The Sunset Limited

The latest review at The Quarterly Conversation is a take on Cormac McCarthy’s latest drama, The Sunset Limited. First published in 2006, it is getting new life, as HBO has just filmed a version of it:

To what extent is prose therefore the medium that best allows McCarthy’s particular talents to manifest? To what extent do his skills as an author depend upon setting down words on a page in order to coax out a distinct voice that mediates dialogue, character, and story with its own idiosyncratic ruminations? These questions seem speculative, I admit, but they must be asked because they haunt McCarthy’s latest book from the first page to the very last. That book is The Sunset Limited, a verbatim reproduction of the script for a stage play McCarthy wrote in 2006—verbatim except for the addition of a cryptic subtitle, A Novel in Dramatic Form, with which it distinguishes itself from the stage play by making an issue of its own novelistic capacity for prosaic meditation.

The play was originally staged by the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago and New York throughout 2006 and the script was published as a book later that year. Now, with the broadcast of HBO’s film adaptation, the book has been republished in anticipation of a fresh audience. However, even as it remains subtitled A Novel in Dramatic Form, its origins as a work intended strictly for performance have not been airbrushed away in its transference to print.

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