Home > 1990, 20th Century, American Literature, CENTURY, GENRE, Literary UFO, McCord Howard, Novella > Imagine that Into the Wild turns into a Tarantino movie

Imagine that Into the Wild turns into a Tarantino movie

The Man Who Walked to the Moon by Howard McCord 1997. French title: L’homme qui marchait sur la lune. Translated by Jacques Mailhos.

I am William Gasper. And if it seems strange that I repeat my introduction so soon, remember that I am as plain a my cooking, have no friends to speak of, and blend, by practice, into any background. I am something like sea-level: a constant always in turmoil, never quite evident from observation. I move even when I sleep, though my name gives me demarcation. I came to Sterns five years ago and persuaded Mary-Gail Henry, who runs the café there, to rent me the packing case which rests about one hundred yards behind the café. I have no knowledge of its original contents, mining equipment probably, but it now contains those personal effects of mine which I do not carry on my back, some score of magazines which I will eventually bequeath to the fire, and other odds and ends which even a scrupulous person may acquire unaware. I do not sleep in the packing case, having eschewed picturesque romanticism some time past, but I sleep beside it. In the worst weather I pitch my tent, but generally, that’s a bother. I wash from a pot, and scurry a quarter-mile or so into the desert each morning to take my bowel movement. I piss after a short walk. All this, of course, occurs only when I am in residence. But as I told you, my vocation is walking, and Stern sees me no more than a dozen days a year.

Long quote, but you have the atmosphere of the book. Or so you think. During the first chapters, you assume you’ll be walking in the wilderness with William Gasper. More accurately, you’ll be exploring, the Moon, Nevada:

The Moon is the mountain of nowhere, ignored by those who live within sight of it, as well as by those, who, in different times, might be fascinated by its isolation and difficulties. It is not a climber’s mountain, nor a hunter’s. There are some fine walls in two canyons, and half a dozen crags nearly worth the effort; there’s some game. But its charms, like certain women’s, are not obvious and reveal themselves only into an occasional misfit.

McCord_MoonSo you’re with him, walking to the Moon and he sounds like a wilderness enthusiast, a sort of walking Thoreau. He leads a frugal life, limits his interactions with the world to a minimum and enjoys his solitude. Slowly, as you spend time in Gasper’s head, you start realising that something is rotten in Gasper’s state of mind. First, he uses his container in Stern to keep guns and rifles; the man is fond of rifles. Then you discover he’s had a traumatic experience during the war in Korea and he never really recovered from it. Later you understand he had a career as a hit man and a sniper for the US army. Reading his ramblings, you get that a lonely boy became a loner and perhaps a loony. He doesn’t have any regrets about his choice of career. He doesn’t have much respect for human life. He likes guns, the hunt and a job well done; he’s a cold-blooded assassin. He’s not motivated by money and he has built his own system of belief, with Cerridwen as a goddess following him and appearing at key moments of his life. He thinks she’s after him, toying with his life. I’m not familiar with Welsh traditions and the Arthurian myth, so it is highly possible that I didn’t grasp everything Gasper said about Cerridwen and Cath Palug. Someone seems to be following Gasper to the Moon and the bucolic hike becomes a man hunt.

I have read The Man Who Walked to the Moon in French and even in translation McCord’s prose is incredibly poetic. It’s a strange mix of poetical descriptions of landscapes and of Gasper’s inner thoughts and violence. It’s as if a folk song ended in punk-rock or if you were watching a scene with a gruesome murder and the soundtrack were The Sound of Music. From what I read, McCord is a hiker too and he’s the same age as his character. He’s also a veteran of the war in Korea. I assume his experience with hiking in different countries nourished his novel. The Man Who Walked to the Moon is hard to sum up, difficult to review without giving away too much and impossible to classify. It’s at the cross-roads of literary fiction, poetry and crime fiction and that’s quite an achievement.

I have to thank Gallmeister for publishing McCord in France. They are a small French publisher  specialised in American literature. They pick books set in the Western states of the country. For example, they have also published Montana 1948 by Larry Watson, The Last Picture Show that I’ll review soon and Indian Country by Dorothy M. Johnson, which I have on the shelf. I like their choice of sober covers and the writers they bring to our attention.

  1. March 24, 2014 at 2:32 am

    “you get that a lonely boy became a loner and perhaps a loony.” Sounds like all this poetic reading is turning you poetic too.

    Like

    • March 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

      I think you’d like it. Let’s see if it has the same devastating effect on you.

      Like

      • March 25, 2014 at 2:58 am

        Are you a Tarantino fan BTW?

        Like

        • March 26, 2014 at 11:16 pm

          Fan is great word. I’ve seen several of his films and enjoyed them but I bear violence better in books than in films.

          Like

  2. Brian Joseph
    March 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Sounds fascinating and out of the box.

    The darkness, combined with poetic prose reminds me of Cormac McCarthy.

    Like

    • March 24, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      “out of the box” You nailed it.

      Like

  3. March 25, 2014 at 5:35 am

    The desert setting attracts me; the “lone wolf” gun-lover repels. What I do like is that you French always seem to be more on top of American literature than we Americans ourselves; I cannot begin to tell you how many fine American writers and artists our house has discovered thanks to a French publisher or gallery that has paid attention.

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    • March 25, 2014 at 5:35 am

      …or reader, I should have added!

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    • March 26, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      I can’t tell if you’ll like it. He’s not a lone-wolf in a Zane Grey way.

      We are living in a country where history is everywhere. The idea of vast spaces to create everything from scratch is fascinating. I also think that France has a different vision of America than other European country because of its history. There’s Lafayette and all but also the lack of immigration. There were very few French people going through Ellis Island.

      I’m glad that artists like McCord are translated into French. This publisher is great, lots of titles to explore.

      Like

  4. March 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    It sounds very interesting. Like something I’d struggle to categorise, which is always appealing.

    A trained killer with a fondness for guns and a personally-created religion sounds like someone intended to repel. Would any of us actually want to meet such a person? He sounds extremely dangerous. Perhaps he’s simply damaged. Perhaps both. I’ll have to read it to find out.

    Go Gallmeister. They sound like a great publisher.

    Like

    • March 31, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      Yes you’ll have to read it to find out because I won’t tell you. It’s a short read, I know you prefer short books, so I mention it.
      Gallmeister is a fascinating publisher; they seem to dig out real gems of American literature. Out of the most traveled paths.

      Like

      • April 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

        It seems sadly to be massively out of print. I haven’t even found a second hand copy on sale so far. Shame.

        Like

        • April 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm

          You can find it on Book Depository. I hope it helps.

          Like

          • April 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

            So it is, and also on kindle on Amazon. Odd, I must have mistyped the search or something.

            Like

            • April 8, 2014 at 9:26 pm

              I’m glad you found it.

              Like

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