I created a bot that tweets Cormac McCarthy quotes every day. You can follow @WordsofMcCarthy here.
McCarthy is infamous for his vivid and epic, sparsely-punctuated sentences that can span an entire page.
- “That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid neither horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.”
- “A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained wedding veil and some in headgear or cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a Spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.”
McCarthy is a master of the English language and commands sentences of all lengths like wrecking balls. Though he is known for his sweeping prose, McCarthy can be every bit as succinct and tweetable as Kerouac or Hemingway.
I read with a pen in hand. I underline, dog-ear, scribble notes, affix post-its, and generally destroy books with my annotations.
When I finish a book, I re-read all the underlined passages and type out everything I feel is worth referencing later on or pushing deeper into my memory.
For nonfiction, my notes are generally related to key concepts, summaries, and statistics. For fiction, I underline big ideas, well composed sentences, and striking phases. When I read McCarthy, the pages are splashed from top to bottom with multiple generations of chicken scratch.
Part of my impetus for creating a bot that tweets Cormac McCarthy quotes was the realization that I have typed out thousands of the man’s words over the years and they are just sitting in my Google Drive collecting virtual dust. Why not dump the notes into a spreadsheet, sort the tweetable quotes, and set up a simple bot Twitter bot that auto-posts daily? Easy.
I created @WordsofMcCarthy for my own enjoyment and I hope other fans of the greatest living American writer also enjoy a daily does of McCarthy in their Twitter feed. The bot has received a great response and I will continue to add to the list of quotes with every additional reading of McCarthy.
If you’ve never read Cormac McCarthy, I’m jealous. I wish I could read his work for the first time. Blood Meridian has been called one of the greatest American novels of all time. The Road won the Pulitzer Prize. Suttree is probably my personal favorite. All The Pretty Horses is one of McCarthy’s more accessible books.
If you are new to McCarthy I recommend Blood Meridian. I can say without hyperbole that this book changed my life. It changed how I think about writing. It raised the bar in my mind for what is possible in literature. The eminent Harold Bloom can explain better than I why one should read this book. Bloom says Blood Meridian is,
“a fearsome story and a terrible parable which I think has a deep implicit warning for current American society… Blood Meridian is the ultimate Westen… a great vision, a frightening vision of something that is deeply embedded in the American Spirit… I think you would have to go back to Moby Dick for an American epic that fully compares to Blood Meridian.”
If you are sensitive to violence, you will have a though time with McCarthy’s work. However, the “Border Trilogy”, beginning with All The Pretty Horses which won both the U.S. National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, can and should be enjoyed by anyone.
Here are a handful of my favorite @WordsofMcCarthy tweets that have surfaced so far:
Below are Cormac McCarthy quotes that just barely missed the 140-character cutoff. The tweets are attributeless for length’s sake, but I’ve found this to be an entertaining feature of the bot. It’s fun to guess where the quotes belong. For the quotes below, however, I decided to include the book attributions.
A kingfisher flew up the river and veered and chattered and then swung back above the river again and continued upstream. No one looked at it. – The Crossing
Old codgers bent above their gruel. A clack of china teeth. In a shroud of cold he stood within the door, then made his way down the counter. – Suttree
The mist was running off the river in little tongues and lapping eddyplaces and there was hope of sunlight somewhere beyond the eastern murk. – Suttree
In the slow bleeding month of October he watched, looking torpid and heavylidded as a toad, his nerves coiled and tuned like a waiting cat’s. – The Orchard Keeper
He walked back through the streets. Carrying the blind man’s words concerning his prospects as if they were a contract with the world to come. – Cities Of The Plain
She leaned against him. Her black hair falling about her shoulders. The smell of soap. The flesh and bone living under the cloth of her dress. – Cities Of The Plain
He squatted there watching her with the rope in both hands. Like a man entrusted with the keeping of something which he hardly knew the use of. – The Crossing
Acts have their being in the witness. Without him who can speak of it? In the end one could even say that the act is nothing, the witness all. – The Crossing
The sun rose into the red reefs of clouds along the eastern shore and the rider came on, crossing a lake ten miles wide and three inches deep. – The Crossing
I didnt know you could steal your own life. And I didnt know that it would bring you no more benefit than about anything else you might steal. – No Country For Old Men
Disorder in the woods, trees down, new paths needed. Given charge Ballard would have made things more orderly in the woods and in men’s souls. – Child of God
The whores huddled whimpering, clutching their robes about their rolling breasts. The retreated to the door. The cirada alone stood her ground. – Cities Of The Plain
The hundred nights they’d sat up debating the pros and cons of self-destruction with the earnestness of philosophers chained to a madhouse wall. – The Road
From a simple carved stone, the marble turned to a monument; from a gravestone, to the surving integral tie to a once warm-blooded, live person. – Wake For Susan
A green and reeling wall of laurel and the stark trees rising. Articulating in the slight lift of the forest wind some arboreal mute’s alphabet. – Suttree
Then he turned to the girl. He took off all her clothes and looked at her, inspecting her body carefully, as if he would see how she were made. – Child of God
In the dark glass where the road poured down their cigarettes rose and fell like distant semaphores above the soft green dawn of the dashlights. – The Orchard Keeper
See the hand that nursed the serpent. The fine hasped pipes of her fingerbones. The skin bewenned and speckled. The veins are milkblue and bubbly. – Suttree
No avatar, no scion, no vestige of that people remains. On the lips of the strange race that now dwells there their names are myth, legend, dust. – The Orchard Keeper
His shadow moiled cant and baneful over the lot below him and over the waking land a chorale of screaming cocks waned and ceased and began again. – Outer Dark
Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. – The Road
He wandered in the night murk by the river, in the cold damp of the dead weeds, the lights on the far shore making orders he had never seen before. – Suttree
There were ancient pictographs among the rocks, engravings of animals and moons and men and lost heiroglypics whose meaning no man would ever know. – Cities Of The Plain
The cranes were moving south and he watched their thin echelons trail along those unseen corridors writ in their blood a hundred thousand years ago. – The Crossing
I aint sure weve seen these people before. Their kind. I dont know what to do about em even. If you killed em all they’d have to a annex on to hell. – No Country For Old Men
Finally he said that among men there was no such communion as among horses and the notion that men can be understood at all was probably an illusion. – All the Pretty Horses
The tracks of a fox raised out of the snow intaglio like little mushrooms and the berrystains where birds shat crimson mutes upon the snow like blood. – Child of God
From his high place on the slope he could see the first strawcolored light sourceless beyond the earth’s curve, the horizon warped in a glaucous haze. – The Orchard Keeper
Are you all right? he said. What is it?
Troy sat looking out the window at the passing darkness. Just everything, he said. Just ever goddamned thing. – Cities Of The Plain
And those stories which speak to us with the greatest resonance have a way of turning upon the teller and erasing him and his motives from all memory. – Cities Of The Plain
He said that the wolf is a being of great order and it knows what men do not: that there is no order in the world save that which death has put there. – The Crossing
He said that war had destroyed this country and they men believe the cure for war is war as the curandreo prescribes the serpent’s flesh for its bite. – All the Pretty Horses
I can scarcely count on my two hands the number of women in this family who have suffered disastrous love affairs with men of disreputable character. – All the Pretty Horses
An old woman with one eye came down the corridor and tapped on one of the doors. When she saw him there she blessed herself with the sign of the cross. – Cities Of The Plain
A ballet of gnats rioted in the path of the headlights. He drank and handed the jar back. Under the black hood the motor hummed its throaty combustions. – The Orchard Keeper
Maybe birthdays are dangerous. Like Christmas. Ornaments hanging from the trees, weraths from the doors, and bodies from the steampipes all over America. – The Sunset Limited
The child buried within him walked here one summer with an old turtlehunter who went catlike among the grasses, gesturing with his left hand for secrecy. – Suttree
He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowly fading from memory. – The Road
He’d turned up one leg of his jeans into a small cuff and from time to time he leaned and tipped into this receptacle the soft white ash of his cigarette. – All the Pretty Horses
This here’s Roy’s baby picture.
A tintype picked from the wedge of the pages. Sailorsuited poppet a fiend’s caricature of old childhoods, a gross cartoon. – Suttree
They descend by rocky switchbacks and across the beds of streams where small trout stood on their pale fins and studied the noses of the drinking horses. – Blood Meridian
He has resolved himself to ride on for he could not turn back and the world that day was as lovely as any day that ever was and he was riding to his death. – Child of God
The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other. – Blood Meridian
The oil-lamp glowed serenely as its image, a soft corolla, inflaming the black window-glass where a curled and whitened spider dangled from a dusty thread. – The Orchard Keeper
People imagined that if you got through a drought you could expect a few good years to try and get caught up but it was just liek the seven on a pair of dice. – Cities Of The Plain
Hey lay in the dark thinking of all the things he did not know about his father and he realized that the father he knew was all the father he would ever know. – All the Pretty Horses
For miles on miles on miles the high country rolled lightless and uninhabited, the road ferrling through dark forests of owl trees, bat caverns, witch covens. – The Orchard Keeper
Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there a system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. – Blood Meridian
In the nights in their thousands to dream the dreams of a child’s imaginings, worlds of rich or fearful such as might offer themselves but never the one to be. – The Road
The road had gone from dust shocked up in dark waterballs to geysers of erupting mud, a sluggish flow beginning in the wheelruts and blistering under the rain. – The Orchard Keeper
The lower edges of the firmament sawed out into the black shapes of the mountains and the lights of the cities burning on the plain like stars pooled in a lake. – Cities Of The Plain
The stones nestled secretively beneath the tangled honeysuckle. They were moss-mellowed and weather-stained in that rustic way which charms lovers of old things. – Wake For Susan
There were grounds in the bottom of the cup and he swirled the cup and looked at them. Then he swirled them the other way as if to put them back the way they’d been. – Cities Of The Plain
The sun was not an hour up and in the flat traverse of the light of the mesa the blood that burst in the air before them was bright and unexpected as an apparition. – Cities Of The Plain
I aint a doubter. But I am a questioner.
What’s the difference?
Well, I think the questioner wants the truth. The doubter wants to be told there aint no such thing. – The Sunset Limited
A ferriswheel stood against the sky like a gaudy bracelet and little hawkwinged goatsuckers shuttled among the uplifting strobes of light with gape mouths and weird cries. – Child of God
…still dark and quiet with that silence that seems to be of itself listening, an astral quiet where planets collide soundlessly, beyond the auricular dimensions altogether. – The Orchard Keeper
Comanches would pass all about him on their way to the other world again and again for a thing once set in motion has no ending in this world until the last witness has passed. – Cities Of The Plain
And what were the circumstances surrounding his death.
He was taking part in a public function when the platform gave way.
Our information is that he was hanged for a homicide. – Suttree
You dont owe nothin to dead people.
Chigurh cocked his head slightly. No? he said.
How can you?
How can you not?
Yes but my word is not dead. Nothing can change that. – No Country For Old Men
Choice is lost in the maze of generations and each act in that maze is itself an enslavement for it voids every alternative and binds one more tightly into the constraints that make a life. – Cities Of The Plain