Friday, October 2, 2015


I recall that there's a book written by some lady who claims to have been chosen by Jesus to be taken on a tour of Hell for 40 nights and spread the word as a warning. That book was most likely just written by a crazy lady and I've never read it, but Cormac McCarthy wrote a book that's close to what I would imagine that experience being like. 
“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 is like a walk (or ride) through all of your nightmares for 350 pages. I can confidently claim that there's probably nothing quite like it out there. But I admired the book more than I can say I enjoyed it. I admired McCarthy's obvious and famed skill as a wordsmith and his ability to paint a picture, but what left me cold wasn't the violence or darkness (there's such a distance in the writing that the violence isn't as affecting to me as was rumored), it was the fact that there wasn't really much happening and the story could've been told in 150 less pages than it was. For a large bulk of the book, our protagonist is essentially forgotten about. This really took away my emotional involvement and much of the book seems purposeful in being emotionally withdrawn. But once the book regains its focus on the kid, it starts to get pretty good in it's last quarter. But prior to that, we're basically tagging along with the Glanton gang as they talk shit and take scalps. And if there was a drinking game for every time McCarthy writes some variation of "And they rode on...", you wouldn't make it past page 100 before passing out.

Actually if McCarthy wrote this novel today it would be like 200 pages long and probably one of my favorite novels. He's definitely gotten more efficient as a writer. I think both of his latest novels, No Country For Old Men and especially The Road (which I consider a true masterpiece), take everything that he was doing in Blood Meridian, honed it down and pulled it off more successfully. His writing is tighter, more emotionally accessible, and at its most sublime in The Road, and the plotting is better in No Country, not to mention a more successful look at the nature of violence and the nihilistic view of fate. 

On another note, if you are having difficulty reading this or have read it and want another way of experiencing this, check out the unabridged audiobook read by Richard Poe. I listened to it and read it simultaneously and man it was one of the best audio performances I've listened to. Poe's voice seems like it was tailor-made to read books by Cormac McCarthy! 
“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.”
But although I respect and appreciate the book for some great moments, for being like nothing else I've ever read, and for sporting some stunning prose, I was disappointed after hearing what a perfect masterpiece it was. Everything that people claim to love about this book, I feel that Cormac has done it better since. I've heard his Border Trilogy is pretty great, and I'll give that a try soon! or I'll jump into The Passenger next year!


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