Cormac McCarthy

10. The Books of Cormac McCarthy, Tim Winton and Carl Hiaasen

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
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1.3.10

I realise it is a cheat to have three authors and numerous books as the last inclusion at #10, but I couldn’t split these three, nor pick out any one book in particular, as their excellent ‘environmental’ writing pervades all that they do.

Much of McCarthy’s writing is set in southern America, particularly Texas and across the border into Mexico. Here his lonely characters live out their fate-filled lives against a backdrop of beautiful, but austere, mountains, deserts and ravines. His environmental prose has a rolling, eternal, elegiac quality that is as beautiful as it is sometimes cold. Perhaps this is best conveyed in his Border Trilogy (‘All the Pretty Horses’, ‘The Crossing’, and ‘Cities of the Plain’) which commence in the late 1940s and follow the lives of two cowboys and others on the margin of society. These, and McCarthy’s other works, are often violent and confronting, but the writing is so compelling it is worth it.

 

Tim Winton

Few writers ‘get’ the Australian environment like Tim Winton. He seems to understand its scruffiness, its unruly wildness and its deep time. Beneath all this he senses a great calm, a spiritual quality of healing, and he has said that in Nature he finds a state of grace. This is particularly evident when he writes about water, be it when his characters go prawning in the Swan River Estuary in Perth (‘Cloudstreet’), or swimming in the Southern Ocean off the West Australian coast (e.g. ‘Breath’). It is hard to imagine really knowing Australia without reading Winton, and though this may be less relevant for overseas readers, the quality of the writing and the world he captures should more than compensate for this.

 

Carl Hiaasen

Racy, crazy, funny, moving – Carl Hiaasen sets a wild pace through the seedy underside of Floridian society and the State’s enchanting, but ever-threatened, swamps, lakes and keys.

Most of his plots revolve around the direct or indirect destruction of the environment by a cavalcade of dodgy developers, politicians and grubby chancers who are resisted, and often bested, at least temporarily, by a number of heroes, usually assisted – at least in the early books – by the now ‘feral’ ex-Governor Clinton Tyree (aka ‘Skink’) and his police trooper friend, Jim Tile. While this all sounds like good, light-hearted fun, and it most certainly is, the environmental setting and sub-text is beautifully and movingly evoked, and the insanity of modern gross capitalism is laid bare for what it is and what it does.

My favourite Hiaasen is probably ‘Native Tongue’, but they are all worth reading, particularly the earlier ones as they most heavily feature Skink and Jim and the Florida natural world – or what’s left of it.

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1.3.10. The Books of Cormac McCarthy, Tim Winton and Carl Hiaasen

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
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