The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts – Z55z.co

From a writer hailed as an American original and the author of the national bestsellers All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing comes a taut, expansively imagined drama about four generations of an African American familyThe setting is Louisville, Kentucky, in the s The Telfairs are stonemasons and have been for generations Ben Telfair has given up his education to apprentice himself to his grandfather, Papaw, a man who knows that true masonry is not held together by cement butby the warp of the world Out of the love that binds these two men and the gulf that separates them from the Telfairs who have forsaken or dishonored the family trade, Cormac McCarthy has crafted a drama that bears all the hallmarks of his great fiction precise observation of the physical world language that has the bite of common speech and the force of Biblical prose and a breathtaking command of the art of storytelling


10 thoughts on “The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts

  1. Ned Ned says:

    I won t apologize for giving another 5 star rating to the most important author for me It may not have been his longest or most profound or maybe it was , but it is certainly well above all those other books that I rated at this level My mind is rampaging about how to write my little, amateur review This book even got me asking why I push these reviews out on this likely ephemeral electronic site, where most readers are people I haven t met, nor people I personally know and love Perhaps a I won t apologize for giving another 5 star rating to the most important author for me It may not have been his longest or most profound or maybe it was , but it is certainly well above all those other books that I rated at this level My mind is rampaging about how to write my little, amateur review This book even got me asking why I push these reviews out on this likely ephemeral electronic site, where most readers are people I haven t met, nor people I personally know and love Perhaps a brother or daughter or cousin or even my wife will take a look sometime, so they are also amongst the virtual audience I don t blog, I keep it close to the vest on social media, so my review might be one of the few public airings Books are emotional for me, they challenge and comfort me, and one might even say my life is defined by the intervals by which they are read and how they coincide with life events and stages of my spiritual, social, intellectual and physical development I need the space of a few hours today, with some snow gently falling, around the hearth, dealing with some minor family sadness of our own to write a little summary tuck it away in the physical space of the book before returning it my basement library, perhaps never to be opened or read again As an aside, I did carefully razor peel and de gum the dust cover of this hardcopy I don t read much other than paperbooks It is a fetish of mine to remove the re sale stickers and associated detritus from those that I read, and this one turned out nicely An original edition, untarnished by a flashy cover or other advertisement, without forward, without any of the barking silliness that marketers use to line their pockets.Actual Review 3 00 pm, same day Several personal aspects come together for me in this book, or perhaps as I move beyond middle age these are my tendencies I shall try to avoid overindulge here Cormac and I have probably both read the King James version to an excessive degree, me in church trying to stay entertained with the only allowed diversion, while some preacher not all, but some belabored the obvious This book has expansive and deep spiritual dimensions, most certainly biblical in theme, tone and style First of all, the location is Louisville Kentucky, a place a lived for 5 years, long after the date when this is set 1971 It is a play, a genre I rarely read, but I have loved this author s others e.g The Sunset Limited , with 4 generations of a black family living together under the same roof A theme is the relationships amongst the men of the family, where the 30 something protagonist, Ben, worships his grandfather PawPaw , endures his father Big Ben and tries to father his nephew Soldier The other theme is craft stonemasonry which, I realize, is metaphorical for McCarthy s own life s work, writing novels The final scene, when Ben confronts his dead grandfather, was poignant for me as I had a dream recently which I must capture here before it fades of greeting on equal terms a young version of my own grandfather whom I idolized as a young, handsome, black haired man with his shirt sleeves rolled to the elbows, looking fit and happy The secret language and special mystery of knowledge transmuted in words and actions, and inactions or quietude, is what Ben receives from PawPaw and I received as well, from my own PaPa, a farmer on his farm, in moments of purity with one of the finest human beings I have ever known What else I calculated with help from Alexa that Cormac was 60 when this was published 1994 Assuming a 3 year window from creation to publishing my estimated , he was about 57 58 when this was likely written I m 57 and turn 58 in 3 days So he wrote this at my age Author to reader, one white guy talking and another listening, both struggling with the same kind of questions There is tragedy in this book, as McCarthy always tackles the biggest themes on man s stage, but mostly this story is about the pride, comfort and even folly of a man falling in love with his principles, in this case for workmanship His worship of his benefactor, PawPaw, comes with some risk as he ultimately realizes that love, or charity as its known in the KJV, requires an act of faith This story ends hopefully, as I am still hopeful at a ripening age, and it resonated with perfect pitch But I am still holding back The Road , until just the perfect time or when I m strong enough chokengtitiktitikchokeng 32 where PawPaw dispenses wisdom to Ben, his Grandson, about the family farm and the white people who live there He had me promise not to disturb the pale renters interred on our farm but I had no intention to do so He says that for himself we can just throw him out in a sinkhole when he quits this world But he ll be buried with his ancestors black and white in full possession of the earth whereunder he lies It balances out, he says Yes The arc of the moral universe is indeed long but it does bend to ward justice At the root of all this of course is the trade As he always calls it His craft is the oldest there is Among man s gifts it is older than fire and in the end he is the final steward, the final custodian When the last gimcrack has swallowed up its last pale creator he will be out there, preferring the sun, trying the temper of his trowel Placing stone on stone in accordance with the laws of God The trade was all they had, the old masons They understood it both in its utility and in its secret nature We couldn t read nor write, he says But it was not in any book We kept it close to our hearts We kept it close to our hearts and it was like a power and we knew it would not fail us We knew that it was a thing that if we had it they could not take it from us and it would stand by us and not fail us Not ever fail us You may notice the arc of the universe quote, which was used by Obama, quoting MLK, taken from the transcendentalist Theodore Parker in 1853 yes, I googled that p 65, where Ben observes the spiritual foundations and purity of his craft Not cut stone All trades have their origin in the domestic and their corruption in the state Freemasonry is the work of free men while sawing stone is the work of slaves and of course it is just those works of antiquity most admired in the history books that require nothing but time and slavery for their completion It is a priestridden stonecaft, whether in Egypt or Peru Or Louisville Kentucky I d read a great deal in the Old Testament before it occurred to me that it was among other things a handbook for revolutionaries That what it extols above all else is freedom There is no historian and no archaeologist who has any conception of what stonework means The Semitic God was a god of the common man and that is why he ll have no hewn stones to his altar He ll have no hewing of stone because he ll have no slavery p 91, it hit me, like a diamond between the eyes, that this is McCarthy talking about himself and what he is trying to achieve in his own writing craft I ve looked at barns and houses and bridges and factories and chimneys and walls and in a thousand structures I ve never seen a misplaced stone In form and design and scale and structure and proportion I ve yet to see an example of the old work that was not perfectly executed They were designed by the men who built them and their design rose out of necessity The beauty of those structures would appear to be just a sort of a by product, something fortuitous, but of course it is not The aim of the mason was to make the wall stand up and that was his purpose in its entirety The beauty of the stonework is simply a reflection of the purity of the mason s intention Carly says I have this mystique thing about stonemasonry She says nobody understands it Even my father thinks its crazy She says no one knows what I m talking about She says no one cares In all his of course she s right And she says you cant change history and that ruins should be left to ruin And she s right But that the craft of stonemasonry should be allowed to vanish from this world is just not negotiable for me Somewhere there is someone who wants to know Nor will I have to seek him out He ll find me Yes, I ve found you Cormacchokengtitiktitikchokeng 97, Ben s spiritual journey starts with the problem of evil, to the steady influence of his bible reading hero, eventually to approach the unknown with something like reverence As for the rest As for the rest I know that evil exists I think it is not selective but only opportunistic I don t know where the spirit resides I think in all things rather than none My experience is very limited But it is because of him that I am no longer reduced by these mysteries but rather am oneamong them His life is round and whole but it is not discrete Because it is connected to a way of life which he exemplifies but which is not his invention I know nothing of God But I know that something knows Something knows or else that old man could not know Something knows and will tell you It will tell you when you stop pretending to know p 111, Ben s father has died by his own hand, and his anger and regret and is fresh and overwhelming, as he had judged his father harshly and missed his presence in life entirely Because I thought of my father in deaththan I ever did in life And think of him yet The weight of the dead makes a great burden in this world And I know all of him that I will ever know Why could he not see the worth of that which had put aside and the poverty of all he hungered for Why could he not see that he too was blest I lost my way I d thought by my labors to stand outside of that true bend of gravity which is the world pain Those of us with father s, let us celebrate them, or reconcile with them, but do not ignore or hide from themchokengtitiktitikchokeng 133 The last words in the play, so matched with my own memory of my grandfather s hands and influence Hands I never tired to look at Shaped in the image of God To make the world To make it again and again To make it in the very maelstrom of its undoing Then as he began to fade I knelt in the grass and I prayed for the first time in my life I prayed as men must have prayed ten thousand years ago to their dead kin for guidance and I knew that he would guide me all my days and that he would not fail me., not fail me, not ever fail me Just wow, how perfect a prayer, how hopeful


  2. Edward Edward says:

    I sought out and read The Stonemason for completeness, really now I ve read all of McCarthy s novels and plays , but I was pleasantly surprised this is probably one of his better dramatic works I haven t seen this performed, so I m evaluating itor less as a written piece only There are some interesting dramatic elements, like the lead character, Ben, narrating his dialogue from a separate area of the stage his character s representation in the drama is a mute double I m not sure I sought out and read The Stonemason for completeness, really now I ve read all of McCarthy s novels and plays , but I was pleasantly surprised this is probably one of his better dramatic works I haven t seen this performed, so I m evaluating itor less as a written piece only There are some interesting dramatic elements, like the lead character, Ben, narrating his dialogue from a separate area of the stage his character s representation in the drama is a mute double I m not sure how this would come across when performed, but the idea is interesting enough Here is an extract from the stage directions, which explains the use of the double I enjoyed McCarthy s little philosophical asides hereWhat must be kept in mind is that the performance consists of two separate presentations One is the staged drama The other is the monologue or chautauqua which Ben delivers from the podium And while it is true that Ben at his podium is at times speaking for or through his silent double on stage, it is nevertheless a crucial feature of the play that there be no suggestion of communication between these worlds In this sense it would not even be incorrect to assume that Ben is unaware of the staged drama Above all we must resist the temptation to see the drama as something being presented by the speaker at his lectern, for to do so is to defraud the drama of its right autonomy One could say that the play is an artifact of history to which the audience is made privy, yet if the speaker at his podium apostrophizes the figures in that history it is only as they reside in his memory It is this which dictates the use of the podium It locates Ben in a separate space and isolates that space from the world of the drama on stage The speaker has an agenda which centers upon his own exoneration, his own salvation The events which unfold upon the stage will not at all times support him The audience may perhaps be also a jury And now we can begin As the mathematician Gauss said to his contemporaries Go forward and faith will come to youThe play deals with themes like death, purpose, loss, pride, family, self destruction and redemption, with which readers of McCarthy s other works will be familiar These central ideas are elusive enough that they can be contemplated, but not cleanly resolved at the play s completion


  3. Wayne Barrett Wayne Barrett says:

    I have been so desperate for McCarthy s work that, having read all his novels, I am now reading his plays The Stonemason is another powerful piece by Cormack telling the story of 4 generations of family members dwelling and working together and their eventual decline and loss Starting with Pawpa, the 102 year old patriarch and cornerstone of the family, the family structure slowly crumbles, leaving us with a picture of humanity like only McCarthy can portray The man is 84, so I don t know if I have been so desperate for McCarthy s work that, having read all his novels, I am now reading his plays The Stonemason is another powerful piece by Cormack telling the story of 4 generations of family members dwelling and working together and their eventual decline and loss Starting with Pawpa, the 102 year old patriarch and cornerstone of the family, the family structure slowly crumbles, leaving us with a picture of humanity like only McCarthy can portray The man is 84, so I don t know if he will be publishing anyI will surely miss his work


  4. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    A beautiful play about four generations of family, stones, masonry, God, pain and suffering.


  5. Steven Gilbert Steven Gilbert says:

    Made me wish I worked with my hands and not a keyboard That s the beauty of a book It can change even the idea you have of yourself.


  6. Cody Cody says:

    Maybe it s just because of my health, but this really worked for me It is a rather lovely story that I only wish had been novelized rather than given the play treatment One left a screenplay for complete o rama of the Mac The play has a guileless core and a sweetness to it that is hard to not admire Written before McCarthy went Full Cowboy, this belongs to the Suttree side of the corpus Skip The Sunset Limited and proceed directly here.Now can I get a show of hands in agreement that Cor Maybe it s just because of my health, but this really worked for me It is a rather lovely story that I only wish had been novelized rather than given the play treatment One left a screenplay for complete o rama of the Mac The play has a guileless core and a sweetness to it that is hard to not admire Written before McCarthy went Full Cowboy, this belongs to the Suttree side of the corpus Skip The Sunset Limited and proceed directly here.Now can I get a show of hands in agreement that Cormac writes better of the South than the Southwest Okay, I think that s every single one of you Friends forever


  7. Evan Leach Evan Leach says:

    This play focuses on an African American family living in Louisville in the 1970 s The emphasis is on the relationship between a young man Ben and his grandfather, a master stonemason This is a quiet, contemplative work, with much of the action occurring offscreen as Ben sits quietly in the family kitchen, thinking or talking with relatives.According to Wikipedia, this play is rarely performed, and I don t necessarily find that surprising I m not quite sure how it would work as a performanc This play focuses on an African American family living in Louisville in the 1970 s The emphasis is on the relationship between a young man Ben and his grandfather, a master stonemason This is a quiet, contemplative work, with much of the action occurring offscreen as Ben sits quietly in the family kitchen, thinking or talking with relatives.According to Wikipedia, this play is rarely performed, and I don t necessarily find that surprising I m not quite sure how it would work as a performance piece, with its slow, easy pace and McCarthy s occasionally biblical dialogue But on the page, I found this to be a peaceful, almost meditative play that came across as timeless rather than dull thanks to the author s gifts with language and dialogue McCarthy fans will find plenty to enjoy in this short work 4.0 stars, recommended


  8. Cymru Roberts Cymru Roberts says:

    I didn t set out to make 2020 the year or re reading McCarthy I picked up No Country again after about ten years and read it for a book club, and while at the library I saw his plays and screenplays that for some crazy reason I had never read before I don t know why I had neglected them for so long, having read everything else by the man, and I see now the error of relegating them to minor works Of his plays for screen or stage The Stonemason is by far the best, worthy of any of the best of I didn t set out to make 2020 the year or re reading McCarthy I picked up No Country again after about ten years and read it for a book club, and while at the library I saw his plays and screenplays that for some crazy reason I had never read before I don t know why I had neglected them for so long, having read everything else by the man, and I see now the error of relegating them to minor works Of his plays for screen or stage The Stonemason is by far the best, worthy of any of the best of his novels, and strangely positive when compared to No Country, written thirteen years later, and especially The Evening Redness in the West, the best and darkest of his books.Theodicy is the primary theme of Cormac s oeuvre as I see it It is not merely a question of God s existence in his novels and plays, because God definitely exists to McCarthy, but rather adaunting question of whether God is good Most of us, I think it s safe to assume, rarely question whether God is good or evil For today s world it is a question of God or no god Atheist or not, we can easily admit the existence of evil, but the thought that a God who is real and controls everything could Himself be evil is simply too much It is the ultimate contrarian point of view in our age of the internet troll and social media it is bound to be extremely unpopular I think this is why McCarthy s writing often comes off a intensely bleak and dark because he actually entertains the notion of an evil God He s not asking you to simply believe, but positing the idea of something no one would want to believe And his argument is believable. Judge Holden is the most obvious representative of this position, with Chigurh a dutiful lieutenant,of an acolyte to the Judge s dark principles rather than the embodiment of the awesome power of Blood reckoning Judge Holden assumes Comparisons to Satan have been made in regards to both characters, but they don t seem satanic to me, at least not in our contemporary notion of the devil that of a trickster demon tempting people away from truth and leading them to ruin through their own iniquity Judge Holden wouldn t condescend to tempt one away from the truth, he believes and is terrifyingly convincing that he is the Truth This is McCarthy saying that the ordering of the world, that is, Nature at its fundamental workings, is evil, or at least bent on blood and death and endless violence Murder makes the world go round, not Love, according to the Judge, and the whole book is a testament to this belief enacted in concrete example But does Cormac really believe this A trickier question Blood Meridian tends to wash away the rest of McCarthy, unsurprisingly so Reading passages from it next to No Country it barely seems like the same writer is at work, so different is the prose style and scope The Stonemason comes ten years after Meridian, in between the two, and this chronology serves as an interesting track of McCarthy s central spiritual debate The Telfair family of stonemasons Papaw and Benny in particular demonstrate a counterforce to Judge Holden s view The sacred rite of non honorary masonry offers an antidote to the view of Nature as evil, because it holds that one s continued devotion to the Craft can outlast any dark truths the world can muster The world is a continual source of iniquity, fine, but that doesn t excuse us from the Work In the Work is the path to the divine spark or pneuma, within us all, the fire within the rock that the two Telfair men hold sacred This belief is every bit as actual, real, and concrete forgive the pun as any gunpowder the Judge can conjure Where the Judge takes the means to kill from the rock, the stonemasons build houses that can last a thousand years Where does Cormac stand on the issue I see that same spark in even in Meridian, in The Kid, who despite his born insensitivity and natural talent for Judge Holden s world still has an equally inate moral questioning inside him, what the Judge calls a flaw in the fabric of his heart, but here the judge is mistaken The man of Meridian s epilogue ACHTUNG this is easy to miss There is a page of the book after it says THE END who makes his way along the earth by means of a series of wholes stamped into the ground, who strikes fire in the hole and draws out his steel, is another enigmatic allusion that the Kid s flaw is no mistake, but proof of something else a counterforce. If this be true, that McCarthy can present such a convincing argument for the triumph of divine evil as he does in the character of the Judge, and yet still offer a spark of hope, that within the evil workings of the world an eternal flame cannot be excluded, might be the most optimistic statement any writer could make.Papaw Telfair is that man striking fire in the whole and drawing out the divine spark by means of his devotion to the Craft As a side note, that the protagonists are black as all characters are in the play I think summarily ends the question of whether McCarthy might be a racist for his use of the n word He clearly has a great respect for African Americans, as is evident in The Sunset Limited as well The appreciation extends to their humanity, to seeing the divine ray of Good inside them, and this can be applied to people of any color


  9. Jeremy Jeremy says:

    In spite of the rich prose style and the usually violent content which are the bread and butter of his novels, McCarthy can actually write a pretty decent play And of all things, a play about a working class african american family The characters aren t the deepest, but he has a good sense of how they are linked to and beholden to each other And in Ben he continues to explore something that comes upin his early novels, namely, the triumphs and failures of different generations of Americ In spite of the rich prose style and the usually violent content which are the bread and butter of his novels, McCarthy can actually write a pretty decent play And of all things, a play about a working class african american family The characters aren t the deepest, but he has a good sense of how they are linked to and beholden to each other And in Ben he continues to explore something that comes upin his early novels, namely, the triumphs and failures of different generations of Americans to communicate across an increasingly wide cultural historical divide This could almost be an entry in August Wilson s Pittsburgh cycle


  10. Edwin Arnaudin Edwin Arnaudin says:

    A powerful play of the black experience that belongs in the same conversation as A Raisin in the Sun and Fences McCarthy s powerful language is on full display here with no epic descriptions in which to hide, and it succeeds masterfully Ben is a tragic character, one of those idealistic good guys who thinks he can help everyone yet winds up arguably doingharm His grandfather, Papaw Pap paw is a fascinating man Ben heeding his wisdom and both Big Ben and Soldier ignoring it makes for A powerful play of the black experience that belongs in the same conversation as A Raisin in the Sun and Fences McCarthy s powerful language is on full display here with no epic descriptions in which to hide, and it succeeds masterfully Ben is a tragic character, one of those idealistic good guys who thinks he can help everyone yet winds up arguably doingharm His grandfather, Papaw Pap paw is a fascinating man Ben heeding his wisdom and both Big Ben and Soldier ignoring it makes for compelling drama, as do Ben s podium sermons, which border on pretentiousness yet are far too interesting and compassionate to fall into that abyss The plot itself doesn t pack an abundance of wow moments and some scenes feel far too short, but I d love to see the play performed and am curious about its performance history