Dec 172022


I hope this weekend is treating you well so far, and that you receive the other treatments you need. I hope you’ll forgive me for beginning with an essay about a small part of some books I’ve been reading. Eventually I’ll try to connect those parts to the more extreme forms of heavy metal.

The books are two novels by Cormac McCarthy that were published back-to-back late this year — The Passenger and Stella Maris. The protagonists of the books are a brother and sister, Bobby and Alicia Western, both of them children of a physicist who worked on the creation of the atomic bomb and both them doomed in different ways.

Bobby occupies most of the attention in The Passenger, though the most interesting character is his old friend Long John Sheddan. The Passenger has a rambling, mysterious plot, but the equally rambling and unpredictable dialogues are what kept me reading (which is why Long John is the most interesting character, because of his disquisitions).

You find out pretty early in The Passenger that Alicia has killed herself. She figures in the book through flashbacks in which she is visited by odd characters that we are led to believe are hallucinations, just as we’re led to believe that Alicia was schizophrenic. She was also strikingly beautiful, and a math prodigy (Bobby is brainy too, but not in her league).

Alicia is the main figure in Stella Maris. Indeed, that entire book is a series of transcripts of her discussions with a doctor in a psychiatric facility (named Stella Maris) where she has voluntarily committed herself (not for the first time), though not because she feels any need for “treatment”. Continue reading »