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Outer Dark
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Manufacturer: Vintage
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 813.54
EAN: 9780679728733
ISBN: 0679728732
Label: Vintage
Manufacturer: Vintage
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 256
Publication Date: 1993-06-29
Publisher: Vintage
Release Date: 1993-06-29
Studio: Vintage

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Editorial Reviews:

Outer Dark is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set is an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century.  A woman bears her brother's child, a boy; he leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes.  Discovering her brother's lie, she sets forth alone to find her son.  Both brother and sister wander separately through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying and elusive strangers, headlong toward an eerie, apocalyptic resolution.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: brilliant, disturbing
Comment: The language of this relatively short novel is beautiful and haunting. Even though McCarthy's writing style has changed a little with each book over the past 40 years, each stage along the way has its own unique brilliance, and the somewhat sparce prose of "Outer Dark" is no exception. McCarthy has an ability like no other author I've read to describe a landscape - both exterior or interior - with such startling clarity and yet with such few words. McCarthy has no need for interior monologue, excessive dialogue, or an omniscient narrator; with the slightest subtle gestures he shares intimate and profound emotions and concepts with his reader. "Outer Dark" (as well as McCarthy's other works) is brilliant in this way.
The novel is also quite disturbing. Although they are only in a few short scenes, the mysterious trio, personifying the utter depths of (in)human violence and depravity, refuse to leave the reader's thoughts after the book has been finished. A couple of their scenes (really the only ones they appear in) left me with a very real sense of dread that didn't leave for a few days.
The actual violence of the book only takes up a couple pages of the entire novel, but as another reviewer stated, the feeling of the entire book is one of violence and oppressive fear. Once again, this is a testimony to McCarthy's mastery of language and storytelling. Because of this, the actual violence that there is is that much more powerful. I found this book in every way as disturbing as the much longer, much more violent "Blood Meridian."
From a literary standpoint, McCarthy's books are absolutely inspiring. His aesthetics present humanity at its basest, most fearsome state, but simultaneously shows slivers of the goodness and nobility in mankind, and maybe (I emphasize MAYBE) the hope that lays hidden beneath his horrifying portrait of existence.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Outer Dark reads like William Faulkner.
Comment: Better known for his later novels The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, the Crossing, Cities of the Plain, Blood Meridian, and No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy's second novel, Outer Dark (1968), is set in Appalachia around the turn of the twentieth century. As the title suggests, dark tones permeate the novel, along with Biblical imagery. The novel reads like William Faulkner. It is gothic, apocalyptic, poetic, and full of mystery. It tells the story of a woman, Rinthy, who gives birth to her brother Culla's baby. After leaving the newborn boy in the woods to die, Culla tells his sister the baby died of natural causes. Rinthy sets out to find her baby. Meanwhile, a tinker finds the infant in the woods. As Culla walks from town to town rather aimlessly searching for work, Rinthy attempts to locate the tinker and her baby. In his travels, Culla is wrongfully accused of theft, murder, trespassing, and inciting a herd of hogs to riot. Ultimately, both Culla and Rintha are subjected to punishment for their original sin. Though a minor work, Outer Dark reveals the literary genius of Cormac McCarthy. Recommended.

G. Merritt

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Inner Dark, As Well
Comment: Cormac McCarthy grabbed me with both THE ROAD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and so I decided to explore some of his earlier works. The first thing one notices upon doing so is that McCarthy's own writing style has changed dramatically. Whereas the more recent novels use sparse writing to evoke powerful emotions, his past works are far more verbose, with run on sentences filled with all the adjectives one could imagine. In my opinion, I prefer the sparse writing instead.

But the earlier writing style is not so distracting as to eclipse the story. Typical for McCarthy, it is not a happy one. A young woman gives birth to a baby sired by her brother. When the brother leaves the newborn in the wild to die, telling his sister that it died while she slept, the baby is discovered by another who takes it as his own. When the sister discovers the lie and goes hunting for the baby, both brother and sister take paths through the wilderness leading from danger to danger.

Like Anton Chigurh, the one man killing machine in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, who has no known history and is as lethal as an inhuman force of nature, OUTER DARK has its own cluster of human psychopathy. A trio of travelers killing those they meet, with no reason provided, haunt the pages and bring destruction with them simply for its own sake. The two times Culla, the brother, meets up with this trio, there is a vague sense of violence underlying the encounters. The reader cannot help but wonder exactly who these people are, how could they ever have met and developed the kinship that they apparently share, and what is their purpose. None of these questions have answers.

McCarthy keeps the reader off balance through excellent use of subtleties. The whispered query of whether Culla should be shot, the 'mystery meat', and the missing eyeball, all create a bizarre sense that something seriously is out of place. But, although we might have our ideas (often too disturbing to really consider), we cannot put our finger on exactly what that something might be.

That the sister hunts for her lost child against all odds is, perhaps, McCarthy holding out some hope for us in an otherwise bleak and violent environment. Though in the end, hope is not enough, in McCarthy's world, to get us where we need to be. OUTER DARK may not be pleasant, but it is the work of an excellent author who explores those shadowy regions many authors fear to tread, and who has rightfully earned the reputation of a master.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: outer dark and inner dark, evil remains the same
Comment: McCarthy's novels are certainly not for everyone, for they are dark pessimistic interpretations of the human condition, often showing mankind at our worst. Outer Dark is exceptionally well written. The journeys of a sister and brother has many characteristics of dark folk tales and Greek drama on cosmological justice, or the lack there of. The tale evokes Greek Tragedy and Old Testiment Judgements. The story is mythlike and makes reference to concepts around Original Sin and Redemption.

Because the characters are early 1900 Appalachian, there is of course a comparison and contrast to William Faulkner's work. McCarthy, like Faulkner, is a master of the English language and complex sentence structures. But McCarthy is more straight-forward and less ambiguous in his sentence structure and narrative style. McCarthy is also a master at identification of out of style, low frequency words, which he resurrects in his writing. McCarthy, like many great writers, invents words also. However he invents words with such strong reference to English language etiology that they are immediately recognizable and useful. Like Faulkner before him, McCarthy explores dark themes of human deprivation, but McCarthy actually takes these themes further than Faulkner since he explores ancient themes from the Greeks regarding fate and destiny and inescapability from the dark human condition.

At the core of many novels by McCarthy is a killing machine, a dark and mysterious man who kills his fellow humans as would an earthquake or hurricane or forest fire or any other force of nature. Some critics have linked these serial killer forces of nature to Achilles in the Iliad, one of the earliest serial killer anti-heroes from literature. For Achilles, the son of a water goddess is a marvel of masculine aggression and adroit, athletic slaughter. When such a serial killer engages in murder, he has no more emotion than a tidal wave. He expects no justice or injustice for killing is like breathing. It is a personal tragedy like being killed by a falling tree or drowning in a pond. For there is no justice against the tree or the pond and McCarthy sees his murderers as beyond earthy human justice or any cosmological justice from a absent and unconcerned God. Because this natural killer is in total touch with the worst aggressive aspects of human nature, they frequently can see the darkest instincts within their fellow men.

Outer Dark however also has a familiar narrative structure to the dark folk tales of Eastern Europe where children are eaten by wolves. For in this story, an 18 year old girl and her slightly older brother commit incest and the brother hides the baby in the forest telling his sister that the baby died, a story she doesn't believe for a minute. He leaves home on a quest away from his sin and deed. She leaves home on a quest for the child which has been taken by a Rumplestilkin tinker that uses terminology that evokes the anti-semitic descriptions of Jews in the Middle Ages.. Simultaneous to their parallel paths through darkness, three murderers stalk the land and seem oddly related to bringing rough reconciliation or completion to the tragedy.

A Jungian interpretation of the novel is really in order also for the boy is a thief and liar in a world of thieves and liars. The girl seeks her child for 8 months and never stops lactating. This odd feature to this story may reflect the miraculous in the lives of Catholic Saints for the girl believed that as long as her breasts weep milk, that the child is still somewhere alive in the world. The boy and girl may represent two sides of the human personality and each has a path to follow toward reconciliation with the other. Underneath much of the horror is a redemption story for the innocent child he denies is the product of his sin. However the redemption is extremely dark in this tale of horror.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: I Loved It But Not Sure Why
Comment: I thoroughly enjoyed this book (if "enjoyed" is the right word) but I have no idea what it's about. Like all the other McCarthy books I've read, it is compelling from word one. No one today shapes the English language like McCarthy. His every word is poetry. His ear for dialog and dialect is staggering. His description of everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is unerring, uncannily so. His ability to set a (mostly) dark and somber mood is (literally) scary. But I don't know what the book was about. I guess it was about a lot of things. No matter to me: I just enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed the suspense, the symbolism, the gothic emotion, the rawness of it. I've read several McCarthy books. I was lukewarm about the Border Trilogy, but hooked after "The Road", "No Country..." and others. Wonderful, masterful book. But I still don't know what it was about....

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