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The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form

by Cormac McCarthy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8633325,234 (3.84)28
"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 worldviews. 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
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» See also 28 mentions

English (30)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Powerful 2-man play by McCarthy. ( )
  dele2451 | Jan 6, 2024 |
One of the best representation of existential suicide I've ever seen. Uncompromising and bleak, offering a parallel to the longer case for suicide in Stella Maris.

--
Reread 2023, won't leave me alone. ( )
  A.Godhelm | Oct 20, 2023 |
"Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus" e pure McCarthy di tanto in tanto schiaccia un pisolino. Prima di leggere questo libro mi chiedevo: "Ma come fa un autore che ha fatto dell'eloquenza descrittiva il suo marchio di fabbrica a scrivere un'efficace opera teatrale?"
E infatti non ce la fa.
Nel senso che l'opera c'è, ma è ampiamente deludente, soprattutto se rapportata ai suoi romanzi. I personaggi sono statici, appiattiti nelle loro posizioni, il dialogo manca di ritmo e mordente, la tensione è altalenante e lo spessore delle argomentazioni lascia spesso a desiderare. Certo non mancano momenti in cui lo slancio poetico e il nerbo dell'autore si fanno sentire, ma nel complesso rimane un'opera fiacca. Lo scambio di battute tra i due protagonisti raramente coinvolge il lettore che si sente distante sia dal cinico nichilismo del bianco che dal cieco fideismo del nero.

Va be', poco male, ci si può rifare con qualche suo altro capolavoro...

---
Precedente: [b:South Park e la filosofia|32607700|South Park e la filosofia (Reprints)|Robert Arp|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1677828909l/32607700._SY75_.jpg|32018]
Successivo: [b:Diario di un gatto con gli stivali|9727856|Diario di un gatto con gli stivali|Roberto Vecchioni|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1327674836l/9727856._SY75_.jpg|14616700] ( )
  Demistocle | May 19, 2023 |
This is minor McCarthy, which is to say still better than most other fiction writers. I enjoyed the hardcore philosophical debate between the suicidal atheist intellectual and the deludedly faithful good samaritan, but wish Cormac had worked in there somewhere the less stereotypical but more realistic figure of the ethical and non-suicidal atheist. After all, he reportedly enjoys hanging out with many such clear thinkers in his resident egghead gig at the Santa Fe Institute. ( )
  AlexThurman | Dec 26, 2021 |
"I think the questioner wants the truth. The doubter wants to be told there aint no such thing." (pg. 67)

The Sunset Limited is one of those pieces that, as good as it is, you carry this slight dislike of it as you yearn for it to be more. It's a simple structure: a one-act, dialogue-driven play between two characters, the unimaginatively-titled Black and White, set in a single tenement room. Before the play opens, Black, a reformed criminal and evangelical Christian, has saved White, a misanthropic atheist professor, from committing suicide by throwing himself in front of a train, the 'Sunset Limited' of the title.

The play follows Black and White in their conversation as they debate the propriety of White's proposed suicide, engaging in a natural, wide-ranging discussion of morality and philosophy. This is all compelling stuff, if you're into that sort of thing – and I am – but it's also where that regret and yearning I mentioned earlier comes to the fore. There's something lacking in the story: perhaps it's that the staging of it as a play gives it a dramatic framework that it does not fulfil; the play ends in indecision rather than any sort of revelation or tilt in favour of Black or White. Perhaps author Cormac McCarthy couldn't reach any decision – well, who could? – but it puts a bit of play in the steering that can see the vehicle for McCarthy's ideas stray slightly askew.

However, there are enough allusions in the dialogue that, like Black's attempts to convince White of life, we're just happy the effort is made even if the results prove elusive. Black's talk of 'the dozens' provides an interesting interpretation for his character dynamic with White (pg. 74), and topics of their conversation like the part about the top chefs who create meals out of tripe and offal, just for the challenge of it, develop a natural insight into the theme of suicide (essentially, if life's serving you tripe, innovate and persevere and make it good) (pp100-1). However, the story, being a very short read, doesn't have the capacity to root these thematic tangents and allusions very deep.

Ultimately, the lack of resolution in the play (whether dramatic or philosophical) is a disappointment, even if it is arguably inevitable. But by no means does it sink the play. It's an engaging conversation between two compelling characters – McCarthy's always been good at writing dialogue, and that's very much on display here. It's even better in the film adaptation of the same name, as we get to see Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones – two of the best actors around when it comes to delivering dialogue – bottled up together trading said dialogue. Ultimately, in both book and film, we end up enjoying the flow of the conversation, regardless of any of the ideas or the conclusions drawn. The Sunset Limited isn't quite the feat it could have been, but it's a worthwhile encounter. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Dec 8, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (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, Cormacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, EzraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pendleton, AustinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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 worldviews. 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."--BOOK JACKET.

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