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Blood meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood meridian (original 1985; edition 2010)

by Cormac McCarthy

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7,086175507 (4.2)304
Title:Blood meridian
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:London : Picador, 2010.
Collections:Your library

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Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985)

Recently added byjquinn8, KellenMalek, LukeHuffman, private library, Cozycorner, mitten85, rhwhit, gmmartz, ppawel
Legacy LibrariesDavid Foster Wallace, Walker Percy
  1. 110
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (dmsteyn)
    dmsteyn: Judge Holden's character was based on the monomaniacal Captain Ahab of Melville's novel.
  2. 70
    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. 11
    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.
1980s (3)

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A boy grows into a man, baptized by great violence, in the American West. “The Kid” makes his way west from Tennessee and falls in with a band of marauders led by Glanton, a man who had “long forsworn weighing of consequences.” With contracts in hand from governors of Mexican states for Apache scalps they roam the “cauterized waste” of the deserts killing with impunity. They are accompanied by a man known as The Judge, who catalogs nature between battles and believes “whatever in creation exists my knowledge exists without my consent.”

McCarthy has a unique ability to describe nature and territory the men travel.
“The air was cold and clear and the country there and beyond lay
in a darkness unclaimed by so much as an owl. A pale green
meteor came up the valley floor behind them and passed overhead
and vanished silently into the void.”

That’s just one example. He also has a way with describing the violence men do to one another.

This is a beautiful and terrifying book . ( )
  Hagelstein | Jun 14, 2016 |
The Mennonite watches the enshadowed dark before them as it is reflected to him in the mirror over the bar. He turns to them. His eyes are wet, he speaks slowly. 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. Yell wake more than the dogs." (pg. 43).

Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is violence. Not merely a violent book, but the violence is so graphic, so relentless and so dominant a theme of the story that one could write a one-word review of the novel - "Violent." - and have said everything that is necessary to say about it. However, this is not meant as criticism, or disapproval. Set mostly in and around the Texas-Mexico border at the time of the American frontier, it follows 'the Kid', who falls in with a group of mercenaries paid to scalp renegade Indians, led by the brutish Glanton and the terrifyingly cryptic Judge Holden. Their quest descends into an orgy of indiscriminate violence, as they scalp not only Indian tribes but Mexican villagers and other innocents, including children, to the point that violence becomes the aim in itself, rather than a means to an end.

Blood Meridian shines a light on the raw, animalistic nature of Man. Using the lawless American West as his backdrop, McCarthy is presenting what happens to men when removed from legal, social and moral constraints. Crucial to all this is the Judge, apparently a supernatural figure or - my preferred interpretation - the pure embodiment of the concept of Man's violence. Without the Judge, the Kid and the rest of Glanton's gang would be directionless and would not fulfil Man's potential to lay waste to such a large tract of fledgling civilisation.

For me, it is significant that, for the most part, Glanton's gang preys on innocents. The vast majority of Indians they kill are peaceful or defenceless, and later victims include Mexican villagers, children, white pilgrims and other assorted rabble. The Judge embodies, in my view, the destructive element of Man's character which prevents Man from civilising himself, by appealing to baser instincts and destroying what he has created. These innocents are attempting to expand the frontier, to bring civilisation to a lawless land - they represent the goodness in Man, the civilised side. Glanton's gang, goaded on by the Judge, represent the evil in Man, destroying that which has been built. It also perhaps explains why the Judge does no harm to the imbecile, seeing it as a purely animalistic man and therefore inflicting violence upon it would be pointless. In contrast, the Judge extends his most sadistic violence towards young children, whether through physical harm or sexual abuse, as children are the embodiment of innocence, yet also perhaps the most vulnerable to corruption. One may also link this to the Judge's relationship with the Kid, particularly the ending of the novel at the jakes. As the Judge himself says at one point: "For whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe." (pg. 154). Through violence and destruction, the Judge and his charges seek to undermine this attempt to build in stone and drag Mankind back into the primal mud. The charismatic Judge is the leader whom men follow and have always followed, who provides them with sanction to destroy through collusive debasement.

This, perhaps, leads one to the 'blood meridian' of the title. The novel is, in essence, a coming-of-age story for the Kid. Like all men, he grows up, peaks and declines. On page 154 the Judge provides the following philosophising: "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 night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievements. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day." As men approach their peak, they know their decline and eventual death - the 'darkening and the evening of his day' - is on the horizon. The Judge represents Man lashing out at this cosmic injustice, struggling to come to terms with his own mortality. Hence the Judge's constant struggle to take charge - "it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate." (pg. 210). The Judge knows that "Only nature can enslave man" - i.e. can take away his life - but erroneously believes that by challenging nature man can be "suzerain of the earth." (pg. 209). He proclaims that "War is god", the "truest form of divination" (pg. 263) and by succeeding in this 'game', one can not so much become immortal but at least strike out a victory against nature, and by doing so come to terms with mortality. However, I believe that McCarthy means to show us that following the Judge's guidance is counter-productive. Man seeks to challenge his mortality by using violence, yet in doing so allows the evil in Man to destroy the goodness and innocence; by destroying that goodness, Man has in effect killed himself, or at least that part of his soul that might have been worth preserving. "When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said, they is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf." (pg. 69). Men are the lambs, lost in the world and looking for direction. A good figure, here represented by the mother, can direct them on the right path. An evil figure, such as the Judge, is the wolf, can corrupt and destroy them.

However, all of the above is purely speculative on my part, and it is a tribute to McCarthy's prose that others could present vastly different interpretations that could claim to have equal or even greater validity. As a note on the prose, it is incredibly lyrical and poetic - a beauty which is more marked for standing in contrast to the brutality of the violence depicted. Consider, for example, this description of riders silhouetted against the desert:

"... they rode with their faces averted from the rock wall and the bake-oven air which it rebated, the slant black shapes of the mounted men stenciled across the stone with a definition austere and implacable like shapes capable of violating their covenant with the flesh that authored them and continuing autonomous across the naked rock without reference to sun or man or god." (pg. 146).

There are also some great descriptive passages, such as when an Apache finds himself "staring into the black lemniscate that was the paired bores of Glanton's doublerifle." (pg. 241). A lemniscate is essentially a sideways figure-of-eight - an apt description for a shotgun barrel (yes, you will probably need a good dictionary to fully understand this novel). However, such weighty prose does make the story very dense, and it is quite an exhausting read. The violence, although as I mentioned above as being necessary to the story, is also so indiscriminate and wanton that it is easy to lose your place in the book as, if you are not careful, the events coalesce into one large, indistinguishable, violent mess. There is a large part in the middle of the book where the Kid is rarely even mentioned, and I think the novel loses its direction in this section (though this may be intentional as Glanton's gang is wandering across the desert). It does require a considerable amount of mental effort to get through, even more so because of the depressing nature of the atrocities and depravities committed by the gang. Because of these drawbacks, Blood Meridian is not to my mind a masterpiece. Nevertheless, it is an incredibly rewarding book and well worth the effort it demands." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
This book is like a tumbler of good whisky. It should be consumed slowly and thoughtfully. Trying to rip through it, or trying raise a simpler novel to its level in order to attempt a comparison will only leave you sorry you wasted something so fine. ( )
  NateK | May 9, 2016 |
Perhaps one of the greatest novels I've read. I am not capable of producing the language required for praise of McCarthy's writing, and therefore I'll only say that it blew me away just like it did in The Road.

Even though the kid is the main character, I feel like this was the Judge Holden's novel all along. A man that is not only vicious and dangerous and without remorse but also intelligent, well-spoken and gifted in rhetoric. His thoughts on men, the universe and war are among the most haunting because even though the reader knows they are ultimately immoral they offer a different point of view, perhaps not justifiable but yet explanatory of a path of violence and savagery.

To read this novel is to experience a nightmare that encompasses murder, torture and the heartlessness that comes with it, but it also gives insight into the mind of the cold and hopeless. It's a tragic tale, a tale of men consumed by violence who travel and yet seem not go anywhere, who go in circles because there is nowhere else for them to go.

  bartt95 | Apr 10, 2016 |
Thank God this is over. Yes, the allegory is a mind quest and the descriptions of the land are amazing, but they compromise 30% of the book. The rest is blood and guts. I don't see how that combination makes for the praise this book gets, although I do see how violence is arguably a must to make the point. I think people like the book just because it's difficult to attempt to figure out. ( )
1 vote sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cormac McCarthyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, HaroldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montanari, RaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sivill, KaijamariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:18 -0400)

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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.

(summary from another edition)

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