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The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form…

The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form (edition 2006)

by Cormac McCarthy

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Title:The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:Vintage (2006), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy (Author)



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English (14)  Italian (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
An arresting and thought provoking two-hander that was (I think) originally written for the stage. It is described as "a novel in dramatic form". "White" is an atheist and suicidal professor rescued from his final act down at the Subway platform by "Black", an ex-convict who has found some salvation in life through his faith in God. (Not a spoiler as the failed suicide is made clear on page one.) Entirely set within the latter's sparse apartment in a rough part of town, there follows an intense and gripping dialogue as the two men discuss pretty much life, the universe, and everything. The closing pages reveal with devastating finality a resolution that one party will struggle immensely with.

It is a thoroughly entrancing situation - where two men believe so absolutely in seemingly incompatible opposites. The existential discussion is well-handled and genuinely moving. It is a brief novel, and probably best experienced as a fully immersive experience where one can give full attention to the brilliantly written script. Despite the subject matter, there are some very funny lines and I really enjoyed this 'listen'. The audiobook narration by Austin Pendleton and Ezra Knight was pitch perfect on both counts.

Part of McCarthy's undeniable brilliance lies with his ability to create with a bare minimum of pages a pair of characters so well-formed and complete with their own intriguing back-stories that the reader not only feels that he or she "knows" them quite well, but also wants to get into the room with them and sit down at the beat-up old kitchen table and join the conversation. I found myself torn agonisingly between both "White"'s and "Black"'s positions and was genuinely pained with the ending. This small book packs a powerful punch. ( )
  Polaris- | Apr 19, 2014 |
If you want to know how good a short (143 pp.) book with larger typeface can be, here you are. McCarthy's The Sunset Limited is a "novel in dramatic form" - a dialogue between two men. One of the men (White) tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. The other man (Black) pulled White away from the train and has taken him to Black's apartment, which is where the novel takes place.

What ensues is a discussion of the meaning of life and where it is to be found - if, indeed, it is to be found at all. White, a professor, has come to feel that everything he believed in has proved worthless, while Black, a former junky and ex-con, has been "born again" and finds all value through the Bible.

The discussion swirls around the debate between materialism and idealism: can we base our lives on only that which has substance, can be proved, can be a source of value, or is true value to be found in an abstraction, the idea of what should be of value, a mystery?

No decisive answer has ever been given to this debate, and if anything, McCarthy points out where the lack of an answer leaves us.

This is an incredible book that deserves multiple readings. ( )
  jpporter | Feb 23, 2014 |
This is a great book. Read it when your spirits are high, or when they are in need of a lowering. ( )
  lukeasrodgers | Oct 22, 2013 |
raw. awesome. very powerful. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Sep 20, 2013 |
"This is a room in a tenement building in a black ghetto in New York city. There is a kitchen with a stove & a large refrigerator. A door to the outer hallway and presumably to a bedroom. The hallway door is fitted with a bizarre collection of locks & bars. There is a cheap Formica table in the room and two chrome & plastic chairs. There is a drawer in the table. On the table is a bible & a newspaper. A pair of glasses. A pad & pencil. A large black man is sitting in one chair(stage right) and in the other a middle aged white man"

The Sunset Limited starts with the the stage direction above & all we know are that the characters Black & White are there in this room. It's only through their dialogue that the story unfolds & we learn that White is a Professor & that Black was an addict & has spent some time in the "Jailhouse" for murder. We also learn that Black somehow saved White from throwing himself under a train (The Sunset ltd). We do not know why they are in this room.

Through their conversation, we discover that whilst he was close to death in a prison hospital, Black believes he was visited by God & is now an evangelical Christian, which means little to White, who as an Atheist, has nothing but contempt for religion.

Through their continued dialogue Black, tries to understand White's reasoning behind his suicide attempt & to convince him that life is worth living. But White believes that all reason leads to the inevitable conclusion that death is the only solution & that everything else is just delusion through fear of death.

White constantly tries to leave the apartment, leaving Black to come up with ways to stop him (offering food, coffee etc.). They probe each others beliefs (or lack of), batting back & forth ideas to counter each others arguments, yet neither succeeding being to tied to their own ideology, whether it's Black with everything hanging on his faith & salvation or White with his rationalism & despair that humanity has reached it's nadir.

Through this dialectic, we follow both characters, as one and then the other argue their opposing views, with White's aim to escape the apartment to meet The Sunset ltd (his suicide) & Black increasingly desperate to find a way to stop him, ending with White losing his patience & he lets loose with a vehement denunciation of Black's faith.

"I don't believe in God. Can you understand that? look around you man. Cant you see? The clamour & din of those in torment has to be the sound most pleasing to his ear. I loathe these discussions. The argument of the village atheist whose single passion is to revile endlessly that which he denies the existence of in the first place. Your fellowship is a fellowship of pain and nothing more...."

This seems to leave Black nonplussed & it becomes apparent that there could be more than White's soul at stake, but in the end White's argument wins out, forcing Black to unlock the door, so White can leave to makes his appointment with The Sunset Ltd. Black is left behind, lamenting the outcome.

"He collapse to his knees in the doorway, all but weeping.

Black -" I'll be there, "

He looks up

Black - " He didn't mean them words. You know he didn't. You know he didn't. I don't understand what you sent down there for. I don't understand it. If you wanted me to help him how come you didn't give me the words? you gave em to him. what about me?"

He kneels weeping rocking back & forth.

Black - "That's all right. That's all right. If you never speak again you know I'll keep your word. You know I will. You know I'm good for it."

The Sunset Limited is a beautifully lean yet muscular book, it's prose is precise & seems to work as an internal dialogue espousing both points of view, balancing with the skill of a tightrope walker both Black's & White's standpoints. Expressing both the optimism & despair of the human condition. This book is extremely thought provoking. It's also extremely dark and extremely funny.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/sunset-limited.html ( )
3 vote parrishlantern | Jul 2, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
The Sunset Limited is a technically and creatively pedestrian work that falls far short of what readers should expect of a master like McCarthy at this point in his career.
“The one thing I won’t give up is giving up,” White says toward the end of the play, his language elevating and his curt sentences expanding into more elaborate musings. This is no mere argument anymore. It’s a poem in celebration of death.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Jason Zinoman (Oct 31, 2006)
As his descriptive writing has, over the decades, economised so his discursive writing has expanded; read The Road as a two-character play with lengthy stage directions, and read The Sunset Limited as an intriguing companion to that work.

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCarthy, CormacAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, EzraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pendleton, AustinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307278360, Paperback)

A startling encounter on a New York subway platform leads two strangers to a run-down tenement where a life or death decision must be made.

In that small apartment, “Black” and “White,” as the two men are known, begin a conversation that leads each back through his own history, mining the origins of two fundamentally opposing world views. White is a professor whose seemingly enviable existence of relative ease has left him nonetheless in despair. Black, an ex-con and ex-addict, is the more hopeful of the men–though he is just as desperate to convince White of the power of faith as White is desperate to deny it.

Their aim is no less than this: to discover the meaning of life.

Deft, spare, and full of artful tension, The Sunset Limited is a beautifully crafted, consistently thought-provoking, and deceptively intimate work by one of the most insightful writers of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An encounter on a New York subway platform leads two strangers to a run-down tenement where a life or death decision must be made. The two men begin a conversation that leads each back through his own history, mining the origins of two fundamentally opposing worldviews.… (more)

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