04.04. Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian

Don’t read this book if you have a weak stomach, a faint heart or recoil at senseless violence.
This book has violence, war and evil at it’s core and to bring that to life, McCarthy shows us evil unleashed.
As so often in his books, McCarthy places his characters in anarchic circumstances to show the true nature of man when law and governance cease to control them. In The Road, that world was post-apocalyptic. In Blood Meridian it is the harsh and lawless landscape of the US Mexican border region from 1847 to 1861. We follow the life of a character known only as “the kid” who runs away at 14. We don’t know much about his motivation but we do know, that ” in him broods already a taste for mindless violence”
He joins a band of bounty hunters whose activities degenerate to massacre, robbery and rape (the leader Glanton, is based on an actual historical figure and many events in the book have their roots in history). They kill for money and for fun. And sometimes they kill for no obvious reason at all. It’s pretty grim.
The book is dominated by the character of Judge Holden, a larger than life character (who reminds me of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now) whose philosophy is clear:
“Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaited its ultimate practitioner…It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. THose that fought, those that did not.”
The violence in the book is not a means to an end. It does not cleanse or redeem. It is the essence of this world McCarthy has created. There are no good guys and bad guys, there are just the strong and the weak.
It’s a bloody ride. But one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The writing in this book is absolutely sublime. Although at times, the plot drags, the descriptions of place and behaviour are poetic, moving and memorable.

4 Stars from me, but I mean it when I say this book is not for everybody!
Let me know if you’re read it and what you thought.

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”
- Italo Calvino
This book is definitely a classic, the message at its heart is absolutely timeless.

2/50 for The Classics Club

3 thoughts on “04.04. Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian

  1. Harold Bloom — I think it was — discussed how the atmosphere of “Macbeth” and “Blood Meridian” are similar: violent, desolate, and godless. I’d never associated Brando’s “Kurtz” with Judge, but that’s pretty good, right down to their physical appearance. Smarter people than me have describe McCarthy’s style in the book as half Melville, half Faulkner. Sometimes I found the prose a bit overcooked, but it worked plenty of other times for me.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for stopping by. I’ll have to look up that Harold Bloom piece- the description sounds spot on- that desolation really is a strong theme of the book.
      The prose really is pretty intense, I agree!
      I’ve never read Faulkner or Melville- perhaps should add them to my list, as I really love this style of book.

  2. Pingback: 21.03. Bookstores and book challenges « Like the World.

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