(Introduction/Boring Stuff): I’m continuing to participate in Blogging101 and recently we were tasked with posting comments to other’s blogs as a way to interact and connect. Today, we’re tasked with taking one of those insightful comments we made and turning it into a blogpost. I commented on a fantastic review of Blood Meridian over at 101books.net and decided I might as well create a full review of my own. You should read that other review too, though. Seriously, it’s good.
Blood Meridian is a novel by Cormac McCarthy who has written a few things you might know, with his most famous and well known probably being The Road and All The Pretty Horses. It’s a Western to end all Westerns and it’s been critically praised. It’s also based on a journal from the old West. How much is true story and how much is fiction? It’s hard to say but it feels true, which makes it all the more difficult to take.
I came to know Cormac McCarthy’s work through The Road, a bleak but impressive post-apocalyptic work that I became enthralled by. I immediately loved McCarthy’s stripped down style. No quotation marks denoting who said what. No “he said” or “she said.” It’s bare bones, it makes the reader work a little, and, in my opinion, is simply a joy to read. After The Road, I didn’t read any McCarthy until he was mentioned in a college class I was taking. It was a film class on Film Noir and Westerns. The professor talked about Blood Meridian and how incredibly violent and gruesome it was, that making it to the end was a difficult process because of it’s depths of cruelty. I basically took that as a challenge, thinking “how bad could it be?” and hoping the professor was correct. In my life I had yet to come across such a powerful novel.
Blood Meridian was worse than I’d imagined. It’s a book you will not enjoy reading for most of the time. There will be bits and pieces of light between the epic gulfs of darkness but for the most part, you are delving into the uttermost depths of cruel humanity, coming up for air in tiny gasps few and far between. Scenes of impossible beauty, painted in McCarthy’s words, will intertwine with bare bones lines of human beings performing unbearable acts to one another. The violence will engulf you. At times, you will need to put the book down, simply because you can’t bear it, you need a break. McCarthy doesn’t dress up the violence or give it more importance than anything else in the novel. It simply happens, and in the West of Old, it happens over and over, a veritable unending cycle of it, violence begetting violence forever.
Into this world comes a boy, nameless, a wanderer, a rogue, a fighter. He encounters the ultimate being of doom, the representation of the entirety of this violent world, The Judge. The Judge is a mountain of a man, who ensues chaos wherever he goes. The ultimate antagonist. You will hate him even as you accept his inevitability. This is one of only a handful of books that I would describe as “life-changing.” It stays with you long after you read the last line. It haunts you. You can’t forget, even you wanted to. It’s a novel I’ve reread and will read again. It’s nothing like any other novel you’ve ever read, even The Road pales in comparison. I’ll end with a simple quote from the novel.
“Your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery.”
P.S. If you’ve read the novel, then give a listen to Ben Nichols “The Last Pale Light of The West.” It’s an album he made after reading the novel and is a very good companion to the book. The song in the beginning is from it.