There are some things that you realize you just enjoyed more when it seemed as if you were the only one who knew about it. Secret swimming holes. Secret parks. Secret restaurants. That kind of thing. Then everyone else finds out about it and the crowds set in and the yammering begins and...well...things are just never the same.
So it was with my love of the books of Cormac McCarthy. Many years ago I discovered his work when an acquaintance casually mentioned one of his novels--BLOOD MERIDIAN. I'm not sure how early on in his career this book was written, but surely one of the first half dozen or so. I went out and bought a copy blind, on my pal's recommendation.
The writing is pretty much as good as it gets in modern English. It's high art. The chapters are all like the best of what humanity has to offer in the way of displayed skill. McCarthy is probably the finest writer around, to my way of thinking and in my experience. To this day, BLOOD MERIDIAN remains one of my favorite works of art.
Subsequently, I went out and found his earlier work and consumed them in quick order. THE ORCHARD KEEPER, OUTER DARK, CHILD OF GOD, SUTTREE...these were works of wonder for me. It didn't hurt that they were also set in my native South and I recognized both the geography in which they were set, and the folk who lived in those worlds. Here was a writer to be admired and to be ultimately respected and especially not imitated. To attempt to parrot the style of Cormac McCarthy would be to invite disaster and well deserved contempt.
And then everyone else suddenly discovered McCarthy. He changed direction and moved his settings from the deep South to the West. Like America in its early days, he was moving off in a different direction. The newer novels had become exceptionally popular. The masses were on to him. He was my secret, no longer. And not that he had ever been--it just seemed that way to me. And then, of course, the folk in Hollywood found him.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES ensued as a film. I didn't see it, but of course even a lousy film has the tendency to increase the sales of the books from which they originate. McCarthy was suddenly a hot property and now when I mentioned his name everyone knew who I was talking about. Good for McCarthy, and I hope that he's a very wealthy man, these days.
And then came NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN with an excellent cast and directors and screenwrights who seem to understand the book. More fame. More followers of the author. Now comes THE ROAD...a really good book, and I've seen the previews and I find it hard to believe that the makers of the film understood the novel at all. But it doesn't matter. It has an A-list cast and "the buzz". McCarthy will be even more famous than before. His books are everywhere. They have stacks of them, mountains of them, displays dedicated specifically to them in almost every one of the book superstores I visit.
Like a great swimming hole or a waterfall that only you know about, it all seems different when it's discovered by the crowds. You go one day to take a look and enjoy the sounds of the falling water and you peer down and there are footprints beside the pool. You look again and there are people filling the water. You listen and all you can hear is the squeal of the crowds as they soak up your special place.
I swear it is.