“In the relative cool of the timber stands, possum grapes and muscadine flourish with a cynical fecundity, and the floor of the forest – littered with old mossbacked logs, peopled with toadstools strange  and solemn among the ferns and creepers and leaning to show their delicate livercolored gills – has about it a primordial quality, some steamy carbonifereous swamp where ancient saurians lurk in feigned sleep.”

“Gangrenous molds took to the foundations before the roofs were fairly nailed down.  Mud crept up their sides and paint fell away in long white slashes.  Some terrible plague seemed to overtake them one by one.”

“They came and went, unencumbered as migratory birds, each succeeding family a replica of the one before and only the names on the mailboxes altered, the new ones lettered crudely in above a rack of paint smears that obliterated the former occupants back into the anonymity from which they sprang.”

“To them the inn was animate as any old ship to her crew and it bred an atmosphere such as few could boast, a solidarity due largely to its very precariousness.  The swaying, the incessant small cries of tortured wood, created an illusion entirely nautical, so that after a violent wrench you might half expect to see a bearded mate swing through a hatch in the ceiling to report all rigging secure.”

“For miles on miles the high country rolled lightless and uninhabited, the road ferruling through dark forests of owl trees, bat caverns, witch covens.”

“In the store the old men gathered, occupying for endless hours the creaking milkcases, speaking slowly and with conviction upon matters of profound inconsequence, eyeing the dull red bulb of the stove with their watery vision.”

“Across the yard, brilliant against the facade of pines beyond, a cardinal shot like a drop of blood.”

“From here he could see out into the valley, through the stark trees standing blackly in an ether of white like diffused milk, glazed and crystalline as shattered ice where the sun probed, the roofs thatched with snow, pale tendrils of smoke standing grayly in the still air.”

“Mr. Eller dozed, the clock ticked.  The flypaper revolved in slow spirals.  The wind had come up again and the rainwater blown from the trees pattered across the tin roof of the store, muffled and distant-sounding through the wallboard ceiling.”

“They produced tobacco and papers and passed them to him not ceremoniously but with that deprecatory gesture of humility which country people confer in a look, a lift of the hand.  The old man began to feel right homey.”

“…looking back at the dog still standing there like some atavistic symbol or brute herald of all questions ever pressed upon humanity and beyond understanding, until the dog raised his head to clear the folds above his milky eyes and set out behind them at a staggering trot.”

“The old man looked like he might be going to say more but he stopped and he looked at the boy, his wiry and tufted brows bunched whether in pain or angry and eyes blanched with age a china-blue, but fierce, a visage hoary and peregrine.”

“That’s one cat I kept shy of.  I knowed what it was.  Lots of times that happens, a body dies and their soul takes up in a cat for a spell.  Specially somebody drownded or like that where they don’t get buried proper.”


copyright 1965 by Cormac McCarthy
author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cormac-McCarthy
photo:  Vintage Books (a division of Random House, Inc. (1993)