Finding God in Cormac McCarthy’s Fictional Worlds

Some critics judge the works of Cormac McCarthy—who died on Tuesday, shortly before his ninetieth birthday—to be fundamentally nihilistic. But Alexander Riley argues that, despite its bleak depictions of human capacity for evil, McCarthy’s fiction is in fact pervaded with religious meaning. Riley focuses on the final two of the writer’s twelve novels, the companion works The Passenger and Stella Maris:

Many critics read McCarthy’s novels the way they do so many other art forms: devoid of the possibility of hope, transcendence, and a living God. But this often glosses over the genuinely conflicted character of the art. The Passenger and Stella Maris offer more than just an artistic representation of reality’s inescapable brutality. They forcefully struggle with the greatest questions of human existence. Like any good work of art, these books don’t allow any reader—religious, atheist, materialist, Christian—to walk away feeling perfectly comfortable in their understanding of the world.

McCarthy gives Alicia, [a main character of both The Passenger and Stella Maris], much more complexity than most of the critics have noted. She fiercely struggles with the fallen aspects of her character. A first-rate violinist, she lovingly describes music as sacred. She especially admires Bach, and she knows what (or Who) motivated the great German composer’s music. When she describes having spent her inheritance on a rare Amati violin, she recalls weeping when she played it for the first time. Tears come also when she recalls her pure bliss at the sound of Bach’s Chaconne emerging from her violin. The instrument must have originated in the mind of God, she insinuates, so perfect is its construction.

Amid this discourse on music, Alicia tells Cohen, her psychologist and interlocutor through the entirety of Stella Maris, what she believes to be “the one indispensable gift”: faith.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Literature, Religion

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy