reason to live and to try to help White see such a reason as well.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard K. Weems on November 5, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am impressed by the scope and challenge of Cormac McCarthy's canon. This particular work is a little more akin to earlier works like _Child of God_ and _Outer Dark_, where the settings were a little more sparse and laced with symbolism. In this, however, McCarthy has pared himself down to minimal basics, and his symbolism thrives for that and tackles ideas more expansive than those earlier works. The two characters of this 'novel in dramatic form' are simply called White and Black, and the previous reviewer duly noted some of the dualistic connections through that simplicity. The mastery here works in that the connections are quite multifaceted--Black is simple in his dialect, yet addresses wonderful complexities and paradoxes of Christian thought, his ideas of God's design wonderfully circular and avoidant of easy rhetoric. White goes through much of this book a little too reactionary until the very end, but he is opposed to Black in so many ways. There are echoes here of racism, arguments in philosophy, hell and purgatory, and as I read I became aware of more and more possibilities.

The situation itself may sound somewhat high-schoolish in its almost adolescent initial stab at symbolism (Black, a simple religious man living in a ghetto, saves White, who is a professor and well-to-do intellectual, when White jumps in front of a subway train in a suicide attempt--Black brings White back to his home in the ghetto and takes this as an opportunity to proselytize), but McCarthy quickly establishes this initial angle so that the rest of his book can deepen the levels of meaning within this book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Goldstein on October 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Here we have issues of life and death talked over by an erudite, nihilistic white professor and the earthy, plain-speaking black ex-con who prevents him from jumping off a subway platform and takes him home. Black -- as he's identified in the dialogue -- makes a compelling case for valuing community, caring for others, respecting Biblical wisdom, rebounding from setbacks, refusing to believe that life is worthless. In the face of that, White doggedly hangs on to his belief in nothing other than life's futility.

The work of other writers resonates here. White reminds me of some of Flannery O'Connor's characters who are confounded by their own intellect, "the primacy of the intellect" as White puts it. His claustrophobic urgency to get out of his predicament recalls Sartre's No Exit, and his renunciation of religion calls up some of Beckett's Waiting for Godot. What makes this book more accessible is the presence of American voices, although some readers might find Black's inauthentic. Black calls White "honey" a few times, conjuring up conversations between Jim and Huck. Twain's ear for dialect may be better than McCarthy's, but this is still a worthwhile read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Stuart on March 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Although very brief, Mccarthy's play took me twice the time it should have because I had to stop and savor the dialogue. I was loving the comments of "Black." I found them profound, witty, gentle and loving, and often very moving. "White", too, had terrific witty lines.This play reminded me of an Edward Albee type of verbal exchange--one that was so rich and brilliantly composed that I was genually thrilled to be reading it.

However, I felt that the final few pages jumped ship. Suddenly The characters were worn out, not able to keep going. I could imagine Black saying and doing so much more. He, earlier, vowed to go home with White, yet inexplicably he gave up. The character built by McCarthy would not have suddenly folded. That part did not seem to fit. I wish I knew what McCarthy was feeling at that point.

I have read most of McCarthy's works, and found this and The Road to be my favorates. We are blessed to have a writer as fine as McCarthy. The only other living author I treasure as much is Haruki Murakami.
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More About the Author

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He later went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper. The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; McCarthy's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, McCarthy received a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966 he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, McCarthy completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark. In 1967, McCarthy returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published by Random House in 1968, and McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press. In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published by Knopf in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. The Stonemason, a play that McCarthy had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, Knopf released the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing; the third volume, Cities of the Plain, was published in 1998.McCarthy's next novel, No Country for Old Men was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago and published in paperback by Vintage Books. McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, was published in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize.

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