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Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

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Mr. P

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Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

Having read none of McCarthy, I put two of his works on my to-read list. I picked up The Road and Blood Meridian. The Road was made into a film and was more on my radar than his other work (aside from No Country, saw the film. ) I decided to go with Blood Meridian. I read a good word about from Neil Peart. I saw many references to it as the greatest American novel, at least within the last 40 years since it came out. The topic seemed... Interesting even though it was a western, and the Judge character attracted me from what I researched.

McC definitely has a way with words and paints pretty striking scenes. I am not a big western fan, but he makes it work for me enough to read in a historical state of mind. People glorify the typical western parable, perhaps not fully realizing how awful it was. To live a life in those times. The grusomeness is reflected well in this book. It makes you think. And what is a book for anyway?

But damn. McC certainly uses words... And words... And words. And his puntcuation is non-existant, albeit by choice. His run-on oververbosity is oppressive. It is a big turnoff for me. It is making this read a slog to say the least. It's a good story, but the greatest American novel? Oh my... No.

I'm halfway through. This is going to be a long term read... Consuming in small doses.

Anyone read any McC? I am hesitant to start another by him due to this.

Mr. P.
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Harry Marks
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Re: Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

I have read many McCarthy novels, including the "Border Trilogy" which begins with the fabulous "All the Pretty Horses." Anyone starting out with C McC should probably start with Horses. "No Country for Old Men" shares its bleak outlook and subtext of concern with meaning, The fact that the Coen brothers considered it funny tells a lot about McC's immersion in irony.

I also struggled with "Blood Meridian," but not mostly because of the horrible sentences. Its use of magical realism left me feeling at sea. He is a crafty enough writer that this may have been the point - if I re-read it, it will be with an eye to left brain and right brain processing, and to what extent the apparently paranormal events around the Judge were meant to shift the reader from pedestrian, passive processing to the harder problem of interpreting events in the light of values.

McC's perennial theme is the comparison between might and right. He focuses on borderlands, where cultures meet, and leaves you with a strong impression that the power to do something is completely separate, maybe even opposite, to the moral impulse to choose the right thing. In Blood Meridian this is symbolized by the ability to manufacture gunpowder, which gives the Judge decisive power.

But calling him the Judge is an ambivalent symbol. For those of us with a religious heritage, there is an obvious subtext to the frequent incidents in which the Judge shows his judgmentalism (despite his own depravity). Satan is referred to as "the Accuser of the Brethren" in the New Testament, following on from the earlier Old Testament references to a supernatural character who tests people by criticizing them, most obviously in the book of Job.

The result is a complex, and thoroughly ironic, merging of the notion of decision by greater force with the notion of critiquing people's errors and shortcomings. The opposite of the power of grace as preached by Jesus and Paul, and an underside to Western culture as dramatically presented as in "The Raj Quartet" by Paul Scott.
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