Thursday, February 11, 2016

Zoe vs. Cormac McCarthy

At first glance, Zoe has very little in common with Cormac McCarthy, author of All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country for Old Men, among others. In truth, glances two through twenty-five would also yield few similarities. Yet, as it turns out, Zoe has more in common with Cormac McCarthy than I do.

Credit: Paul Catalano

McCarthy's novels are very concerned with male identity. They are set in the southwest, several in the midcentury, about cowboys and ranchers---fathers, sons, and brothers---who must come to grips with a changing world while facing the violence of nature as well as their fellow man. 
In contrast, I'm a gal from Queens, New York, now living in Brooklyn. I'm not the strong silent type you'd find in a Western. I'm more the quiet bookish type you'd find in a library or bookstore, my natural habitat. You certainly wouldn't find me on a farm or a ranch, where people live up close with animals. 
Another thing that sets me apart from McCarthy's characters: I'm afraid of cows. They're bigger than they should be, right?
And my only experience riding a horse was my seventh-grade trip to a dude ranch where they gave me, the shortest kid in class, the largest horse, and I needed a boost getting up, and then I rode for fifteen minutes wherein the horse went wherever the hell he wanted, and when I got down again, my shirt got caught on the saddle-horn-pommel thing, exposing my training bra to the whole class---much to my supposed best friend's merriment---and also, the horse smelled. 
One more thing, McCarthy's characters think nothing of sleeping outside. Under the stars. He's got super writer skillz so he makes that sound romantic. And yet I'm unconvinced. Three reasons: no plumbing, no cushy seating, no temperature control. Not to mention a dearth of snacks of a chocolatey persuasion. 
So I have little in common with Cormac, but what about Zoe? Does she share any of his bleak vision of humanity? How about a brooding focus on fate? Sudden brutal violence?
Definitely that last one if my rib cage is any judge.
McCarthy is obsessed with the big questions. Zoe somewhat. Sitting on the toilet last night before bath she asked, in rapid succession: Can I be absent from school tomorrow? How do we die? Why do we have nipples? I barely had time to react before she fired her next round.
Besides wrestling with big questions, in The Crossing, a character wrestles a wolf, something I wouldn't put past Zoe. Or maybe she is the wolf. It certainly seemed like that when I was breastfeeding her as an infant.
The Crossing is about boundaries---between countries, between family members, the living and the dead, good and evil, belief and unbelief---and speaking of, the whole breastfeeding thing probably gave Zoe the wrong impression about my own. 
As for characters who seek their own destruction, I've watched her play, and either held my breath or expelled it in a cliche: If you lose a leg, don't come running to me! And, like Billy Parham and his brother, Boyd, she can't escape her fate. Bedtime and bath are inevitable.
Mostly though, she is lawless. She is The Road. She is 1940s Mexico where a boy journeys to get his murdered parents' horses back. In fact, I now think this is exactly what McCarthy was getting at: Five-year-old girls as atavistic expressions of chaos.
Beneath the pigtails lies humanity in its multitude of concerns, from earth-shattering to mundane. The trick is to hold on for dear life, or until bedtime, and don't get bit.
Zoe: 126; Universe: 0

In my last post I said I'd announce which title Zoe would decide on for her next book. There were some great suggestions, and Mickey Mouse Fight Club won the vote, but the title Zoe liked the best was Our Mutual Enemy, suggested by Cassandra Delusion. Go check out the hilarious he said/she said blog she writes with her husband and partner, Momus, at The Next Delusion.

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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