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Blood Meridian (1985)
by Cormac McCarthy, Luis Murillo Fort (Translator)
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A dark western that has several memorable characters. The historical roots of such episodes serves to accentuate the dark nature of those involved. The different writing style does take some getting used to. ( )
Taking my second shot at this book, via Kindle. About 36% through. Started it last year in normal book form, but got sidetracked. Will stick to it this time, until done, and then read some literary analysis of it. I guess the words "Harsh" and "Raw" really don't do it justice. Will try to come up with better descriptors as I read it.
Update: OK - I finished it. I have never read a single western before. I have no interest in them. I have, however, seen almost every episode of Gunsmoke. But this, while set in the West, is more than a western. I will leave the real literacy analysis for the scholars, but I will say that in addition to the heaviness and violence of the novel there are some damned funny parts, and I wonder if McCarthy laughed while writing them. Surely he did. And some of the very strange scenes he describes - surely he chuckled with glee as he crafted these.
For years I stayed away from CM after hearing about his beyond steroidal literary style. Now I've plunged into the deep end with Blood Meridian; and I'm glad I did.
Our longtime canonical culture curator, Harold Bloom, calls this novel among greatest ever written, worthy to place alongside classics like Moby Dick and As I Lay Dying. At the same time, he admits he can scarcely conceive of a more violent literary work, with grotesqueries of mostly genocidal carnage seemingly on every page. How does a serious critic align such contrary facets of one work? Mustn't they conflict?
I'm not sure, having only read the book once.
On the other hand, one reading suffices to perceive the passionate commitment behind the writing and the sheer beauty of much of the language. Here's one phrase that leapt out at me: spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenelated heat. Just gorgeous writing and there's a lot like that.
Mr. Bloom again, writing in 1994, declares the relevance of CM's dark tale of 1850 America as "the authentic American apocalyptic novel." It's now 2022 and this characterization is at least doubly true. The cruelty in this country, the racism, the endless injustice, our thoughtless planet-destroying capitalism, where did all our destructiveness begin if not with slaughter of native Americans, buffalo herds, and anything else that else that stood in our greedy, collectively unconscious path? Spoiler alert. It's been foretold. It's all still going on. We're all guilty participants, killers or bystanders. We're all going down in a sea of blood. That's CM's message; his prophetic vision -- and, I sometimes fear, our future.
I am giving this book five stars while simultaneously recommending that none of my reading friends actually read it unless you pick it up as an intellectual, academic exercise with a group of like minded friends. I'm completely serious here because this book is not enjoyable reading. So why the five stars?
Well, first it is poetry of the first order. Gorgeous evocative poetry. And that poetry raps around a very serious theme about mankind and the inner drive for survival that ultimately overcomes the moral constructs developed by society. McCarthy happens to have a very dark view, and it is one that deserves consideration. Honestly, in many ways I share it. However, even though I view the book as social commentary, it is written more as historical fiction written in a dystopian fashion featuring violence, violence, and more violence. Oddly, it feels quite detached so I didn't find it as hard to read as if I had actually cared what happened to these characters, but here, there is no one to root for. And the characters' internal dialogues are not shared, so the reader never really cares much what happens to them. It's hard to explain, but the reader's detachment in some ways reinforces the book's themes.
This is a book that could be discussed for hours and dissected at a very micro level. In fact, that is really why it is worthwhile. In my mind, I never equated it with entertainment, and in general, I read because I want to be transported, entertained, engaged, or moved. Blood Meridian was hard, slow reading, but it felt important, and as though the author had something to say.
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.
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Wikipedia in English (3)
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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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.