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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 7 March 2009
I suspect that many people will be deterred from reading this book because it is a play, and they will think, reasonably enough, that it is something to be seen on a stage, and not read; but it reads beautifully. It has two characters, Black and White, and Black saves White from throwing himself in front of a train, the Sunset Limited. And then in Black's almost bare apartment they dissect each other's lives, and discuss God, faith and death - with wit, intelligence and passion. The book has something of the claustrophobia of Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground, and something of the philosophic and religious weight of The Brothers Karamazov - it is however some 850 pages shorter, and can be read in a day.
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I read The Road and wasn't impressed. I know I'm in a minority but I found it baggy and a bit superfluous. Still, I liked the impression of the prose, and it was, admittedly, mostly the story that I found lacking. So I resolved to try McCarthy again in the future (I'm quite excited about Blood Meridian and Suttree). However, when this little book came under my nose in the bookshop I work at, my interest was piqued straight away. I've a friend who's always encouraging me to read plays, and this looked good. So I bought it, and read it of a Sunday afternoon. And really, really enjoyed it. I'd love to see it performed. It's a fantastic (if relatively simple, very linear) meditation on religion and faith and the human condition. It clipped by, it is clear, parts of it are beautiful, parts of it are inspiring. I can't comment on how it is as a written dramatic text, it's not a meter i'm familiar, but as a person entirely unfamiliar with the world of plays, and who only comes to it through contemporary prose, I recommend this highly. It's certainly broadened my horizons a bit, and I expect it would any other fan of good contemporary literature/Cormac generally.
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Whether a play , a novel or a script , good writing is still good writing and this is damn good writing . So why worry about what exactly " a novel in dramatic form is " ; just enjoy it .

Scenery or descriptive passages would only distract from this compelling duologue . The essence of this work is the dialogue between two very different characters one black one white ; one in debt to the other , but both seeking the same goal . I will go no further with the encounter as the book can be read in a couple of hours or so, so why spoil it for you before it starts . Ideal to read in one session so perfect for happily loosing oneself for 2 or 3 hours on a tedious plane or train journey .

Anything by Cormac McCarthy is worth attention and this is no exception .
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on 3 January 2012
One thing that McCarthy does well is "simplicity" and this is exactly that. A minimalistic account of two opposing views on life; one black and one white told in basic surroundings and in quick time. Infact you will spend more time on post consideration of this novel/play than you will actually reading it. See it for what it is and you will enjoy it. If you require the authors rich descriptive prose then Blood Meridian is a better choice. I implore you to read everything that he has ever written.
I would love to see this piece performed on stage and agree with a previous reviewer that Morgan FREEMAN would make a terrific "Black", perhaps opposite a "White" Kevin SPACEY?
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on 26 September 2014
Cormac McCarthy's playscript-novella opens with a scene at a train station. A troubled man, White, leaps suicidally from his platform only to land on another troubled man, Black. McCarthy allows himself to play with the idea of the (fallen) angel and the Good Samaritan: Black, picking himself and White up off the concrete, jokes that White has fallen clean out of the sky. To this deeply religious man, being positioned to catch a falling man feels like a sign from God (we don't ask ourselves yet exactly what Black himself was really doing on the platform's edge). It seems clear at this auspicious start that White is the person in need and Black the very person with the emotional resources to help him.

Spoiler alert:

Most of the ensuing action takes place in Black's bare New York apartment, in what are increasingly claustrophobic scenes: Black fights a losing battle to persuade White to live. McCarthy doesn't seem to want to delve too deeply into White's back story, or whatever complex roots there may have been to his decision to jump, we only learn the broadest brush strokes, Black's seemingly un-intrusive questions nonetheless reveal a disconnectedness or alienation, at the heart of White's otherwise successful, privileged life. Black believes that he has the answer to White's troubles and he begins his own confessional-inspirational tale, which has a broadly Christian message (although the essence of it, hope, a purposeful life, etc. could as easily be found in any of the six major religions). White neatly sends back all of Black's arguments and the conversation increasingly takes on the tenor of a struggle to the death, with White's suicide being the constant spectre in the room.

So White argues and rejects but it is only when he gets up and strides out the door, still unconvinced that he has any purpose, that McCarthy neatly turns the tables on us. We now see our Good Samaritan gently coming apart. His guest has, it now seems, been accidentally dangerous to him and the existence or otherwise of God, at this precise moment seems to be beside the point: Black is bereft of the hope which had enabled him to take on his own troubles and deal with his traumatic past. As he falls apart in his own doorway, we feel every atom of McCarthy's sensitive rage: that White came to this room for help, never seeing that he was supposed to be it.
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on 21 April 2014
When you pick up a book written by the great Cormac McCarthy you know that the title will have a somewhat hidden meaning. This one is no exception. "The Sunset Limited". Now that could mean anything. Am I right?

Anyway, two men (one is a professor and the other is an ex convict) meet in the lower class home of one and the pair spend a fair part of the day discussing matters ranging from faith, death, love, life to the ultimate meaning of everything else. It is not funny; parts of it are sad. Parts of the story are violent but mostly this book will make you think. It will also make you grateful for Cormac McCarthy being Cormac McCarthy. Flaws in the novel are few, for example we don't get told until book's end what the professor is actually a professor of, so what chance did the ex-con have of success in the book's ambition?

So I can't really give this one five stars. Maybe if it was longer I would have enjoyed it more, too. It took less than two hours from go to woe. But the reading matter itself earns bonus points so I give it four out five. Definitely worth reading as books like this one are written for a purpose.

BFN Greggorio!
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on 22 October 2014
I read this book in one sitting, such was the flow of dialogue and size of the book. It does indeed read very well and McCarthy gives each character very distinctive voices. I was reminded of the late great actor Michael Clark Duncan for the character 'Black' and John Malkovich as 'White' for some reason, which helped to visualise the scene, which helped as it read like a play-script but is considered a novel 'in dramatic form'.

The story is set in one room and unpicks a man's reason for an intended suicide. It asks big questions, mostly about existence, God, religion, intellect and friendship and at times can fall into cliche. But it will keep readers wanting to read on, if not to learn what happens at the end, then because of McCarthy's gripping dialogue.
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on 8 June 2010
Having just read The Road' which impressed me as a beautifully written story of human nature pitted against the ultimate darkness, this play by McCarthy seemed a must to read. A two-hander featuring a white and a black man, it's not possible to say too much without spoiling the surprises, but it deals on a more philosophical level with the same need to bond on the edge of an abyss. The dialogue has an authentic ring, and if this was filmed I could imagine Morgan Freeman as the black character. With deft domestic touches set skillfully against the threat of an impending catastrophe, it totally involved me.
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on 26 June 2011
I am a big fan of the author. He has clearly written some great stuff. But I can't believe he ever intended this to be published as a novel. Even as a play, I think that it pretty much stinks. For a man of this calibre, this says absolutely nothing new or of any great interest. I think the publisher merely seeks to cash in on his recent rise in fame. In so doing, they have lessened my opinion of his work quite considerably. A man of this talent could write this on the back of a fag packet in half an hour. Rubbish !
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on 5 March 2013
This is a poignant and quietly spiritual tale of faith, and the lack of it - as one man with a self-destructive past, struggles in vain to save another who is intent on following the same path. Although the play ends in failure, we learn a great deal about the power of love and of how people with apparently successful lives can be hollow inside. I feel uplifted, even honoured, to have read this short yet powerful screenplay.
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