Friday, February 20, 2009

blood meridian, or the evening redness in the west by cormac mccarthy

"the fulfilled renown of moby-dick and of as i lay dying is augmented by blood meridian, since cormac mccarthy is the worthy discipline both of melville readers and faulkner," writes esteemed literary scholar harold bloom in his introduction to the modern library edition. "i venture that no other living american novelist, not even pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable."

cormac mccarthy's masterwork, blood meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the texas-mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. its wounded hero, the teenage kid, must confront the extraordinary violence of the glanton gang, a murderous cadre on an offical mission to scalp indians. loosely based on the fact, the novel represents a genius vision of the historical west, one so fiercely realized that since its initial publication in 1985 the canon of american literature has welcome blood meridian to its shelf.

intense. horrifying. bloody. painful. these are some very basic words that come to my stunned mind when i try to articulate your blood meridian. you are one hardcore man. this photo of you scares me. you look so angry, like you've been slighted by everyone or you hate the world. or maybe yourself. if the few books of yours that i have read are any indication to your personal view of humanity, you're ready to toss us to the monster and start all over again. expunge the world and try anew. maybe next time humanity will live up to your expectations.

at the risk of your anger, i have to ask about your writing style because confuses me. no, wait! hear me out. i spent so much time trying to figure out your system for grammar. at first, it seems you hate apostrophes. but then i realized you only hate them for contractions. you use them for possessives. and sometimes you don't capitalize proper nouns, like "indians" or "spanish." it was this distracting puzzle to the grammar geek in me. it's acceptable to cast off the rules of grammar, as long as one knows the rules of grammar. then one can break them. like james joyce. i am not saying that you are ignorantly breaking rules, i just couldn't figure out the logic or reason behind it. and it seems to be part of your style because it's the same in this 1985 book as in the your later titles. it's consistent, but i don't understand it. please, explain it. i need to know! it's driving me a little nuts here.

on the other hand, your writing itself literally puts fear in me. and shame. it is dense and tight. it sharply contrasts the wide open landscapes your characters inhabit. it's startling and sometimes hard to read. but it has moments where it hit me that it was completely worth it to persevere. i had to put it down and take breaks, but the novel would sit there, beckoning me back. 

and, oh god. you have created one of the most intimidating and breathtaking and larger-than-life characters in modern fiction i may have ever encounter. judge holden, he is a character that will haunt me forever. his strange version of morals, while seeming completely devoid of all morals and logic, is so twisted it's impressive. i have no idea what his motivation is, but i feel it's something higher than $100 a scalp. he is ruthless, without humility, and demanding. how the kid survived so long by his ageless side is beyond me. 

over the course of reading your book, i had nightmares. for a period of three days i woke, thankful that i was not a character in blood meridian. then my existence would be defined by pain, torture, suffering, blood, stress, and hardship. one terror after the next. your descriptions of murder, scalping, beatings, everyday life -- it's all told with a detached perspective and that makes it so much more sickening. because this style of writing is frank, matter-of-fact, and exactly in line with how your characters think and behave. they have no problem with the killings they've been hired to do. or the killing they feel they must to do survive. i shuddered repeatedly while reading this. only after turning enough pages did i realize that slowly you had made me numb to the violence. and then i was even more afraid. i felt myself becoming as cold and unfeeling as your characters. 

the scenes you've painted of men, life, history, and the south west are arresting. they stick in my head even now that the novel has been safely returned to the new york public library. your depiction of america is morbid, but if readers can handle it, then i recommend this one. if readers don't quite have the stomach for it, then perhaps try the road. another of your works which i favor over blood meridian

still . . . you are an american writer to be proud of. 

dutifully yours,
a lone reader

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