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Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

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Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into a ni Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.


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Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into a ni Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

30 review for Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hamish

    The man finished the book. He closed the pages tightly together then put one foot on the floor then the other then used his hands to push himself up out of the chair and then put one foot in front of the other until he had walked all the way to the book shelf and then put the book on the book shelf. The deer walked in. The man whirled around and fired once with his pistol and the brains of the deer went flying out the back of its head and painted the wall a color dark red like blood. The man sat The man finished the book. He closed the pages tightly together then put one foot on the floor then the other then used his hands to push himself up out of the chair and then put one foot in front of the other until he had walked all the way to the book shelf and then put the book on the book shelf. The deer walked in. The man whirled around and fired once with his pistol and the brains of the deer went flying out the back of its head and painted the wall a color dark red like blood. The man sat down again like a man sitting down. I didn't really like the book, said the dead deer. I reckon I was pretty conflicted, replied the man grimly. His writing style is pretty problematic. I reckon his style is perty silly, he just strings a bunch of them declarative statements together, like 'the man did this then the man did that etc", but they don't paint no picture, they're done totally unevocative of anything. I reckon it don't take no skill to just state in excessive detail what someone is doing. It takes artistic skill to say it in a way that done bring it to life for the reader, and he don't done really do that. I reckon it's some sub-Hemingway shit he's doing. It's not all bad though. I reckon some some of the images t'were pretty powerful. And the judge is a memorable character. I reckon he's the only one though. All the rest of them there charac'ers ain't real memorable, like he done put no effort into 'em 'cause he spent all his time on the judge. And that there whole novel was all...whatdjacallit, structureless and stuff. And real repetitiv' too. I read that he doesn't see why people like Proust and James because he thinks all novels should be about life and death things. I reckon that's 'cause he's too obsessed with subject matter and not enough with style and art. The dead deer nodded and walked out. The man slowly got up again by putting one foot then the other on the floor and then used his hands to push himself up out of the chair. He fixed himself a drink and resolved not to take anymore book recommendations from Harold Bloom.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is unquestionably the most violent novel I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the best. For those who would consider that a turn-off, I offer this caveat: For the overwhelming majority of fiction that involves a lot of violence, the violence itself is an act of masturbation representing either the author’s dark impulse or, perhaps worse, pandering to the reader’s similar revenge fantasies (this might explain why the majority of Blood Meridian fans I know personally are Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is unquestionably the most violent novel I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the best. For those who would consider that a turn-off, I offer this caveat: For the overwhelming majority of fiction that involves a lot of violence, the violence itself is an act of masturbation representing either the author’s dark impulse or, perhaps worse, pandering to the reader’s similar revenge fantasies (this might explain why the majority of Blood Meridian fans I know personally are men, where as the majority of those who’ve told me they were unable to finish it are women). Don’t get me wrong, the violence in Blood Meridian is gratuitous. It’s both mentally and emotionally exhausting, even in a day and age where television and movies have numbed us to such things. But unlike, say, the movie 300, the violence serves a purpose – in fact the gratuitousness itself serves a purpose. Like how the long, drawn out bulk of Moby Dick exists to make the reader feel the numbingly eventless life of a whaling vessel before it reaches its climactic destination (McCarthy is frequently compared to Melville, btw), Blood Meridian exists to break the reader’s spirit. Like the mercenaries the narrative follows, the nonstop onslaught of cruelty after cruelty makes us jaded. The story brings us to what we think is a peak of inhumanity that seems impossible to exceed, and just as we stop to lick our wounds, an even more perverse cruelty emerges. The bile that reaches the tip of our tongue at reading of a tree strewn with dead infants hung by their jaws at the beginning of the book (a scene often sited to me as the point many readers stop) becomes almost a casual passiveness when a character is beheaded later on. We become one of these dead-eyed cowboys riding into town covered head-to-toe in dried blood and gristle. The story is based on My Confession, the questionably authentic autobiography of Civil War Commander Samuel Chamberlain, which recounts his youth with the notorious Glanton Gang – a group of American mercenaries hired by the Mexican government to slaughter Native Americans. Whether or not Chamberlain’s tale is true only adds to the mythic quality – exemplified by the character of Judge Holden. Blood Meridian is really The Judge’s story. He is larger than life. Over seven feet tall, corpulent, hairless, albino, described as having an infant-like face and preternaturally intelligent. He is a murderer, child killer, pedophile and genocidal sociopath. But the question that plagues anyone who reads the book is – who is he really? The easiest conclusion is that he is the devil, or some other demon. His joyous evil and fiddle-playing are enough clues to come to that, but more controversial (and less popular) is the idea that he is actually the wrathful God of an uncaring universe. He’s called THE Judge, after all. He spends a great deal of time illustrating new discoveries – be it an Indian vase or petroglyph – only to destroy it when finished. It’s commented that he seems intent on “cataloging all creation”. When a fellow mercenary asks why he does it, he smiles and cryptically replies “That which exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” The fact that the book is rife with biblical imagery implies that he is more than a mere symbol of man’s inhumanity to man (which is not to say that the devil isn’t), but when the book ends ( SPOILER ALERT ) and our protagonist’s body is found shoved into a commode, the townsfolk stand staring into the darkened doorway of the latrine, eerily mirroring the apostles staring into empty crypt after the resurrection. But here, there is no ascension; no salvation offered. Only the Judge, who dances to the closing lines, “He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Spilled...emptied...wrung out…soul-ripped...that pretty accurately sums up my emotional composition after finishing this singular work of art. Ironically, I’m sure I only absorbed about 10% of the “message” McCarthy was conveying in this epic exposition on war, violence and man’s affinity for both. Still, even with my imperfect comprehension, I was shaken enough by the experience that, though I finished the book days ago, I’m just now at the point where I can revisit the jumble in my head en Spilled...emptied...wrung out…soul-ripped...that pretty accurately sums up my emotional composition after finishing this singular work of art. Ironically, I’m sure I only absorbed about 10% of the “message” McCarthy was conveying in this epic exposition on war, violence and man’s affinity for both. Still, even with my imperfect comprehension, I was shaken enough by the experience that, though I finished the book days ago, I’m just now at the point where I can revisit the jumble in my head enough to sort through how I feel. One feeling I have is that Cormac McCarthy is word-smithing sorcerer and a genius of devious subversion. He's taken the most romanticized genre in American literature, the Western, and savagely torn off its leathery, sun-weathered skin in aid of showing an unflinching, unparalleled depiction of man at his most brutal and most violent. This is man as “world-devourer.” Oddly enough, in subverting the Western motif, McCarthy may have written its ultimate example. I tend to agree with Harold Bloom’s assessment when he says, “It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have. I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it… it essentially closes out the tradition.” Well said, Mr. Bloom. PLOT SUMMARY/CHARACTERS: Based, at least partially, on real life events, the story is set around 1850, immediately after the end of the Mexican-American War, and takes place in the “borderlands” between the two countries that stretches from Texas to California. The narrative follows a young teenager, known only as “the kid,” who runs away from his father in Tennessee after his mother dies. See the child… He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man. After engaging in a number of notably violent occupations (including bison hunter/skinner and as a soldier in an “irregular” army borderland goon squad), the kid eventually hooks up with a group of scalphunters led by John Glanton (historically known as the Glanton Gang). The rest of the story follows the kid and his exploits with the Glanton Gang as they cut a swatch of violence across the borderlands that is unlike anything you are likely to have read about before. However, the narrative of the kid and the Glanton Gang are simply there to give McCarthy’s story a framework to work through, a context. This is not a novel about the history of the borderlands or the atrocities that were committed there. That is incidental to its purpose. McCarthy uses the lawlessness and extreme carnage of the period and the horrific events that transpire as a microcosm to explore the nature of war, violence and man’s unrivaled capacity for unmitigated depravity. Not a beautiful subject…but soooooooo beautifully done. This brings me to Judge Holden (aka “the Judge”), one of the most memorable literary figures I have ever come across. He's also among the most amoral, depraved, sadistic, and remorselessly cruel individuals I have encountered in my reading. In the character of the Judge, McCarthy has distilled and personified the ultimate expression of war and violence. He is a manifestation of pure evil, a spokesman for the belief that war is man’s calling and his purest state is to be an instrument for violence. Fun guy huh? The Judge's philosophy is that "War is god," man’s purpose is to be its ultimate practitioner and any attempts to civilize or reform this aspect of man are doomed to failure. “Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn.” He preaches that only by embracing and celebrating man’s capacity for violence can man attain his true potential. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? … This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons. The Judge is described as huge, completely hairless and very pale. He speaks multiple languages, is well-versed in classic literature and has extensive knowledge of many of the natural sciences. Throughout the story, the Judge is shown as almost “otherworldly.” He is depicted accomplishing seemingly miraculous deeds and having “special” insight into events. He appears not to age despite being seen over a span of 30+ years. In addition, everyone who rides with him recalls “seeing the Judge” earlier in their life (and always at a time of great violence). I came to see him as the “Muse of War and Violence.” Here is a great description from the end of the book where the kid muses on where the Judge came from: A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents, he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing. Whatever the Judge’s true nature, he is singularly compelling. THE WRITING: One quality of McCarthy’s writing that amazes me is that it is both fire and ice for the soul. His unique style combines both (i) sparse, but deeply layered prose similar to Hemingway (i.e., short, seemingly straight-forward sentences that upon further inspection can mulch up your insides) with (ii) flowery “image heavy” descriptions that are almost Shakespearean in their melodrama. The combination can be devastating and it's why I am so sure I only absorbed a fraction of what McCarthy was saying on the first read. Almost every sentence, if you go back and re-read it can be chewed more slowly to increase the amount the amount meaning and flavor released. This is the kind of book I think you should read once and then subsequently re-read a chapter at a time over a much longer period. At least that was my impression. Much of Blood Meridian is written from a dream-like yet “hyper alert” state of consciousness. No, not dream-like, more like nightmarish as McCarthy constantly transforms the settings into aspects that call to mind classical visions of hell. Here are a just a few quick examples I picked out: They rode through a region where iron will not rust nor tin varnish. The ribbed frames of dead cattle under their patches of dried hide lay like the ruins of primitive boats upturned upon that shoreless void and they passed lurid and austere the black and desiccated shapes of horses and mules that travelers had stood afoot. These parched beasts had died with their necks stretched in agony in the sand and now upright and blind and lurching askew with scraps of blackened leather from the fretwork of their ribs they leaned with their long mouths howling after the endless tandem suns that passed above them. The riders rode on. I love that last sentence, “The riders road on.” It’s just so Hemingway. Here’s another: On the day following they crossed the malpais afoot, leading the horses upon a lakebed of lava all cracked and reddish black like a pan of dried blood, threading those badlands of dark amber glass like the remnants of some dim legion scrabbling up out of a land accursed, shouldering the little cart over the rifts and ledges, the idiot clinging to the bars and calling hoarsely after the sun like some queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates. CONCLUSION: In sum, a truly sublime experience. After reading No Country for Old Men, I was not sure that McCarthy would ever be able to floor me like he did in that book. I was mistaken. Round two with McCarthy has found me once again knocked to the canvas with my brain reeling. I'd be hard-pressed to choose a winner between the two, but this one definitely has become the newest addition to my list of all time favorites. 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Breathless. Unique. Brutal. There are many words that could be used to describe Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. For me, this was my second time through and I liked it far better than my first reading. Judge Holden, John Job Glanton, Toadvine, and the "kid" are all fantastic characters. I shudder to think that the horrors visited upon the Indians and Mexicans and homesteaders were all based on fact. The apocalypse described in The Road is not too far a cry from the hellish country on the US-Me Breathless. Unique. Brutal. There are many words that could be used to describe Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. For me, this was my second time through and I liked it far better than my first reading. Judge Holden, John Job Glanton, Toadvine, and the "kid" are all fantastic characters. I shudder to think that the horrors visited upon the Indians and Mexicans and homesteaders were all based on fact. The apocalypse described in The Road is not too far a cry from the hellish country on the US-Mexico border (which has not really changed if we exchange the scalper mercenaries for the drug cartels) and yet the descriptions and language of Blood Meridian is more beautiful to me. The symbolism here is quite strong and one wonders whether the author is a nihilist like his characters or if there is really some redeeming quality buried deep inside man...a true American masterpiece. I would read The Border Trilogy after finishing Blood Meridien. I have not tried Suttree or Child of God, but they would have a hard time to top this one!

  5. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    This is Jane Austen antimatter. Trying to convey how this was so different to anything I've ever read, it occurred to me that it was like a huge black vortex that would suck early nineteenth century marriage plot novels into the void. It's the complete obverse of sweet girlie stuff: no lurve, no irony (I wonder if Cormac McCarthy has a humour mode? If he does, he certainly wasn't in it writing this), no insightful self-discovery or examination of the human heart. No, this is bleak and bloody, go This is Jane Austen antimatter. Trying to convey how this was so different to anything I've ever read, it occurred to me that it was like a huge black vortex that would suck early nineteenth century marriage plot novels into the void. It's the complete obverse of sweet girlie stuff: no lurve, no irony (I wonder if Cormac McCarthy has a humour mode? If he does, he certainly wasn't in it writing this), no insightful self-discovery or examination of the human heart. No, this is bleak and bloody, gory and grisly, there are bludgeonings and beheadings, shootings and stabbings and skewerings and scalpings, and piles and piles and piles of corpses - as a film, I wouldn't have been able to stand it. How could I stand it here? Well, it was usually over pretty quickly. He doesn't dwell long and lovingly on every detail: radical and dramatic images burn on the mind's eye, but no prurient poking and puddling. Nasty, brutish and short. Stomach churning, but not for too long. Then there is little in the way of plot. Characters? Bad, worse, or imbecile. So what pleasures does it afford, pleasures that can compensate for the horror? Or is it the horror that becomes pleasurable? Yes, that is the worrying thing - obviously the language is a wonder and can make up for much, but there is a very troubling phenomenon. The reader begins to take on the reasoning of the charismatic, satanic Judge Holden: this is a game in which the stake is life itself. There is only life or death, nothing else. And the Glanton gang is so evil that we can take joy in their annihilation, and the kid is the only one who has shown the slightest faint scruple when it came to slaughtering, so we hope for his survival and follow keenly his fight for life. And did I mention the language? Majestic, portentous, weighty, reminiscent of Milton and Blake and the Bible. Sparse, terse dialogue. Sumptuous description. A fearless novel that shocks and troubles, especially when you realise that this is based on real events on the Texas borderlands in 1848-51. "... and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    After reading Blood Meridian, I may never view a western film the same way again. To be certain, it is a masterpiece, a rare and unique work of literature that rises above classification and genre. And to be certain, McCarthy must be viewed as a great American writer, one of the greatest in our time. That having been said, this book is not for everyone; it is painfully brutal, violent at it's heart. McCarthy's primitive writing style emphasizes this primal, bloody landscape like a Jonathon Edwar After reading Blood Meridian, I may never view a western film the same way again. To be certain, it is a masterpiece, a rare and unique work of literature that rises above classification and genre. And to be certain, McCarthy must be viewed as a great American writer, one of the greatest in our time. That having been said, this book is not for everyone; it is painfully brutal, violent at it's heart. McCarthy's primitive writing style emphasizes this primal, bloody landscape like a Jonathon Edwards sermon. Glanton and Judge Holden, based upon actual persons, have been written as archetypal villains. The Judge may be a composite of Mephistopheles and Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, and perhaps even Richard III. Strong, powerful book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    There are two ways to evaluate a book, as far as my unlearned mind can concoct at the moment. Stylish literary flourishes sometimes cloud our judgment when it comes to evaluating the plot itself, which is, after all, the reason why the book exists. This book is well written. If I'm a 11th grader, and I need to do a book report, I'm drooling over the blatant symbolism dripping from each page. The scene is set admirably, though the repetitive nature of our brave hero's wanderings (at least it's wit There are two ways to evaluate a book, as far as my unlearned mind can concoct at the moment. Stylish literary flourishes sometimes cloud our judgment when it comes to evaluating the plot itself, which is, after all, the reason why the book exists. This book is well written. If I'm a 11th grader, and I need to do a book report, I'm drooling over the blatant symbolism dripping from each page. The scene is set admirably, though the repetitive nature of our brave hero's wanderings (at least it's with symbolic reason) lead to a paucity in novel adjectives by the 13th desert crossing. There are only so many ways one can say that it's hot, dry and empty. And dry. Boy, that sun sure is strong. I'm there, I'm with you, all right, it sucks around here, phew, the sun's really beating down today. And there are a lot of bones. Dead things abound, OK, I get it. Then there's the story line. Explain to me again why I'm interested in the wanton marauding of a band of depraved demons? So, we enjoy the dashing of infants into rocks because of the supposed literary merits of the work? We can bash/splatter/expose brains of whatever, happen upon crucified corpses, and ignore any modicum of human decency because the book is about something deeper? But, you say (and without quotes you say it), that's what it was like. Oh yeah? It was like that? Says who? Why do you want to believe that it was like that? As bad as humankind is, our reality is not that despicable, though our souls may be. Why do we have to play follow the leader behind our impish pied piper, pretending an enlightened understanding of some grandiose truth, while all we really do is sate our own personal blood lusts? I wonder. By the way, if neglecting quotation marks somehow makes the book classier, why not just go all out and remove spaces between words. You better believe I won't be speed reading the repetitive descriptions of how tired everyone is if there aren't any spaces. Why stop there, periods are for two bit hacks too. You're not a real author until you slaughter a few hundred non-innocents (nay, no one is innocent) while neglecting a basic courtesy to the reader. Who knows, I don't speak Spanish, maybe I'm just missing the point entirely. How do you say "flayed skin" in Spanish?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Cormac McCarthy's west of absolutes is a wonder to behold. Villainous attacks on people devoid a home, desecration of the westland, listings of all things in the majestic, transitory landscape like observations by Darwin at the Galapagos in lush (sometimes horrific) detail, murky human psyches, no dialogue, and especially that campfire philosophy by which anyone can find some sort of meaning in their modern lives (especially if you're fortunate enough to inhabit the places which Mr. McCarthy des Cormac McCarthy's west of absolutes is a wonder to behold. Villainous attacks on people devoid a home, desecration of the westland, listings of all things in the majestic, transitory landscape like observations by Darwin at the Galapagos in lush (sometimes horrific) detail, murky human psyches, no dialogue, and especially that campfire philosophy by which anyone can find some sort of meaning in their modern lives (especially if you're fortunate enough to inhabit the places which Mr. McCarthy describes!)... are all the ingredients of a McCarthy book & the way this one is polished, symbolic & graphic makes it my favorite McCarthy book by far. The apocalyptic landscape of "The Road" is here, but it's thankfully not as literal as that novel about human annihilation after cataclysm. If you were shocked by the cannibals eating babies in that one... well, you ain't seen nothin'. This ultraviolent account is well researched, well versed, poetic. The "Blood Meridian" and the act of scalping are one: you simply lose most of your head as you look at the very promise the west has (had) to offer. My favorite line: "A lamb lost in the mountains cries. Sometimes comes the mother. Sometimes comes the wolf..." Lawlessness and betrayal reigns supreme. Apache attacks & famine are omnipresent; & it is this blood-thirst that shocks the reader and at once impels him to continue reading to see what befalls the group of barbarians & sinners next.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Annet

    Brutal and Poetic at the same time...Just changed it to a five star, what the h...... This book is monumental. Seems like a contradiction, brutal and poetic, but somehow it works. The story is bleak, dark, bloody but also filled with beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the desert, the people in the book. The colorful Judge is some character. Tough book, not sure I took it all in and had to take some breaks during the read.... but hey, it's Cormac McCarthy...a grand writer he is. It was ev Brutal and Poetic at the same time...Just changed it to a five star, what the h...... This book is monumental. Seems like a contradiction, brutal and poetic, but somehow it works. The story is bleak, dark, bloody but also filled with beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the desert, the people in the book. The colorful Judge is some character. Tough book, not sure I took it all in and had to take some breaks during the read.... but hey, it's Cormac McCarthy...a grand writer he is. It was evening of the following day when they entered San Diego. The expriest turned off to find them a doctor but the kid wandered on through the raw mud streets and out pas the houses of hide in their rows and across the gravel strand to the beach... Loose strands of ambercolored kelp lay in a rubbery wrack at the tideline. A dead seal. Beyond the inner bay part of a reef in a thin line like something foundered there on which the sea was teething. He squatted in the sand and watched the sun on the hammered face of the water. Out there island clouds emplaned upon a salmon colored othersea. Seafowl in silhouette. Downshore the dull surf boomed. There was a horse standing there staring out upon the darkening waters and a young colt that cavorted and trotted off and came back.... Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, we follow and witness the grim and bloody coming of age of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are murdered and the market for scalps is thriving... They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great read phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them. The shadows of the smallest stones lay like pencil lines across the sand and the shapes of the men and their mounts advanced elongate before them like strands of the night from which they'd ridden, like tentacles to bind them to the darkness yet to come. They rode with their heads down, faceless under their hats, like an army asleep on the march. By midmorning another man had died and they lifted him from the wagon where he'd stained the sacks he'd lain among and buried him also and road on....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samadrita

    The wiki page for 'manifest destiny' has a picture of a painting by John Gast depicting an angelic figure (personification of America) purposefully drifting towards the west, her pristine white robes and blonde curls billowing in the breeze, a book nestled in the crook of her arm. Airborne, she awakens stretches of barren, craggy terrain to the magical touch of modernization. The landscapes she leaves behind are dotted by shipyards and railways and telegraph wires strung on poles but to her left The wiki page for 'manifest destiny' has a picture of a painting by John Gast depicting an angelic figure (personification of America) purposefully drifting towards the west, her pristine white robes and blonde curls billowing in the breeze, a book nestled in the crook of her arm. Airborne, she awakens stretches of barren, craggy terrain to the magical touch of modernization. The landscapes she leaves behind are dotted by shipyards and railways and telegraph wires strung on poles but to her left the canvas shows a murky abyss - skies darkened by smoke from volcanic eruptions and fleeing native Americans gazing up at the floating angel in alarm. Whenever I think of 'Blood Meridian' from now on, I hope my mind conjures up this same image not because both painting and novel provide perspectives, albeit contrary, on America's ambitious mid 19th century pursuit of extending its frontiers. But because Cormac McCarthy destroys this neat little piece of Imperialist propaganda so completely and irredeemably in his masterpiece, that all viewings of the image henceforth will merely serve to magnify the irony of this representation. If John Gast's visualized panorama seeks to establish the legitimacy of the American Dream, vindicates the Godgiven right of determining the foundations of civilization, then McCarthy's vision of 'American Progress' brutally mocks the same and depicts the wild west as a lawless hunting ground submerged in a moral vaccuum. Here, there is no line of distinction between predator and prey. Heads are scalped, entrails ripped out, limbs dismembered, ears chopped off as trophies of war. Apaches, Mexicans, Caucasian men, women and children are skewered, bludgeoned, crucified and raped alike and so routinely and relentlessly that after a while the identities of victim and perpetrator blur into each other and only a dim awareness of any moral consideration remains at the periphery of our consciousness. The barrel of the gun and the sharpness of the blade speak in the universal language of might over right and all humanly attributes are silenced into submission. The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs. There are no protagonists here. Only creatures of instinct shambling along sun-scorched sand dunes, mesas and buttes, pueblos and haciendas, gravel reefs and dusty chaparrals, oblivious of the passage of time or the context of their grotesque exploits, unhesitatingly leaving a trail of mutilated corpses, carcasses and torched Indian villages in their wake. Jaded as one becomes from all the savagery, one does occasionally feel some measure of empathy for 'the kid' but then he vanishes often among the featureless, faceless individuals of Glanton's gang of scalp-hunters as they embark on a destination-less journey across the cruel, hostile terrain of the US-Mexican borderlands. In course of their blood-soaked, gory quest which McCarthy chronicles in exquisite turns of phrase, the identities of all the members of the band fuse together to symbolize something much more profound and terrible to comprehend all at once - the primeval human affinity for bloodshed which devours all distinctness of personality. Only the ageless Judge Holden towers over the other characters as the Devil's advocate with his lofty oratory on the primacy of war and his unabashed exhibitionism and seeming invincibility. ...war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one's will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god. In the last few pages when the Kid and the Judge parley in a sort of face off, I finally came to realize the real reason why the former is deprived of his centrality in the plot and relegated to the status of a mute presence in the background. As the eternal representative of the debilitating voice of morality which is always drowned out by fiercer cries for carnage, the Kid's internal sense of right and wrong, too, fails to resist the evil within. The Devil's cogent arguments, no matter how preposterous at times, negate all sporadic pricks of conscience. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of the night. Needless to say, this is the grim rationale that underpins all the interminable slaughter. And such a solemn message leaves one with a lingering suspicion that if we peeled away the glossy veneer of democracy, modernity and the daily grind of mechanistic endeavours and reduced any society of humans to its bare bones, McCarthy's apocalyptic vision of an amoral world is the only thing that might remain - a perpetual heart of darkness. A conjecture as staggering in its enormity as it is bone-chilling. Perhaps, a conjecture with a modicum of truth to it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    J. Kent Messum

    Quite possibly the most chilling and horrifying book ever written, 'Blood Meridian' is a unnerving glimpse of humanity at its worst during one of the most savage periods in American history. McCarthy pulls back the curtain to reveal the unforgivable evils and trespasses our species made all too often and all too easily in a new world, a novel that shows us the true price we paid in bodies and blood for the expansion of the 'Wild West'. Unlike some of Cormac's other work, 'Blood Meridian' is not Quite possibly the most chilling and horrifying book ever written, 'Blood Meridian' is a unnerving glimpse of humanity at its worst during one of the most savage periods in American history. McCarthy pulls back the curtain to reveal the unforgivable evils and trespasses our species made all too often and all too easily in a new world, a novel that shows us the true price we paid in bodies and blood for the expansion of the 'Wild West'. Unlike some of Cormac's other work, 'Blood Meridian' is not a particularly easy read for either style or subject matter. If your want to experience the work of this true literary master, I certainly wouldn't start with this book (Try 'The Road', or 'No Country For Old Men' to get your feet wet). Generally, I only advocate that people read well-written work that is fluid, pacey, and has total command of the language. But there are a handful of exceptions where I honestly believe that a good deal of effort is also required from the reader. 'Blood Meridian' is one such book, written on its own terms by an author who plays by his own rules. Sometimes you will have to work to get through the pages, but it is rewarding in ways you might not anticipate. The brutality in this book is harrowing, and also true of the time. There have been countless analyses of it, so I won't get into the many themes, messages, and interpretations it offers. I will say that it does fall under the category of 'required reading' for everyone. However, it must be said that this book was not written for anyone's enjoyment. It wasn't written for entertainment. It was written to open your eyes to a hell on earth that humans willingly created, to open your ears to the beating of black hearts. If this book doesn't shake your faith in the human race, then nothing will. *This book was one of my '10 Books That Stuck With Me' piece. Check out my other selections: http://www.jkentmessum.com/10-books-s...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    In the old west, a young man falls in with a bad crowd, scalphunters, and the worst of them all, the judge. It's not often when I can't figure out how to summarize a book. Not only does Blood Meridian fall into this category, I'm also struggling with trying to formulate my thoughts about it. I'm sure it's one of those big important books that has themes and things of that nature. It seems apocalyptic at times, with the judge showing the kid the horrors of the world, kind of like the devil and Jes In the old west, a young man falls in with a bad crowd, scalphunters, and the worst of them all, the judge. It's not often when I can't figure out how to summarize a book. Not only does Blood Meridian fall into this category, I'm also struggling with trying to formulate my thoughts about it. I'm sure it's one of those big important books that has themes and things of that nature. It seems apocalyptic at times, with the judge showing the kid the horrors of the world, kind of like the devil and Jesus in the desert. Cormac McCarthy's prose is simple but powerful. It also feels really smooth, like he barely had to work at it at all to get it on the page. It has an almost Biblical feel to it. Once the kid hooks up with the judge and the Glantons, things get worse and worse, like getting kicked in the crotch by progressively more spiky shoes. There were a lot of times during my read of Blood Meridian where I had to stop and digest what I just read. It had a dreamlike, or nightmarish, quality a lot of the time. The judge is by far the most memorable character in the piece. The book really doesn't have much of a plot, just scene after scene of brutal violence. I read a lot of detective stuff but this was one of the most violent books I've ever read. I could only read it for 30-45 minutes at a time before I had to stop and digest. Lastly, what's with the lack of quotation marks? Was McCarthy sexually assaulted by quotation marks while he was a boy scout? Four stars, but not for the squeamish. If you have any amount of squeam in you, you'll be squeaming all over the place in no time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    “War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.” Maybe the power of some books is just how horrible they make you feel. It is said that McCarty's most beautiful and darkest prose occurs in this book. It is also said to be the most evil book written. It isn’t. I can name others, but you won’t want to hear them. What makes this book more evil than others is that you see all of the details of the killings in your mind’s eye. You were t “War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.” Maybe the power of some books is just how horrible they make you feel. It is said that McCarty's most beautiful and darkest prose occurs in this book. It is also said to be the most evil book written. It isn’t. I can name others, but you won’t want to hear them. What makes this book more evil than others is that you see all of the details of the killings in your mind’s eye. You were there when it all happened, and that is how it should be if we really want to know evil. I kept putting this book down, leaving it for days. I just could not make friends with it. Then when reading it I would come upon some of the most haunting prose, and I would think, like others have, that I wanted to read the book again. But most of all, I felt that I was not with the book, and the book was not with me. I hardly knew what was going on. Men gathered on horses and rode the southern borders of Texas and Arizona, maybe even New Mexico, just to find what who they could slaughter, and what they slaughtered were Mexicans and Indians. I saw their scalps being taken, their faces blown off. I saw it all like I had never saw it in any book before. Days went by before I could I pick the book up again, and by this time they were dashing babies against rocks, just like in the old testament, just like the Christians had dashed Indian babies against the rocks during the Indian Removal Act. Just to shut them up. You don't get the bloody details in bible, but McCarthy's gives them to you in detail in the only way that he knows how. And at times I had to look away. I began feeling that there was nothing right about this book except for its prose. What is right about people who have no emotions when killing? And because they had no emotions this book had no emotions except for those that you felt when you read it. And then I made up my mind. I picked up the book and started over from the very beginning, and this time I knew all that was happening. At last I had made friends with it, and I knew that I would read it again, just for its prose. “A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    *Updated, now with an additional McCarthyized section of the Bible, moved up from the comment section.* Here's what I'm thinkin. THE CORMAC MCCARTHY PROJECT Ever since reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I've been considering the possibilities of revisiting the classics and, um, reinterpreting them. Butchering? Yes, you're probably right. Butchering them. That's the right word. Anyway, since Cormac McCarthy has the most distinctive and powerful voice of any modern writer (that I've read recent *Updated, now with an additional McCarthyized section of the Bible, moved up from the comment section.* Here's what I'm thinkin. THE CORMAC MCCARTHY PROJECT Ever since reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I've been considering the possibilities of revisiting the classics and, um, reinterpreting them. Butchering? Yes, you're probably right. Butchering them. That's the right word. Anyway, since Cormac McCarthy has the most distinctive and powerful voice of any modern writer (that I've read recently)(in my opinion), I pose the question: what if Cormac McCarthy were to revisit the classics of the English canon? What if McCarthy had been the author of The Great Gatsby? How would it have ended up? I think this is an important enough question to begin a new writing project, or, at the least, write a Goodreads review pretending I'm going to. First, we have to establish these new versions of the classics will be stylized after McCarthy's Western Novels, starting with Blood Meridian and ending with Cities of the Plain. Characteristics include: 1) No punctuation other than periods and question marks. 2) No indication of who is talking during dialogue, although you can always tell. 3) Poetic descriptions of barren landscapes which often reflect the callous indifference of nature to the plights of humanity. 4) Untranslated Spanish dialogue. 5) No hint of the characters' internal dialogue; all characters are revealed only through action and conversation. 6) Gratuitous and unexpected acts of horrendous violence. 7) During casual conversation, characters frequently say incredibly profound shit. Although there's more to his style than this, we can take this as the most bare-essential aspects of what is necessary to properly "translate" a novel into its McCarthy version. As an example, let's take a certain scene from Pride and Prejudice. How about the one where Lady Catherine is quizzing Elisabeth about whether D'arcy has indeed proposed to her? They're alone, walking in the garden (although in the McCarthy version, they would be walking upon a windswept moor). Here we go: +++++++ Dust clung to their boots and the tall grass shuddered on the frigid wind. A raven perched upon the fallen branch of an elm and watched them with one jet eye. Lady Catherines hands grasped nervously at nothing as she looked across the moor. Young women of unfortunate birth shouldnt attempt to reach beyond their station. What? Don't pretend you don't know of what I speak. Eliza spat and turned away. She walked into the doorway of a church. Inside dozens of bodies lay heaped upon the floor. Blood hard and dried like clay caked upon the stone of the floor. Flies traversed upon the eyelids of a child that stared blankly at Eliza who turned away. Los Muchachos estan muerto. Muerto? Muerto. Si. Eliza brushed her hair back. All of the constrictions you place upon mans actions are nothing to the ineffable stretch of the world which knows that all is war. No system of morality is anything but pretense which the least of gods vile beasts can shatter simply through the act of killing for its survival. Morality holds no water when it stands eye to eye with stark reality. Lady Catherine spat and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Its damn cold. Wait which of us said that? I did. Oh. Alright. I wont promise I would never accept a proposal if I dont think its ever to be given. Nor can I swear as to what I would do in a situation that Ive never known myself to be in. Well arent you a contrary little whore. Lady Catherine spat. Ill not forget how youve treated me this day. Her finger moved closer to the knife that hung at her hip. ++++++ And here's one of the Bible's more memorable passages, McCarthyized: 19:1 From out the dark sky over all Gods reckoning the two drifted like fallenleaves downward as Lot tipped back the widebrimmed hat, rubbing his thumb over stubble and spat on the grounddirt. Raising heavy to his feet and stretching he ambled forward dust raising an etherial plume in the nightair like ghosts of sinners dwelling on the threshold of the dark. the untamed past hovered there in the darkness by Sodom. 19:2 Come in ifn you want. We don't mind sleepin outside. No really I got plenty room. Cmon in. The angels came in bare feet on the packed dirt covered with indescribable years of footprints crisscrossed into an impossible to fathom reckoning of feet stretching back through indescribable years. So many feet and such a dirty floor. 19:3 He cooked bread. They warshed up and ate. 19:4 Out the window shadows encroached from the jet locustridden expanse of Sodom. Figures in stillness, nooses dangling from withered hands and that dust rising like the dead pounding from the other side of eternity trying to return trying to be unforsaken from the temporal purgatory the men dwelt in. Who them men we saw with them white robes. 19:5 Gone home, Jenkins, he said. Not til we know who them fugitives is you harborin. They aint niggers is they. Didn't you see they white robes. They aint no niggers. Lot walked out the house into that humidity the wind like the word of God drifting with threats of retribution and reckoning. Tell you what, men, you better get back on home and mind ya damn business. This aint no affair of yourn. The Willis boy had a strapon fixed to his forehead pointing up accusingly at the heavens an erection of defiance. He wore that collar that said Slave as always. He was danglin handcuffs from his hand like like a hypnotist without a pocketwatch. We just wanna see um. We just wanna meet um. Maybe have a little fun with um. 19:7 Lot spat a wad of nasal discharge loudly upon the earth and glanced back at the house. Tell you what boys. I invited them men into my house and I wont have them mistreated but I got them two good fer nothin daughters. You leave my visitors alone Ill bring them on out. 19:8 Willis nodded, that plastic tusk swaying in the nightair. What fer. Whatever yall find fittin. It aint fer me to say. Just leave my visitors alone. Okay, apparently it's not easy to write in Cormac McCarthy's style without sucking. I suppose the only way THE CORMAC MCCARTHY PROJECT can be effectively carried out is if McCarthy himself were to actually write these translations. So, if anyone runs into Cormac, let him know about this project, and how important it is for him to get to work right away. After all, there are lots of classics. I believe he lives in New Mexico. So, if you're wandering through a dark, dank cave and hear the sounds of typewriter keys pounding away, you've probably found his lair. Approach slowly, and don't make eye contact. I suppose, while I'm at it, I could say something about Blood Meridian. FUCKING AMAZING! I hate giving five star ratings, probably because I'm so curmudgeonly. But, for the third time, McCarthy is making me give him one. I just can't find anything to fault here, and the story is different from any I've ever read before. The writing is amazing, the characters are good (although the Judge fits a certain fiction stereotype, he's a very memorable version of it), and I was startled by the horror of it all . . . until I became numb to it. Which was the intention, or I think it was at any rate. This is the horrifying story of a group who are being paid to hunt down injuns and scalp them. Over time, the bloodlust of the group grows and they begin scalping those they're intended to be saving, and basically everyone they come across. When it comes time to be paid for the scalps, the scalps all look the same anyway. Sothey make tons of money from the indiscriminant slaughter of soldiers, villagers, travelers and everyone else. And, from there, things get uglier. This is all based on historical events, or so I've heard. I haven't researched it enough to know how closely. But, this is a very dark vision of the "wild west," and the blood that was spilled while the land was still wild. If you have the stomach for it, this is an amazing book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Some people say that this is Cormac McCarthy's best work. I don't agree with that, even though I have to say that this is nothing less than an astonishing work of art. This novel deals with the unrelenting brutality of the Glanton gang, an actual historical group of men who scalped and savaged Indians and Mexicans across the American Southwest in the mid 1800s. From the first page you feel like you've entered someone's nightmare. There's no place to hide here from the viciousness, the barrenness, Some people say that this is Cormac McCarthy's best work. I don't agree with that, even though I have to say that this is nothing less than an astonishing work of art. This novel deals with the unrelenting brutality of the Glanton gang, an actual historical group of men who scalped and savaged Indians and Mexicans across the American Southwest in the mid 1800s. From the first page you feel like you've entered someone's nightmare. There's no place to hide here from the viciousness, the barrenness, the moral vacuousness. The violence is over the top. The book is saturated in blood, in murder, one after the next. And it sports a villain that chills you to the bone - The Judge - who, more often than not, is naked, and doing something insanely grotesque, despite his intelligence and ability to wax eloquent. It feels like one long massacre, with no rhyme or reason. At first you think that these men killed out of some kind of political stance on the American-Indian war. Or perhaps they are economically motivated, through looting. But their impetus shows itself to be more arbitrary. It's not the Americans vs. the Indians. One side isn't much better than another. It's the Glanton gang against whoever, whenever. They are a dangerous, twisted bunch with no loyalty or compass. And the reader is also without a compass, in a way. The reader is adrift, along with this band of criminals. The plot is formless. There isn't a protagonist to follow, unless you count "The Kid" who isn't any better or different from the rest of them. There isn't a story, per se, or a destination, or a problem to resolve. The reader serves as witness to this gloom of a world, this river of gore. McCarthy’s world echoes of Old Testament life, in which each person serves as a cog in a brutal story. Only this novel is bereft of a god, or anything to believe in. Some say this epic story is an anti-western. A horror. A scathing indictment of imperialism, of the American "manifest destiny". I'd agree on all those counts, and add that the writing of this book is unlike anything I've read before - completely extraordinary, genius, devastating. But I don't know that it's the best book McCarthy has written. Although I can stand back and say, wow, what a brilliantly written book - and I'm so glad I read it - did I enjoy reading it? Not nearly as much as No Country for Old Men, which was so tightly plotted I got whiplash by how fast I turned the pages. Not nearly as invested and heartbroken as I was reading The Road. Not as beguiled as I was by All the Pretty Horses. I witnessed the nightmare. I lived to tell the tale. And now, like the riders, after seeing the unseeable, I'll move on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Sordid Origins The myth of the American Southwest has it that it was the last uncivilised part of the North American continent. This was the frontier of hearty cowboys, stalwart settlers, and other pioneers who, despite the occasional gunfight at the OK Corral, gradually brought law and order, white Protestantism, and eventual prosperity to this benighted land. That huge area between the grassy plains of East Texas and Upper California was not just a place of adventure, it was also the scene of t Sordid Origins The myth of the American Southwest has it that it was the last uncivilised part of the North American continent. This was the frontier of hearty cowboys, stalwart settlers, and other pioneers who, despite the occasional gunfight at the OK Corral, gradually brought law and order, white Protestantism, and eventual prosperity to this benighted land. That huge area between the grassy plains of East Texas and Upper California was not just a place of adventure, it was also the scene of the American mission, as much a symbol of the Republic as the legends of Washington crossing the Delaware and Daniel Boone’s travail with a bear. According to Blood Meridian this is all nonsense. The region had been Spanish for 300 years before the Yanquis decided it should be theirs. Much older native cultures - Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Zuni - persisted through colonisation. Into this unstable social equilibrium, America brought not civilisation but dystopia. The folk who felt themselves moved to carry the Stars and Stripes into this vulnerable territory were not noble pioneers but drifters, grifters, chancers, and no-accounts. What they brought was not improved institutions of government but brutal chaos. The gene pool of the Southwest was more or less permanently polluted by the mentally defective and the morally unfit. McCarthy’s descriptions of the place itself are unparalleled in the beauty of their language. They evoke precisely the kind of romantic sentiment that dominates popular perceptions: “Tethered to the polestar they rode the Dipper round while Orion rose in the southwest like a great electric kite. The sand lay blue in the moonlight and the iron tires of the wagons rolled among the shapes of the riders in gleaming hoops that veered and wheeled woundedly and vaguely navigational like slender astrolabes and the polished shoes of the horses kept hasping up like a myriad of eyes winking across the desert floor... All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunder-heads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.” But these dramatic scenes are peppered with grotesque narratives of human senselessness and cruelty: “With darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the moonlight. The ground where he'd lain was soaked with blood and with urine from the voided bladders of the animals and he went forth stained and stinking like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself... The murdered lay in a great pool of their communal blood. It had set up into a sort of pudding crossed everywhere with the tracks of wolves or dogs and along the edges it had dried and cracked into a burgundy ceramic. Blood lay in dark tongues on the floor and blood grouted the flagstones and ran in the vestibule where the stones were cupped from the feet of the faithful and their fathers before them and it had threaded its way down the steps and dripped from the stones among the dark red tracks of the scavengers.” The book was published 35 years ago but it is a timely reminder of the psychological projection that has always been a part of the culture of white North America. The receptivity of Americans to Trump’s characterisation of immigrants from the South as thieves rapists, and murderers is nothing new. It is America which sent just these as its vanguard of empire. This is a permanent embarrassment and a source of much of present day conflict. As the protagonist is instructed by one of his fellow desperadoes: “But where does a man come by his notions. What world's he seen that he liked better?... No. It's a mystery. A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to.” It is obvious to the rest of the world that America still does not want to know its own heart, nor its own sordid origins.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Tried twice, failed twice. Cormac has a good track record with me – Child of God is a 5 star classic, No Country for Old Men is a 4 star classic, and All the Pretty Horses is a solid 3 star. I knew Blood Meridian was the Big One. The Masterpiece. The one that fuses together The Bible and Clint Eastwood. The Kid with No Name and the Book of Deuteronomy. Years ago I got to the Tree of Dead Babies and jacked it in, I got a lot further this time, but yes, I jacked it in again. I tried reading it as Tried twice, failed twice. Cormac has a good track record with me – Child of God is a 5 star classic, No Country for Old Men is a 4 star classic, and All the Pretty Horses is a solid 3 star. I knew Blood Meridian was the Big One. The Masterpiece. The one that fuses together The Bible and Clint Eastwood. The Kid with No Name and the Book of Deuteronomy. Years ago I got to the Tree of Dead Babies and jacked it in, I got a lot further this time, but yes, I jacked it in again. I tried reading it as an extended metaphor – The Judge and his band of murdering renegades is like….Corona Virus! Of course! But it got a little tiresome : Judge/Corona comes to town, slaughters people, leaves. Repeat. Repeat without any end in sight. GOOD AUTHORS CAN WRITE ONE BAD BOOK Here’s a little list – I haven’t read these but I’m told they’re all dreadful The Breast : Philip Roth The Body Artist : Don Delillo I Am Charlotte Simmons : Tom Wolfe The Silmarillion : Tolkien Dhalgren : Samuel Delaney Jazz : Toni Morrison The Name Of The World : Denis Johnson But the point about Blood Meridian is that most people think it’s not bad, it’s great. I need to think about that. CORMAC MCCARTHY’S LANGUAGE On the level of plot, this book leaves something to be desired. But not all books have to have an interesting story. Some novels are essential for the brilliance of their language alone. Ain’t no story in Ulysses worth a bent farthing. And the whale is nowhere to be seen for most of Moby Dick. This type of book is on a whole other level, where vocabulary, clauses, gerunds, rhetoric works a magic to draw aside the clouds in our minds and present us with something grand we could not have suspected was there. Blood Meridian’s fans say that’s what this book does. The horror of the American frontier, as McCarthy unflinchingly renders it, can prove rather wearying, not least for the book’s stubborn refusal to indulge in such niceties as comic relief or variations of setting and tone. What makes Blood Meridian endurable — what makes it so compelling once you adapt to its rhythms — is McCarthy’s prose. The man makes even the most repulsive images seem ineffably beautiful. He makes hell sound sublime. And there are sentences here that will make you gasp in a good way . They rode through regions of particoloured stone upthrust in ragged kerfs and shelves of traprock reared in faults and anticlines curved back upon themselves and broken off like stumps of great stone treeboles and stones the lightning had clove open, seeps exploding in steam in some old storm. I love that, I have no problem with the and…and…and. But then you get other wanna-be-great sentences like this : The ground where he’d lain was soaked with blood and with urine from the voided bladders of the animals and he went forth stained and stinking like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself. It’s okay until “some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself.” Then it’s just portentous empty gesturing. You could read that phrase in an early Marvel comic. It seems I look at this stuff differently to some readers. One reviewer singled out this passage for great praise. The flames sawed in the wind and the embers paled and deepened and paled and deepened like the bloodbeat of some living thing eviscerate upon the ground before them and they watched the fire which does contain within it something of men themselves inasmuch as they are less without it and are divided from their origins and are exiles. For each fire is all fires, and the first fire and the last ever to be. But I get to the end of that and I think come on Cormac, stop trying so hard. Each fire is all fires. Horse is the horseness of all horse. Yeah yeah. A TALE OF SOUND AND FURY SIGNIFYING NOTHING A guy called Joseph Hirsch put his head above the parapet I find the novel to be a pretentious, nearly-unreadable pastiche hybrid of every writer from Ernest Hemingway, to H.P. Lovecraft, to Norman Mailer. ….a blend of Hieronymus Bosch and Sam Peckinpah; of Salvador Dali, Shakespeare, and the Bible; of Faulkner and Fellini; of Gustave Dore, Louis L ‘Amour, Dante, and Goya; of cowboys and nothingness; of Texas and Vietnam. Over the course of a novel of epic length, however, attempting to decipher the meaning of McCarthy’s words merely becomes a psychic endurance test. Along with Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, I read Blood Meridian cover to cover, not because I enjoyed it, but because I hated it, and felt that by finishing the book I was somehow defeating an unseen, unfathomably alien intelligence that had lured me into a masochistic test of wills, from which I could only emerge victorious after reading my way through the gauntlet of senseless words laid across the page. SIMILES, SIMILES, I’M GIVING THEM AWAY TODAY, ONLY FIVE DOLLARS FOR A PACK OF TWELVE, ROLL UP, ROLL UP In this novel, not in the others I have read, Cormac was gripped with a sporadic Tourette’s syndrome of similes. He just can’t help himself. For three or four pages at a time, out come the similes, they pepper the reader like… er…. Like…. Cormac, help me out here… From pages 45-47 Like pencil lines Like strands of the night Like tentacles Like an army asleep on the march Like dogs Like loom-shafts Like sidewinder tracks Like a ghost army Like shades of figures erased upon a board Like pilgrims exhausted Like reflections in a lake Like a great electric kite Like slender astrolabes Like a myriad of eyes Like the palest stain Like a land of some other order Like some demon kingdom So that began to wear me down too. VIOLENCE The endless chopping up of women in 2666 and American Psycho were too much for me, although I don’t have a problem with A Clockwork Orange and Titus Andronicus . I don’t claim to be Mr Consistent. But I hated the endless massacres in this one. And pretty much that's all there is. Maybe I just had my fill of violence. Blame the movies. NO CONCLUSIONS FOR OLD MEN Is this an existential cry of despair from the American past, followed by The Road, a cry of despair from the American future? Gotta say, that’s what it looked like to me. Blood Meridian has now beat me to the ground and disembowelled me twice, there won’t be a third time. I quit. Stop kicking me, Cormac. Acknowledgements : the nasty comments about BM are from an article called Why I don’t bow before Blood Meridian By Joseph Hirsch and the respectful comments are from James Dorson in his article Demystifying the Judge: Law and Mythical Violence in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Frank Maccormack

    This book has moments of fleeting brilliance, and the last 50 pages of the book are almost flawless. However, there are 280 pages before that you have to read, which consist of, in my opinion, nothing more than barren landscapes, borderline shock-value accounts of depravity, and self-indulgent simile. It's a never-ending journey on the shoulders of quite possibly the most unlikable group of characters I've ever read, which in the hands of a particular writer, may work...McCarthy does NOT pull it This book has moments of fleeting brilliance, and the last 50 pages of the book are almost flawless. However, there are 280 pages before that you have to read, which consist of, in my opinion, nothing more than barren landscapes, borderline shock-value accounts of depravity, and self-indulgent simile. It's a never-ending journey on the shoulders of quite possibly the most unlikable group of characters I've ever read, which in the hands of a particular writer, may work...McCarthy does NOT pull it off. When a reader spends an entire novel hoping the main characters die the worst death they can, it is almost NEVER an enjoyable situation. One cryptic and ominous character is interesting, but not enough to make me care what happens to any of the others. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure I "got" what he was doing the whole time; but just because an epic philosophical subversion of American expansionism is attempted doesn't mean it is successful. It seems a lot of people love this, but I don't get the attraction. What people could see in this miserable story, I'll never know, when his later work like The Road is much more engaging and well paced. Avoid, unless you enjoy reading about the slaughter of a Mexican village more than 8 times in one book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Blaine

    This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.Set in the old West primarily in the 1850s, just after the Mexican-American War, Blood Meridian is objectively a grea This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.Set in the old West primarily in the 1850s, just after the Mexican-American War, Blood Meridian is objectively a great work of literary fiction. It is full of all the things one wants from a work of important literature. Great writing. A unique and memorable character in Judge Holden. Symbolism. It is so atmospheric that the desert in effectively the third most important character. Much of its meaning is open to interpretation. So what’s not to love? Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book so full of violence. Quentin Tarantino levels of violence. Is there a point to it? I suppose. It shows a progression as the gang descends from attacking hostile Indians, to peaceful Indians, to townspeople, and finally to soldiers. In one scene, the Judge buys two puppies just to throw them into the river and watch them drown. So yeah, I’d argue it’s gratuitously violent. And, a large portion of the book—like the middle two-thirds, is largely just the characters traveling around from town to town, committing one violent act after another. The plot, such as it is, only picks up in the book’s final pages. Still, I found myself thinking about the book quite a bit in the days after I finished it, and off and on ever since. In some ways it reminded me of The Red Badge of Courage and Heart of Darkness. But what did it all mean? If you believe the Judge killed the Kid at the end (not everyone does), then why? Because he was the last witness to the exploits of the Glanton Gang? Because of the differences in their moral codes? And was the Judge a man at all, or some type of Devil? His presentation throughout the book—and the fact that he was easily the most interesting character—left me thinking about the Devil in Paradise Lost. And it seems more than 30 years later, no one quite knows how to interpret the epilogue. A great book, but not exactly a good book. It’s not an easy read, nor particularly entertaining. But if you enjoy challenging literary fiction, and you’re ok with gratuitous violence, Blood Meridian is a modern classic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Fuck yeah. This is great. I felt fully absorbed and enclosed in the nightmare. I was scared. McCarthy at his very best commands some black and frightful reserves. To chose from so many scenes: Judge Holden under a ribcage parasol holding the halfwit by a leash, the two shuffling though the sun-bleached desert Golgotha bellowing threats and promises to Kid and Expriest who are hidden, cowering, “prone in the lees of those sour bones like sated scavengers” awaiting “the arrival of the judge and th Fuck yeah. This is great. I felt fully absorbed and enclosed in the nightmare. I was scared. McCarthy at his very best commands some black and frightful reserves. To chose from so many scenes: Judge Holden under a ribcage parasol holding the halfwit by a leash, the two shuffling though the sun-bleached desert Golgotha bellowing threats and promises to Kid and Expriest who are hidden, cowering, “prone in the lees of those sour bones like sated scavengers” awaiting “the arrival of the judge and the passing of the judge if he would so pass." A classic is a book whose audacity and imagination overwhelm my presumption of judgment, my niggling page-by-page interrogation of stylistic choices. Everything bodied forth complete, final, and inevitable. I find no seam. ~ Like Moby-Dick, Blood Meridian restores to us a proper fear at our planetary marooning and barrenness, our culture-making sacralization of bloody motions amidst an indifferent geology. Melville’s “The Honor and Glory of Whaling” heralds Judge Holden’s “War is god” soliloquy. …all the land lay under darkness and all a great stained altarstone. ~ But I do think that at present man is a predatory animal. I think that the sacredness of human life is a purely municipal ideal of no validity outside the jurisdiction. I believe that force…is the ultima ratio, and between two groups that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force. I may add what I no doubt have said often enough, that it seems to me that every society rests on the death of men… (Justice Holmes, letter to Sir Frederick Pollack, 1 February 1920) ~ “Melville manages to keep it a real whaling ship, on a real cruise, in spite of all fantastics” (D.H. Lawrence). So does McCarthy. Hence my fear. The world of Blood Meridian is at once recognizable, historical—and a prehistoric void, the very birth of violence: The Yumas seemed immobilized by these misfortunes and the kid cocked the pistol and shot down another of their number before they began to collect themselves and move back, taking their dead with them, lofting a flurry of arrows and howling out bloodoaths in their stoneage tongue or invocations to whatever gods of war or fortune they’d the ear of and retreating upon the pan until they were very small indeed. Even the horses looked alien to any they’d ever seen, decked as they were in human hair and teeth and skin. Save for their guns and buckles and a few pieces of metal in the harness of the animals there was nothing about these arrivals to suggest even the discovery of the wheel. ~ The rough materials of spirit and form and idea—the cities made from packed mud, the “rude Christ” kissed by the villagers, “a poor figure of straw with carven head and feet.” ~ Holden, the metaphysical pessimist who practices what he preaches. Philosophizing and killing; meditating upon ruins and making them. A cold kiva of the Anasazi is his perfect lectern. ~ McCarthy recommends that I go re-read Faulkner, by showing that rhapsodic run-ons can coexist with laconic pictorial precision. My unrevised undergraduate prejudice against Faulkner centers on mushmouthed prolixity. Perhaps an inevitable opinion when Absalom, Absalom! goes up against the revelation of Nabokov's suavity. ~ The historical situation of Blood Meridian is a sweet spot. I love the Mexican War just a bit less than the Civil—the former the bloody nursery of the latter. McCarthy’s Glanton gang rides out in 1849, a year after the signing of the treaty that gave the US sparse and haphazard dominion over a land area greater than France and Germany together, an empire won by the tiny regular army supplemented with irregular settler militias, levees of war-hungry volunteers, deputations of rough riders and sundry freelance killers. The historical John Joel Glanton rode with the Texas Rangers during the war and made epic desert rides scouting for the army. Expriest mentions riding with Ben McCulloch’s company of Ranger scouts, and the Kentuckian with whom Kid and Toadvine join the gang is a veteran of Doniphan’s Ride, the 2,500 mile trek Missouri volunteers made through Northern Mexico, fighting Apaches and the Mexican army all the way. The war and its aftermath was the great age of the filibustero, the freebooter, the hired gun paid partly in plunder. It was a time when a band of Americans armed with rifles and the new six-shooters was thought invincible against mestizo conscripts with antique muskets and Indians with simple bows. During the 1850s bands of adventurers sallied forth from New Orleans, Mobile and San Francisco ambitious to reproduce the seizure of California in Cuba, Nicaragua and Baja. Some were picked up by the navy and set back; others made landfall and proclaimed brief chimerical kingdoms; and still others were captured and garroted in crowded plazas or stood against walls and shot down by squads of fusileros. This was neither the first nor the last of many American filibustering expeditions south of the border during the unquiet years following the Mexican War. The chronic instability and frequent overthrows of the government in Mexico City created power vacuums filled by bandit chieftains and gringo invaders who kept the border in a constant state of upheaval. (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    That's so, said the judge. They do not have to have a reason. But order is not set aside because of their indifference. Rugged individualism. There's a whole unholy host of words one could use in reckoning with this, some more explicated than others. Penchants for ideological idiosyncrasies and survival have shaped mine; yours are your own. May the last speaker standing still breath. Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs. History, human, homicid That's so, said the judge. They do not have to have a reason. But order is not set aside because of their indifference. Rugged individualism. There's a whole unholy host of words one could use in reckoning with this, some more explicated than others. Penchants for ideological idiosyncrasies and survival have shaped mine; yours are your own. May the last speaker standing still breath. Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs. History, human, homicide. We have a tendency towards pitifully writhing in worship of these contextualized monstrosities, whether as sideshow or self-censorship. God! War! The unfathomable brutality of mechanistic fate! As if the horrorshow were as simple as that. U.S. citizens, gather 'round, and tell me this. Does the smell of shit affront you? Do the imaginative contortions of infants swung into the ground, unfused skulls spilling forth their soft and greasy contents, disturb you unduly? Would you prefer to take your eyes elsewhere, leaving behind pleas of too much for your delicate sensibilities ringing out over the skinning, the gutting, the rapes through every orifice known to man and then some? Shame. You might have actually learned something true about that heritage of your oh so civilized existence. And those thrusting forth your chests of nonfiction bents and nonfiction alone, please. Take your panderings at objectivity to some other plain of existence where the records are less choked with old white men and their accredited desecration. Here, the only right guaranteed to you and all is to die. In the neuter austerity of that terrain all phenomena were bequeathed a strange equality and no one thing nor spider nor stone nor blade of grass could put forth claim to precedence. The very clarity of these articles belied their familiarity, for the eye predicates the whole on some feature or part and here was nothing more luminous than another and nothing more enshadowed and in the optical democracy of such landscapes all preference is made whimsical and a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships. If you set forth onto the borderline of one culture stretching out its self-assured entrails of weaponry and their users into the breaking and bloodying brains of another, yes, you will find a finality. To call it righteous and cloak it in some bandy-legged slogan of manifest destiny, though, is just lazy ableism fearful of its own nihilistic yearnings. Here, in the good ol' U.S.A., that train of genocidal eloquence won and keeps on winning, a canny survivor in the folds of capitalistic corporations decrying the "moochers" and the poor. So long as the majority averts with one eye and glorifies with the other the right of violence to the spoils of humanity, ever it shall be. God forbid we ever tear down the mechanistic icon and uncover the morass of mutilation being boiled to futile dregs as its one and only fuel in an effort to understand and atone. However shall we live with ourselves ever after? Those who travel in desert places do indeed meet with creatures surpassing all description. He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die. Indeed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    In David Foster Wallace's posthumous essay collection Both Flesh and Not there's a little piece called "Five Direly Underappreciated US Novels > 1960," and Wallace goes off on paragraph-long defenses of some books he likes - "Bleak but gorgeous," he says of Omensetter's Luck, "like light through ice." But when he gets to Blood Meridian there's just this one line under it: "Dont even ask." Unfortunately everyone did anyway and this book, where you can identify the good guys as the ones who haven't In David Foster Wallace's posthumous essay collection Both Flesh and Not there's a little piece called "Five Direly Underappreciated US Novels > 1960," and Wallace goes off on paragraph-long defenses of some books he likes - "Bleak but gorgeous," he says of Omensetter's Luck, "like light through ice." But when he gets to Blood Meridian there's just this one line under it: "Dont even ask." Unfortunately everyone did anyway and this book, where you can identify the good guys as the ones who haven't actively killed any babies or puppies yet, is considered a Great American Novel by people who are probably no fun at parties at all. Based on a true story about how everyone is terrible and life is torment, and also this guy's diary which sounds like a joy, Blood Meridian has more in common with Inferno and Paradise Lost than any specifically earthly matters. It feels more like a tour of Hell than of the Southwest circa 1850, and the monumental Judge Holden is the best Satan since Milton's, a relentlessly amoral force who insists on only two things: war and science. Like Milton's Satan, he gets all the best lines:Whatever exists without my knowledge exists without my consent...Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth.By the way, and watch what happens next:What's a suzerain? A keeper. A keeper or overlord. Why not say keeper then?McCarthy does that after many of the Judge's speeches - just poking at them, and poking at his own tendency toward high-falutin' language while he's at it. No one forgets the horror of this book, but almost everyone forgets that it's funny. But McCarthy does share Milton's terrible force and authority with language. (And, while we're making comparisons, David Foster Wallace's tendency to play "fuck you" with a thesaurus.) What I learned about how to read him: a) do it slowly; b) don't worry overmuch about all the words you don't understand. (Although it is nice to read on a Kindle so you can look at least some of them up.) And take some pleasure in the moments when McCarthy describes "a urinecoloured sun," or "a solitary lobo, perhaps gray at the muzzle, hung like a marionette from the moon with his long mouth gibbering." Yes, this is a brutal book. Tough to read. But it's very good. And I don't even mean that sort of book where you're like ugh, I guess it's good, I wish it was also enjoyable to read. You do get that feeling sometimes, but it fades as you go. By the end, the weirdest thing happens: as the climax hits you're actually excited. You're hoping the good guys, such as they are - less bad? - win. (view spoiler)[Obviously they don't, but they do lose in what I found to be a tremendously satisfying and right-feeling way. (hide spoiler)] Of all things, this book made me sad to realize I was near the end of it. I'm not sure this is a Great American Novel, just because I'm not altogether convinced it takes place in America. This America looks a lot like an Inferno. But it is great. Blood Meridian Charades One of the things Cormac McCarthy enjoys is dead babies, but another is writing "like some" and then something insane. (He stole this from Faulkner.) In this game, you pick anything that comes after "like some," and then try to act it out. If your friends don't get it, everyone drinks! Here, I've picked out a few to get you started: Like some... - "Loutish knight be-riddled by a troll" - "Pale and bloated manatee surfaced in a bog" - "Queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates" - "Egregious saltland bard" - "Land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear" I put a much longer list in a comment below. Have fun and keep it clean!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    In Cormac McCarthy's novel The Crossing, McCarthy proves he can write about about the travels of a wolf in a poetic and engaging way. In Blood Meridian McCarthy writes about three or four wolves, calls them humans - those characters he bothers to name at all - and shows that with enough talent and powerful prose, a writer and his work can be called "great" without having to develop a single character in 330 pages. Among those who would be unsatisfied with the mere word "great" and have to go furt In Cormac McCarthy's novel The Crossing, McCarthy proves he can write about about the travels of a wolf in a poetic and engaging way. In Blood Meridian McCarthy writes about three or four wolves, calls them humans - those characters he bothers to name at all - and shows that with enough talent and powerful prose, a writer and his work can be called "great" without having to develop a single character in 330 pages. Among those who would be unsatisfied with the mere word "great" and have to go further in describing Blood Meridian, unbelievably enough, we find literary critic Harold Bloom. Mr. Bloom, who has published at least 1,000 pages that say irony and character development are the only measures of a major writer, is ridiculous in his praise, writing that Blood Meridian is "clearly the major esthetic achievement of any living American writer." McCarthy is a writer of overpowering prose, no doubt. So overpowering, in fact, that where lesser writers would come to a moral dilemma and have to use it to shape a character somehow, McCarthy simply overpowers the story and character and reader with his prose. For this he's earned comparisons with everyone from Dante Alighieri to Homer to Melville to Faulkner. Frankly, he can have his comparisons to Faulkner, but he can't have Melville. The nearest McCarthy comes to Melville's Ahab is with his "Judge" character in Blood Meridian. But the Judge is about what Ahab would be if we didn't know he'd lost his leg, didn't spend 400 pages chasing his whale and just came to the last few pages of biblical soliloquies about Ahab thrusting his spear. The most McCarthy's willing to do for us in the way of character development is capture the Judge thrusting his spear over and over again - with newer and more accomplished and more grotesque depictions on each page. Why is the Judge thrusting his spear? Something about the permanence of war and violence. When it comes time for such explanations, McCarthy either offers us an indecipherable sermon of florid language from the Judge or provides an insight like this: "For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies." (p. 120) Even if McCarthy had been a touch less "literary" and actually employed punctuation that sentence would be incoherent. One needn't be a lazy reader to realize, quite early on, that there's little irony to be found in McCarthy's prose. Really, what we have in The Crossing, Cities of the Plain, Blood Meridian and The Road are travelogues written in a fierce American prose and offering some of the most beautiful depictions of gore in a century of literature. About that prose a different - and probably better - critic than Bloom, James Wood, memorably writes: "(McCarthy) is an American ham. When critics laud him for being biblical, they are hearing sounds that are more often than not merely antiquarian, a kind of vatic histrionic groping, in which the prose plumes itself up and flourishes an ostentatiously obsolete lexicon. Blood Fustian, this style might be called." If one wants McCarthy's exact same landscapes populated with actual characters, creatures who think and converse and evolve, one is better off reading Larry McMurtry. And if one wishes to catch McCarthy doing honest-to-goodness storytelling, one is better off reading (or seeing) No Country for Old Men. Or, as an unnamed character in Blood Meridian, who goes by the moniker "the kid", thinks to explain things after 100,000 words of changing not one bit: "I aint with you" . . . at least not if you're saying this novel is the major American literary achievement of the last fifty years.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Neale

    The picture that McCarthy paints of the west in the Mid 19th century is almost as savage, brutal, and violent that you will probably ever read. The fact that the narrative revolves around a group of militia scalp hunters only adds to the violence. However, for all the sadistic violence, while reading this novel, you have that feeling that you are reading literature at it’s very best. McCarthy’s writing drips with descriptiveness, the landscape he depicts so bleak and desolate that you as the rea The picture that McCarthy paints of the west in the Mid 19th century is almost as savage, brutal, and violent that you will probably ever read. The fact that the narrative revolves around a group of militia scalp hunters only adds to the violence. However, for all the sadistic violence, while reading this novel, you have that feeling that you are reading literature at it’s very best. McCarthy’s writing drips with descriptiveness, the landscape he depicts so bleak and desolate that you as the reader almost feel like escaping, never realising that you can, by simply shutting the book, because McCarthy draws you in and has you hooked by your soul. Even the protagonist who is simply referred to as “the kid” feels like part of the landscape. McCarthy never lets the reader get close to any character in the whole book. In fact, the characters feel like parts of the landscape, brutal vicious parts of a dead landscape, which to me, while reading, seemed to be like some surrealist Dali painting focussing on death. At most points in this book you feel as if you are in some surreal nightmare. As this group of hunters make their way through this dead landscape, that is exactly how it feels, a black world devoid of life, and when life is found it is must be savagely destroyed before it savagely destroys you. Many thoughts ran through my mind while reading this book, and I pondered on what McCarthy was trying to achieve. There is no question that this book is a classic, you realise this even after reading the first chapter, but what is McCarthy’s message? Is he giving the reader a depiction of what life in this era and area was really like? Is this an anti-western to dispel the Hollywood representation, or does this book go much deeper? Is it a look into our primal base level and what we are capable of in the wild with no law or consequences to inhibit our actions and instinct? Unfortunately, I am simply not intelligent enough to fathom exactly what McCarthy’s message is, but the writing is simply stunning. Devoid of punctuation, at times poetic, but always stunningly descriptive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the descriptive portrayal of this brutal world is what makes this book such a classic. It is the writing, not the characters, not the narrative, but the writing, which is so good, that it rises above the other elements of the book. I feel that while I enjoyed the writing so much there is just too much of this novel that went over my head with just the one reading. Hopefully with further reading my understanding will improve and I will appreciate it even more, if that is possible. I know that many people refuse to read this novel because of the violence and there is nothing wrong with that at all. If you do not like violence in your reading that is fine. But the violence is so much a part of this novel, so integral to the picture that McCarthy is painting that it would not be the same book without it. Wow this book is still resonating within my head. 5 Stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edward Lorn

    This book has no quotation marks or serial commas. If the above sentence made you clutch your breast and squeal in unabashed terror, you're gonna want to skip everything Cormac McCarthy writes. No use in aggravating yourself. McCarthy is an author's author. While people who do not write could likely marvel at what he manages in this novel, I think those who love and study the craft of writing will receive the most bang for their buck while reading this. For fuck's sake, guys, they teach this boo This book has no quotation marks or serial commas. If the above sentence made you clutch your breast and squeal in unabashed terror, you're gonna want to skip everything Cormac McCarthy writes. No use in aggravating yourself. McCarthy is an author's author. While people who do not write could likely marvel at what he manages in this novel, I think those who love and study the craft of writing will receive the most bang for their buck while reading this. For fuck's sake, guys, they teach this book at Yale and you have people out there who think the book is riddled with errors. Just go read some of the negative reviews. I'll wait... Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a masterclass in literary simplicity; simple language used to pitch-perfect effect. There is nothing superfluous about the contents. Every word has been chosen to place you in the moment. Yet, while the writing is simple, the prose is poetic. It is brutal poetry, but poetry nonetheless. And I quote: Dust stanched the wet and naked heads of the scalped who with the fringe of hair below their wounds and tonsured to the bone now lay like maimed and naked monks in the bloodslaked dust and everywhere the dying groaned and gibbered and horses lay screaming. The scene before this paragraph is astounding in its visuals, as is every act of violence, of which there are several, throughout the book. I found the cast of characters impressive as well. From the earless Toadvine to the hairless Judge (whose part in this tale seems much larger than I first imagined) to the quiet-and-violent kid, each character is subtly and passionately drawn, giving you just enough information so that you can tell them apart but never so much that you feel like McCarthy is demanding you imagine them one certain way. I love that. I don't like it when authors hold my hand. Give me the defining characteristic (a hairlip, a birthmark, a missing appendage, a lisp) and let me figure out the rest. I sat in awe, reading the final chapter. Not the Epilogue, but the chapter before it. Chapter 23 is filled with allegory, and the judge's role throughout the whole mess laid out for everyone to see but still cleverly hidden. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die. In summation: This book will not be for everyone, especially not those Dickens-minded sorts that require a billion commas. And if you need quotation marks even though it is always clear who is speaking, then you should also skip this. Everyone else, I highly recommend this brutally-poetic and endlessly-bleak novel. Final Judgment: And where is the fiddler and where the dance?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Here is my review for Blood Meridian on Grimdark Magazine. My first Cormac McCarthy review for the site!: Grimdark Magazine Blood Meridian. This novel by Cormac McCarthy is a book that disturbed me to my core and made me dwell on the realities and philosophies within it. I have struggled to type what I actually think about it and have thus far failed to put into words my feelings around it. But I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ll leave this quote here: “The truth about the world, he said, is th Here is my review for Blood Meridian on Grimdark Magazine. My first Cormac McCarthy review for the site!: Grimdark Magazine Blood Meridian. This novel by Cormac McCarthy is a book that disturbed me to my core and made me dwell on the realities and philosophies within it. I have struggled to type what I actually think about it and have thus far failed to put into words my feelings around it. But I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ll leave this quote here: “The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning." Cormac McCarthy is considered to be America’s best living author. He has written works that have been turned into films - The Road; No Country for Old Men; All the Pretty Horses and Child of God. I have had swarms of recommendations to read something by McCarthy, due to his god-like prose and his dark story-telling. After this single read, I feel it is my job to also recommend and subject everyone I meet to Blood Meridian. “It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.” Blood Meridian or, subtitled as; The Evening Redness in the West (appropriate subtitle by the way), begins in the 1850s Texas-Mexico border. It follows a 14-year old boy we only know as ‘the Kid’ who flees his home in Tennessee and heads to Texas. His journey takes twists and turns leading him to become a scalphunter - joining the infamous Glanton Gang and being paid for each and every Native American scalp in a world that is just as cruel as that sentence sounds. “The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have the power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman’s making onto a foreign land. Ye’ll wake more than the dogs.” I have since found out that the Glanton Gang that McCarthy wrote about is actually a historical gang that actually went around killing and scalping Native American tribes in the 1850s and actually got paid to do so. Cormac McCarthy based this novel from the book ‘My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue’ written by Samuel Chamberlain - a man who rode with the Glanton Gang - which is considered to be the best account we have today of a soldier’s life in the Mexican War. Glanton’s Gang are established and acutely cold-hearted and professional as can be, their leader John Glanton a fearsome, gritty soldier. McCarthy’s writing of Glanton is hideously and brutally factual, showing the horror of such a leader and the stone-cold composition this person had to commit the savage acts they did. “Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” This book centres around the character the kid and his journey within the Glanton Gang, but there is one character who this book is about. The Judge Holden. The Judge is a terrifying character, devoid of emotion and any humanistic traits. He is a giant, hairless murderer and psychopath. The Judge had monologues that displayed his philosophical thinking and his inhumanity that were in some parts exhilarant and in more parts just ridiculously menacing. He is spine-chilling and every line within this book about him will disturb you. Especially the last line, which led me to hold my head and let out a sigh for what felt like forever. As you read this book you will decide who The Judge really is. Some say he is the devil, others that he is everything evil within us, some that he is just a man with no compassion in the Wild West. “If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creatures could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet?” Within Blood Meridian I really discovered what the word ‘grim’ meant. There is no respite or interlude of the mass-chaos that the gang ensue. As a group of men who’s sole purpose is to scalp men, women and children, you know it isn’t going to be a light-hearted book. But McCarthy writes with a prose that is biblical, and the horrifying acts that are committed are written in the most un-gratuitous way which makes it all the more vicious. This book should have a massive ‘IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, AVOID’ sticker on. The brutality is moderately standard for Grimdark novels until around the 160page mark where the author really turns up that gore. Really. “The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they lay opposed to each other across the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning.” Cormac McCarthy’s prose must be praised here, as his accomplishment to write a book that is so poetic and metaphorical and make it seem so natural is quite incredible. I have only read this book once and I can see myself reading it many more times as I feel I have only just scratched the surface of his true thoughts and meanings within the subtleties of the language he uses. He avoids punctuation, especially speech, he writes long-winded sentences and repeats and a lot, he breaks all of the ‘literary rules’ and really makes it work. “They were watching, out there past men's knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.” I usually love to read a story that is all about being behind the main character and his friends. Wanting the character to prevail or succeed. There is none of that within Blood Meridian, until the last 60 or so pages. Blood Meridian doesn’t need anything extra. It is an achievement of writing and a book that can only be described as genius. The ambiguity of the ending left me wanted to scream and sleep at the same time and just added to the horror that I had read for the previous 350 pages. “Only that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen the horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance.” 5/5 - It’s hard to put into words how this book has made me feel. I finished it last week and still cannot comprehend it, but also cannot stop reflecting back on it. Cormac McCarthy’s writing is sublime and this book is well and truly Grimdark. Not for the faint-hearted. Please let me know if you read it or have read it, I’d love to talk about your thoughts!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    Blood Meridian is a novel that deromanticizes the West and strips off its John Wayne antics - here there's absolutely no place for the moral and the good, where murder is a fact of life comitted without a blink and discarded from thought later. The desert rewards the worst scoundrels and spits on the bodies of the innocent and old who are unable to defend themselves. The novel begins with an introduction of a young teenager who's simply named "The Kid", though in fact there's no universal protago Blood Meridian is a novel that deromanticizes the West and strips off its John Wayne antics - here there's absolutely no place for the moral and the good, where murder is a fact of life comitted without a blink and discarded from thought later. The desert rewards the worst scoundrels and spits on the bodies of the innocent and old who are unable to defend themselves. The novel begins with an introduction of a young teenager who's simply named "The Kid", though in fact there's no universal protagonist, and there are no heroes. All of the characters are villains. The group of scalpers comprised of The Kid, a man named Galton, an expriest called Tobin and another man called Toadine, an idiot and the persona that calls itself The Judge, to whom I will return later. The merry brigade perpetrates violence agains everybody that can be scalped, and we're not talking about some stylish violence, toned down and set for cinema. The violence in Blood Meridian is visceral and nightmarish, and everything is recounted in bloody detail. The acts of perpetration are dark and soulless and The Kid spits a lot. Blood Meridian sports some great imagery, like this: They watched storms out there so distant they could not be heard, the silent lightning flaring sheetwise and the thin black spine of the mountain chain fluttering and sucked away again in the dark. They saw wild horses racing on the plain, pounding their shadows down the night and- leaving in the moonlight a vaporous dust like the palest stain of their passing. However, a great deal of it is lost in the tedium of run-on sentences which form paragraphs that sometimes take up almost the whole page. They rode through regions of particolored stone upthrust in ragged kerfs and shelves of traprock reared in faults and antilines curved back upon themselves and broken off like stumps of great stone treeboles and stones the lightning had clove open, seeps exploding in steam in some old storm. On the day following they crossed the malpais afoot, leading the horses upon a lakebed of lava all cracked and reddish black like a pan of dried blood, threading those badlands of dark amber glass like the remnants of some dim legion scrabbling up out of a land accursed, shouldering the little cart over the rifts and ledges, the idiot clinging to the bars and calling hoarsely after the sun like some queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates. Unfortunately the description of mundane activities like desert crossing embroidered in masculine imagery (badlands of dark amber! Damn!) diminishes the beauty of some sections, and even boils down the violence to the simple act of recounting throats cut and arms torn. The kind of thesaurized desperation is evident in sentences like they had been burned unredeemed in the a green and stinking bonfire so that nothing remained of the poblanos save this charred coagulate of their preterite lives. Every page, every paragraph strives for such intensity of description that ultimately the desscription overcomes what it describes, and the prose attracts attention to itself rather than to the content of the novel. The imagination of the author is overwhelming, but his strive for perfect execution ultimately gets out of hand and produces sentences like There is hardly in the world a waste so barren but some creature will not cry out at night, yet here one was and they listened to their breathing in the dark and the cold and they listened to the systole of the rubymeated hearts that hung within them. - it reminds us much of the excesively, flowery style of victorian novels, and fail to produce shock, contempt, digust or even make the reader stop and contemplate the scene he has just read. Instead, he contemplates the prose. But it's the wild West, and heartbeat is not masculine enough, so you have to stick with systole. Hey, you did it without quotation marks, so it's not that bad. At least there are pauses between words. Not a single character is developed and not much of a plot line exist, 'cept for crossing the desert, killing, crossing the desert and killing and crossing and killing again. The violence is excessive, but the extensive historical research comitted by the author tells us that it was like that in the time period he chose to set his novel in, so the reader is not complaining. But who would want to read endless descriptions of deserts and murders that become tedious, even if the style they are told is grand? The style is of course subjective, but it doesn't make the story. So let us return to The Judge. The Judge is the most interesting character in the novel and he comes to save the day when the desert heat becomes unbearable. He's the antidote to McCarthy's long, snakelike sentences which are joined by the word "and" (that must be this Biblical cadence which the blurb raves about). The Judge is the biggest accomplishment of the novel,he is thrilling, and he reads like another man wrote his sections. He is beyong pure savagery of the rest of the characters; he is bigger, stronger, and his skin is pale and he has not a single hair on his body. He is a man of many talents, who speaks in many tongues and posesses the strenght that's almost superhuman. The Judge is a humorous character who speaks in charades; he is a man who is perverse, cold and murderous. He encompasses the entire space between animal bestiality and the high culture of humankind. With The Judge McCarthy is not striving to express his meaning; the language is calm, concise and clear, he knows what he wants to say, and how he wants to say it and lets the meaning be revealed though the Judge's language and actions. As things fall apart, the last 50 or so pages of Blood Meridian regain coherence and the novel reaches a great climax, which almost redeems the novel. Almost. The preceeding 280 or so pages are unfortunately largely and meandering mess, comprised of killings and desolate landscapes in all flavors of the thesaurus. So I guess it's up to the reader if he wants to read this or not. Me? I wish the man who wrote The Judge has written the whole book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    What a show-off. I swear, if you were to hand this book to an aspiring artist experiencing a depression-inducing creative block, you may just find yourself with a d.b. on your hands thanks to thoughts like "So wait, this was written by a human being and not an alien?" and "Fuck me!" and "Oh fuck it, I give up." While you'll hear no argument from me that The Road isn't a masterpiece, it is my firm conviction that this'n is even more masterpiece-ier, though far, far darker than The Road is even wi What a show-off. I swear, if you were to hand this book to an aspiring artist experiencing a depression-inducing creative block, you may just find yourself with a d.b. on your hands thanks to thoughts like "So wait, this was written by a human being and not an alien?" and "Fuck me!" and "Oh fuck it, I give up." While you'll hear no argument from me that The Road isn't a masterpiece, it is my firm conviction that this'n is even more masterpiece-ier, though far, far darker than The Road is even with all those insinuated cannibals and rapists and cannibal-rapists and rapist-cannibals in the Pulitzer-winner. (That's a warning, by the way.) I intend to write a longer review of this once I have divorced myself from it long enough to say anything that doesn't just sound like ejaculate flying everywhere, but that's going to be tough. Not that I find the subject matter hot, because eww. I do not think the image of babies being smashed on rocks is sexually arousing, I promise. I'm just saying, it's going to take the summoning of much willpower to give the next few books I read a fair shake after this sprawling, magniloquent map of hell. (Speaking of which, is the dictionary this guy's toilet read, or what's the deal with that?) So, I sorta liked this book. If you want to know why, then check out this actual review by a real-life smart and well-spoken person. P.S. Attention fanfic writers, I have a pitch! Holden and Kurtz cage-match. Dun dun dun, to the death! Takers? Uh? Uh? Anyway. Best McCarthy. *Oh, spare thought. Yes, this is probably the goriest piece of literature I have ever read. Yes, it is terrifying that it is based on historical events. Yes, yes, but it isn't all just soul-crushing darkness. In fact, some of the more dialogue-heavy (for McCarthy) scenes are downright hilarious. Violent? Yes, even those parts are violent, but there is some comic relief, and it somehow doesn't feel awkward or inappropriate, despite the beyond-grim storyline. Okay, the end. For real. For now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    After finishing McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and The Road, I felt like I was stunned for a day or so afterward. Add Blood Meridian to that list. At first, I thought this was going to be a Lonesome Dove-style western, but it's something far different. The descent into butchery by the Glanton gang in the desert is one of the most disturbing things I've read. And the Judge is now on my top 10 all-time fictional villian list. After finishing McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and The Road, I felt like I was stunned for a day or so afterward. Add Blood Meridian to that list. At first, I thought this was going to be a Lonesome Dove-style western, but it's something far different. The descent into butchery by the Glanton gang in the desert is one of the most disturbing things I've read. And the Judge is now on my top 10 all-time fictional villian list.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Seductively dark, desolate, and violent, Blood Meridian speaks to you on a very primal level. On reading this a second time, I can definitely say that it’s one of my all-time favorites; a stark, bleak, brutal country I’ll be drawn to again and again.

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