1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Short Story Club (17): Wake for Susan by Cormac McCarthy

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Jun 11, 2013.

    For this discussion we'll be reading "Wake for Susan" by Cormac McCarthy. This story can be found on page 4 of the 50th anniversary edition of the Phoenix Literary Arts Magazine.

    I'm really looking forward to reading this story because McCarthy is one of my favorite writers. Some of his novels include Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, and The Road. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Let me start by saying that I never would have guessed that this story was written by McCarthy. The style he uses here is a lot different from the style in his novels. And he even uses quotation marks!

    I think there are two reasons why Wes fantasizes about Susan. First, he does it as a way to escape the monotony of his life, which likely consists of chores like mowing the lawn and hunting, which he isn't very good at. He imagines a life with Susan that includes very specific things like sitting outside on a warm summer night and having fried eggs and bacon for breakfast. Second, she represents idealized love, and because their life together is nothing more than a fantasy, he can make her any way he likes. He gives her blue eyes and blonde hair and imagines that she doesn't mind doing the household chores (there's ample evidence that Wes hates chores and responsibility). As a young man, Wes hasn't had that epiphany that characters around his age have. He's essentially fantasizing about a utopia, which is kind of strange when you think about it since he's fantasizing about the distant past.

    In the end, this story is about Wes' loneliness. The phrase "She would see him again tomorrow night" suggests that he will think about her the next day and perhaps the day after that. When he weeps for "lost Susan, for all the lost Susans, for all the people," he's not weeping for the actual people who died. Rather, he's weeping for the relationships he will never have with these dead people, whose lives and personalities he has made up. It's certainly a sad story.

    Overall, I would say it was a great attempt by a young writer (he was in his mid-20s I believe).
     
  3. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    I loved this story. I agree that the language is very different. No neologisms that I noticed, a staple of Cormac's writing.

    However, I did notice some of his characteristic abstraction pop up.

    For example:
    The bearded stones themselves seemed arrested in that transitory state of decay which still recalls the familiar, which pauses in the descent into antiquities unrecognizable and barely
    guessable as to origin

    I think that Wes is fantasizing because he's lonely, and that he's mulling over the ephermerality of life, something that popped up a lot thematically in this piece. I think that when he weeps for the "lost Susan, for all the lost Susans, for all the people," he's weeping because the idea that something as beautiful and unique as human life is nothing more than the most minute speck in the timeline of the universe.

    I think McCarthy was able to build a very real, highly vivid, and not cheesy relationship between these two people.

    Loved the story. Great writing, and seeing how his style developed was really neat.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Have you read his other story, which is included in this pdf? It's called "A Drowning Incident." I plan on reading it. It's the only other story he's published.
     
  5. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    ^No, but I probably will. I'm very surprised by how little he's published in the ways of short stories.
     

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