Although Cormac McCarthy has not won the fame or attained the financial success of many of his contemporaries, his works have received high praise from critics and from other writers. Technically, he has even been called superior to William Faulkner, another Southern writer, who in 1949 won the Nobel Prize in Literature. McCarthy’s skills with spoken and written language are evident in Child of God, in which he moves easily from the laconic, colorful dialogue of his Tennessee mountaineers to descriptive passages whose lyricism is as often inspired by junked cars and moldy mattresses as by the beauty of the natural setting.
McCarthy’s handling of narrative is as brilliant as his use of language. Child of God is on one level the story of a single man, Lester Ballard, during a relatively brief period of time. The narrator also reaches far into the historic past to describe the misdeeds of Lester’s distant ancestors and of a whole troubled society; McCarthy thus gives his novel intellectual depth and thematic complexity. Similarly, the references to Lester’s history, whether they are presented through his dreams and reveries or through the narrator’s vivid anecdotes, make Lester a more complicated character than might be assumed, given his appalling activities.
Lester’s necrophilia, in particular, aroused the ire of some reviewers. Some who had praised McCarthy’s previous work expressed disgust with Child of God and relegated its author to the ranks of those who peddle the grotesque with a Southern setting.
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