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

4.2 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278364
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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