Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cormac McCarthy/BLOOD MERIDIAN

Based on historical events on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West is an epic novel of America’s westward expansion, focusing on a 15-year-old from Tennessee we know only as “the kid,” who happens into a ragtag army and is swept along on a nightmare journey of slaughter and scalping. The true protagonist of this tale, however, is the language. A few examples:
“Dust stanched the wet and naked heads of the scalped who with the fringe of hair below their wounds and tonsured to the bone now lay like maimed and naked monks in the bloodslaked dust and everywhere the dying groaned and gibbered and horses lay screaming.” (p. 54)
“The leaves shifted in a million spangles down the pale corridors and Glanton took one and turned it like a tiny fan by its stem and held it and let it fall and its perfection was not lost on him.” (p. 136)
“The terrain was thick with cholla and clumps of it clung to the horses with spikes that would drive through a bootsole to the bones within and a wind came up through the hills and all night it sang with a wild viper sound through that countless reach of spines.” (p. 242)

This book is death and agony and bloody Hell, violent and unglamorous and antiheroic, an antidote to the romantic vision of the wild wild West. John Banville says that it “…reads like a conflation of The Inferno, The Iliad, and Moby Dick…” And so it does. Its scale is monumental; its large, sweeping language echoes across the sunbaked land like a Biblical curse or prophecy. McCarthy’s sentences resonate; tirelessly he rolls the words on his tongue, the better to savor their grim, relentless beauty. The images of war and death and anguish and blood and blood and blood gradually take over the book until what we see and hear and smell overshadows the plot and we travel alongside the kid with our guts and hearts rather than our minds.

8 comments:

angelle said...

ah!!! been DYING to read this one. but i'm a little scared bc after i read the road, i read no country for old men which was okay but i didn't LOVE the way i loved the road. but i hear blood meridian is really awesome, so i do want to pick it up one of these days.

Vivian said...

It's long (337 pages), and it's not a page-turner. It did take me awhile to read. You have to get used to McCarthy's minimal punctuation, multi-compound sentences, and semi-Biblical rhetoric, but once you get the rhythm, it works. It's also very bloody, and horrifying in places, but what he's trying to do is convey the huge role of violence in the westward drive to settle this country. (Not unlike what Clint Eastwood was trying to show in Unforgiven.)

A tech question: I tried to italicize Unforgiven, but I guess I don't know how to use html tags; the system wouldn't accept them.

moonrat said...

I've never been able to work out plugging HTML into the comments section. We need a Web master of sorts. Sigh. My recourse is I just capitalize stuff I would have italicized.

Sorry to be of basically no help.

Froog said...

You can italicize something on the Blogger 'compose' page, and then 'cut & paste' it. Or switch to the HTML view to see what the tags are. Quite easy, really.

Froog said...

Further Note: you have to 'cut & paste' from the HTML view. If you 'cut & paste' from the regular page, italics, bold, etc. get lost.

angelle said...

tags: you open with open bracket i close bracket (what they show down there). you close it with open bracket, backslash, i, close bracket. the backslash closes the tag. and you throw the thing you want to italicize in between the two tags. this holds true for any html tag, including font, links, etc.

angelle said...

and yes, i am a secret computer nerd...

Joe Borri said...

Hi There
Stumbled across your blog and was interested to read the comments. I just finished Blood Meridian. I loved it, but man it's a tough read at times. The Biblical workings I find enjoyable, the way he weaves them into the story. I have a book out, my first, with a regional press (I'm in Michigan). I'm an artist, and illustrated each of the 15 stories in the book. If you have a chance, check it out at Amazon. It's called, Eight Dogs Named Jack... My Blog is eightdogsnamedjack.blogspot.com. My website is www.joeborri.net. Pat Conroy wrote a nice blurb for me, but it's tough to get a lot of play when you're a nobody. Hope you'll give me a look. I look forward to navigating through your blog. God bless,
Joe Borri