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Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
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Blood Meridian (1985)

by Cormac McCarthy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,229None647 (4.22)225
  1. 90
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (dmsteyn)
    dmsteyn: Judge Holden's character was based on the monomaniacal Captain Ahab of Melville's novel.
  2. 60
    All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (sturlington)
  3. 10
    Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: contrast Blood Meridian to Cather's moving, more gentle tale of honorable wanderings of priests in new mexico in 1850's
  4. 01
    Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (WSB7)
    WSB7: Strong perspectival imagery overhanging(pursuing?)a doomed hero.
  5. 01
    The Life and Times of Captain N. by Douglas J. Glover (Sethgsamuel)
    Sethgsamuel: Shamelessly violent, very poetic and beautiful western.
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» See also 225 mentions

English (134)  Italian (4)  Spanish (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Blood Meridian leaves me feeling utterly defeated. And acknowledging this leaves me laid even lower. Never have I read a book so determined to grind me down and deflate every notion that I hold dear about life, literature, and the universe. No matter how I feel about this novel, I am checkmated. If I loathe it, then count me among the haters that the book teems with. If I find it pointless, well then, that's just the point, isn't it? If I lament the absence of anything remotely redeeming, then a bigger fool am I. If I find that the auspiciously brilliant passages always land me in some slough of malevolent indifference, well that is where we are all headed anyway, right? Any criticism, any pushback against McCarthy's scabby vision becomes the book's very validation. It has sunk me finally and I give up: Cormac McCarthy, you have bludgeoned this reader into total submission. ( )
  maritimer | Mar 28, 2014 |
Title: Blood Meridian

Author: Cormac McCarthy

Genre: Fiction, Western, Historical Novel

Publisher: Vintage Books

Date: 1985

Pages: 351

Modern Library: The Reader’s List #54

Started: 12 September 2013

I purchased the paperback vintage edition from Books-A-Million. If you are unaware, this story is based on historical events that took place around the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850′s (so says the back cover). I’ve been wanting to read a western and I get the feeling this won’t be typical in any sort of way.

By Chapter IV I’m finally settling back in to McCarthy’s style again. Long sentences – breathless cadence. I love the imagery in this book. The prairie, the sky, the architecture, and people are touchable. The Kid, unnamed for the entirety of the book and the primary character in the story, has just finished his interview with Captain White and has joined the army. This army works for Mexican officials and their primary purpose is to kill Indians. I suspect The Kid has joined the army for food, clothing, and a horse more than anything else. He seems to have just happened into the Army setting by way of chance.

***

I swear I just read a passage that was 10 lines long with no punctuation except the period at the end of the sentence. Oh, right – That’s McCarthy.

***

I am halfway through the book and man is it brutal. The Kid is no longer with the Army because they were all slaughtered. He is now riding with the Glanton gang and still hunting Indians that they don’t call Indians. I’m not going to kid you, this is a tough read. McCarthy’s style requires my undivided attention, and the subject matter is heavy – but don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make it a bad read. If you’ve read McCarthy then you know what I mean.

What about The Judge? Is he wicked or what! As I learn his ways I keep comparing him to Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, maybe with a little bit of Mr. Kurtz from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness mixed in for good measure. The two Kurtz’s might be too tame though, The Judge is pure evil with a hefty helping of strange. He is described as 7 feet tall, pale, entirely hairless, and usually naked. At one point in the story he carries a parasol made from rotted hide and rib bones. What is even more creepy about The Judge is his ability to move seamlessly between at an outward appearance of “caring” to actively leading and participating in killing innocent human beings. But that’s what psychopaths do, right? The Judge is prone to rants, I call them rants, he might view the surrounding circumstances as teachable situations. To give you a feel for his thought processes here is a line that made me stop and think more than once, even after finishing the book. To set it up, the men are sitting around a camp fire discussing whether a man can know all there is to know about the world. Toadvine thinks it’s impossible to know everything and The Judge believes each person makes their own fate and if one simply makes the decision to “know a thing” then that is the beginning of one’s all-knowing power. Then The Judge follows this up with “The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos” (208). Ummmm, wtf?

Here’s an interesting tidbit that comes up every now and then throughout the book. One of the main staples in the Indian diet is pinole. Pinole is also something other characters in the book end up eating because they are usually around Indians – ya know, killing them and stealing from them. But I digress. Pinole is roasted corn that is finely ground then mixed with spices, honey, and water to form a paste. You can eat the paste or bake it to make a small cake like item. Pinole is a high energy food used by some runners (I’m a runner!) and other endurance athletes as a healthy and natural alternative to energy bars. Give it a try!

Pick this book up if you desire an intense read. McCarthy is an expert when it comes to descriptive writing.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Finished: 23 September 2013 ( )
  BadCursive | Feb 9, 2014 |
Finally I finished this godforsaken book. It would be 1 stars if not for the setting which I kind of enjoyed. I disliked everything else about this book. Urgh, what a waste of time. ( )
  bethie-paige | Jan 29, 2014 |
I'm gunna be harsh. Why not? McCarthy is. I novel is hanged with the fancy rope so many other reviewers extravagantly embroider for it: monotony, flatness, and one-dimensionality. Hold on there illiterate scum, you say, what about all that blood dripping symbolism (and bold historical perspective). But by the time you'll be done saying that (I'm politely pausing, in fact, to let you finish -- I'm more considerate than McCarthy), your scalp will've been ripped from your head and stuffed, clotted with blood, back in your mouth to choke on until your eyes pop from their sockets like boated exploding mules, shoved from dark, high, mist enshrouded ledges, strewn with coyote bones. Out of time. That is all. ( )
  tmiddleton | Jan 7, 2014 |
Here's what's weird about this book: it's not the violence. It's pretty over the top, but hey, so is every second action movie. What's weird about this book is that it completely ignores the interiority of its characters. There are physical events in the book; and there are measurements or facts. There are no thoughts or feelings. 'Blood Meridian' isn't bleak because a few puppies a thrown into the river and a few babies slaughtered; it's bleak because, in the world of the book, the most important character - 'the judge' - is more or less right in all his horrific opinions. It's not absolutely, irredeemably bleak because a few people hold out against him, and this suggests that you, dear reader, might also hold out against him and all he stands for. (As a side note, it's also bleak because McCarthy's vocabulary is perfectly suited to bleakness. Who knew 'deadman' was word for any kind of anchor?)
So, sure, there's no development of character and the 'plot' is basically picaresque. But that's true of lots of the best late twentieth century novels (e.g., Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions.) People who review this and complain that there are no nice characters to sympathize with should go party with the people who review Jane Austen and complain because she didn't write about the slave trade. Seriously. You don't drink a red wine and expect it to taste like riesling; that would be revolting. So don't read this book and expect Jane Austen. But do read it. And Austen. A little variety will do you all good. ( )
2 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
This latest book is his most important, for it puts in perspective the Faulknerian language and unprovoked violence running through the previous works, which were often viewed as exercises in style or studies of evil. ''Blood Meridian'' makes it clear that all along Mr. McCarthy has asked us to witness evil not in order to understand it but to affirm its inexplicable reality; his elaborate language invents a world hinged between the real and surreal, jolting us out of complacency.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Caryn James (Apr 28, 1985)
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cormac McCarthyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Montanari, RaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sivill, KaijamariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time.

-- Paul Valery
It is not to be thought that the life of darkness is sunk in misery and lost as if in sorrowing. There is no sorrowing. For sorrow is a thing that is swallowed up in death, and death and dying are the very life of the darkness.

-- Jacob Boehme
Clark, who led last year's expedition to the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, and UC Berkeley colleague Tim D. White, also said that a re-examination of a 300,000-year-old fossil skull found in the same region earlier shows evidence of having been scalped.

-- The Yuma Daily Sun, June 13, 1982
Dedication
The author wishes to thank the Lyndhurst Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also wishes to express his appreciation to Albert Erskine, his editor of twenty years.
First words
See the child.
Quotations
It was a lone tree burning on the desert. A heraldic tree that the passing storm had left afire. The solitary pilgrim drawn up before it had traveled far to be here and he knelt in the hot sand and held his numbed hands out while all about in that circle attended companies of lesser auxiliaries routed forth into the inordinate day, small owls that crouched silently and stood from foot to foot and tarantulas and solpugas and vinegarroons and the vicious mygale spiders and beaded lizards with mouths black as a chowdog’s, deadly to man, and the little desert basilisks that jet blood from their eyes and the small sandvipers like seemly gods, silent and the same, in Jeda, in Babylon. A constellation of ignited eyes that edged the ring of light all bound in a precarious truce before this torch whose brightness had set back the stars in their sockets.
The men as they rode turned black in the sun from the blood on their clothes and their faces and then paled slowly in the rising dust until they assumed once more the color of the land through which they passed.
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. You believe that?
Every man in the company claims to have encountered that sootysouled rascal in some other place.
But dont draw me, said Webster. For I dont want in your book.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679728759, Paperback)

"The men as they rode turned black in the sun from the blood on their clothes and their faces and then paled slowly in the rising dust until they assumed once more the color of the land through which they passed." If what we call "horror" can be seen as including any literature that has dark, horrific subject matter, then Blood Meridian is, in this reviewer's estimation, the best horror novel ever written. It's a perverse, picaresque Western about bounty hunters for Indian scalps near the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s--a ragged caravan of indiscriminate killers led by an unforgettable human monster called "The Judge." Imagine the imagery of Sam Peckinpah and Heironymus Bosch as written by William Faulkner, and you'll have just an inkling of this novel's power. From the opening scenes about a 14-year-old Tennessee boy who joins the band of hunters to the extraordinary, mythic ending, this is an American classic about extreme violence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:32 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Based on incidents that took place in the southwestern United States and Mexico around 1850, this novel chronicles the crimes of a band of desperados, with a particular focus on one, "the kid," a boy of fourteen.

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