Devil Wen Down t’Jowja

Over the past weeks, I’ve been wal­low­ing in a trough of poor fic­tion. You know how it goes. You get stuck read­ing a book (or five) that you feel you must fin­ish, but — past the point of no return, which is about half way through for me — the book becomes more effort than enter­tain­ment. I get ter­ribly wor­ried dur­ing such peri­ods. I find myself listen­ing to pod­casts over break­fast instead of read­ing, and then I won­der if I’ll ever find a cap­tiv­at­ing book again. Well, I’ve kept myself going through this latest pall by the thought that, on the table next to my bed, is a copy of No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy. Having trudged through a couple of so-so books, I’ve now devoured my reward.

In case you haven’t heard of him, McCarthy is a ‘recluse’. (This is a word used by the media to describe a per­son who won’t come out to play when they ring the door­bell.) He’s a south­ern American writer in his early sev­en­ties, and if I had to name the ten best writers I’ve read, McCarthy would be included. His style is bizar­rely sim­il­ar to Hemingway and Faulkner (I say ‘bizar­rely’ because Faulkner and Hemingway are almost polar oppos­ites in their styles; as they used to tell each oth­er, rather bitch­ily).

Anyway, I didn’t write this post to sing McCarthy’s praises, because there are enough people doing that. I wanted to share with you that feel­ing of ‘pseudo-pla­gi­ar­ism’. If pla­gi­ar­ism is the appro­pri­ation of another’s work without per­mis­sion or deriv­a­tion, pseudo-pla­gi­ar­ism is when one of your own ideas (that you’ve come up with inde­pend­ently) appears, by coin­cid­ence, in another’s work. It’s a bit like the eye, which has evolved not just once but sev­er­al times, in a num­ber of unre­lated spe­cies. (As an aside, I always snig­ger a little when I read that believ­ers in Intelligent Design cite the eye as an example of a mech­an­ism so per­fect that it could not have evolved; in fact, the eye has a num­ber of fea­tures that sug­gests its design­er screwed up, one of which being the place­ment of blood ves­sels between light and light recept­ors on the ret­ina.)

…Anyway, the vil­lain in McCarthy’s nov­el is a psy­cho­path. In my nov­el, Flashback, the killer is a psy­cho­path. So far so ordin­ary. But McCarthy’s vil­lain is giv­en to spout­ing mono­logues on the nature of chance before he kills his vic­tims. Er, so does mine. McCarthy’s vil­lain offers free­dom to a vic­tim if the vic­tim can cor­rectly judge the out­come of a coin toss. Check, mine too. McCarthy’s vil­lain is con­stantly referred to as a ghost. My villain’s code­name is Ghost. Both vil­lains are south­ern American. OK, so the over­lap isn’t total, but it was shock to read the coin-toss­ing scene after I’d noted the earli­er sim­il­ar­it­ies.

Could this mean that my book will be as good as No Country for Old Men? I doubt it. NCFOM is a work of geni­us. McCarthy has clearly been hanging around a cross­roads at midnght, wait­ing for the Devil.

Hell, I might do the same.

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “Devil Wen Down t’Jowja”

  1. Now if yours has that door open­ing cow killing bolt device thingy you got prob­lems.

    It was good but I wasn’t as taken with it as strongly you seem to be.

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