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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just finished Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Anyone else read it?

McCarthy is perhaps best known for The Road and No Country For Old Men, neither of which I have read but I've seen the films of both. He also wrote All The Pretty Horses, which is a sort of western romance. Blood Meridian isn't really like that.

Blood Meridian begins in Texas in 1840. The protagonist wanders from place to place before joining a group of soldiers going down into Mexico to fight Apaches. I won't give much more away as there isn't too much plot to the book, though the story is very engaging. The thing that stands out for me most about the book is the language. There are no wasted words, everything seems to be pretty exact like poetry. From descriptions of the open country to massacres that take place in the plains of Mexico, the combinations of words are very interesting. I can't really do it justice unless you've read any of the book.

I'd like to discuss some of the ideas in the book, as well as characters like the judge and literary references. But if you haven't read the book and are in the mood for something edging on the apocalyptic set in the west, why not give it a try? The book can get quite violent and some of the language and style requires a little patience but once you get into the third chapter it really kicks off.

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I love McCarthy's economic prose. Sometimes he writes a passage that makes me want to give up writing altogether!
 

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I read it a couple of years ago after I saw the movie "The Proposition" which was a Western set in Australia.  I read that the character played by Danny Houston in that movie was about as close to The Judge from Blood Meridian as had been portrayed on film thusfar.

The book is fascinating and brilliantly done, however, rarely has there been a monster quite like The Judge and the men in this book.  To discover it is based, loosely, on real events is shocking.

I have heard they were planning to make this into a movie, but I have a hard time imagining how it would look on screen...and who would want to see it...  It is not a book for the squeamish.
 

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Blood Meridian is as haunting to the reader as Cormac McCarthy is, evidently, haunting to me. Out of the spattering of posts I've made recently, his name is frequented often, and usually coincidently. Or maybe not; I recently finished a novel (http://www.nookboards.com/forum/index.php?topic=10984.msg91039#msg91039) that greatly reminded me of Blood Meridian, mostly because of its influence from Moby Dick, so maybe he's on my mind more.

In a post I made on another forum (http://www.nookboards.com/forum/index.php?topic=10321.msg90699#msg90699), I said that if The Road is McCarthy-lite, then Bloom Meridian is Cormac-concentrate. This, for the apprehensive would-be reader, is a hefty temptation and or warning to those approaching their next McCarthy novel having just been introduced by The Road. Open the book prepared: the violence makes No Country for Old Men look like an episode of old-school Tom & Jerry, the vocabulary is so archaic you'll catch yourself trying blow presumed dust off the page, and the prose is High-Def Old Testament, parataxis-ing the reader about a Hades inspired revisioning of the Western. The author's bloody indulgence is sanctified by a horrific reality… Blood Meridian is based on an actual true account and only mildly liberated by creative license. It follows the Glanton Gang of scalp-hunters, centered on an unnamed kid referred to as, originally, "the kid". However, a la Ishmael, the reader will loose sight of the kid for lengthy stretches. The character you won't let out of your sights (let alone your nightmares) is Judge Holden, an individual usually described as the personification of war, but it's just easier to think of him as Satan.

To those who will attempt the novel and to those who have, a reading guide might be in order to extract the greatest experience. This is a novel structured on, as mentioned, Moby Dick, with some Milton sprinkled on top, and as with most referencing, it's best to know not just where, but why. If others have any thoughts they'd like to share on the subject of the book, I'd love to discuss them here as well.
 

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Well it's magnitudes more violent. I'm tempted to say it's not really as depressing as The Road, because Blood Meridian never really lets you see the suffering of characters you should care about. I've read a number of essays on the subject, so don't take this as my brilliant insight, but the novel sort of pulls a deliberate trick, only letting you see the sufferings of truly awful human beings, including and most of all, the kid. The Road, on the other hand, had you rooting for The Man and The Boy. They were morally just characters, so you didn't want to see them suffer. The gang members of Blood Meridian, conversely, are the only characters whose suffering is really, fully delineated, leading you to root for the kid. But the kid is still a viscous killer.

Yet many innocent people die in Blood Meridian, much more than in The Road, some in the most horrific manners ever described in literature. Think horror. So if you find that stuff depressing, you might want to chase some antidepressants with a stiff drink or two before reading even the first five pages of Blood Meridian.
 

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I love McCarthy, but "Blood Meridien" I haven't read.  Which is odd since most people consider it to be his greatest work!  I have it on my Kindle, along with most of his works.  I must get to it soon!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I haven't read other McCarthy works, but I thought this was good to get right in at the deep end.

I find the prose really interesting, at parts it reminded me of the film 'Point Blank' with Lee Marvin. Long drawn out scenes exploring space punctuated by intense violence. Not that's particularly a bad thing. I see it as a story of the west, of the way America began. America doesn't really have the same history as other countries, it's quite a young country really, and a lot of the history it does have is through blood letting, manifest destiny.

I don't think it could really be filmable, it's not structured like a film. There's little dialogue, there's barely any heroes, the story takes place over several years and not much happens. But a lot does happen, it would be hard to translate onto film I think. It's not as much depressing as it is horrifying really.
 

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Read Blood Meridian many years ago and consider it one of the finest horror novels of the 20th Century. The comparison's to Moby Dick and the Australian film The Proposition are appropriate. The Judge may be read any number of ways, but I see McCarthy as an existentialist, and the Judge represents the horrific certitude given us by "the law," racism, religion, politics and other mindsets that comfortably obfuscate human self interest. The Boy is just relative innocences thrust into a the dark and violent world McCarthy believes this to be. Hope may be difficult to locate in his novels, though I always manage to find it somewhere, and I think most of his work is brilliant, even if it's overly mannered at times.
 

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It is indeed tempting to view McCarthy as an existentialist, but I'm not entirely certain I'd peg his as such myself. In B.M., the only character with the emotional intelligence to struggle with absurdity or reason or lack thereof is the Judge, and nobody would say he's even mildly ruffled by the violent atmosphere. The reader is the single individual concerned with the pointlessness of the killing. Plus, and perhaps this is just my own mere ignorance, but in what I traditionally think of in an existentialist piece of fiction, I imagine characters grappling (perhaps chaotically) with imminent death, forcing a recognition of a treasured but reasonless life. The only person suffering an existential crisis in B.M. is the reader. Conversely, the souls of B.M. are sans epiphany, emotional paralytics catalyzing a world of violence, indifferent to all of life. Violence is more important in B.M. than death or life.

And it's also tempting to view "the kid" as a type of hope for humanity; McCarthy deliberately wants the reader to fall into this trap. This is a trick the author has performed elsewhere... I recall a James Wood essay on No Country for Old Men (I think), in which Wood says, quite correctly, that McCarthy knows the reader will always sympathize with the hunted, i.e. the chased, even when the reader shouldn't. One should look very closely at "the kid" and wonder why, exactly, you're labeling this character as a protagonist. "The kid" only demonstrates a decency, really, towards fellow members of the Glanton Gang, helping and enabling them to kill more. On the very first page of the novel, the kid is described as "... in him broods already a taste for mindless violence". "The kid" stands in stark contrast to "the boy" of The Road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yeah, I agree with the kid not exactly being the protagonist. He's one of the more human characters in the gang but for most of the book he joins in in the violence or refuses to take action. Similar with the judge being thought of as the villain when really he's just one of the more fleshed out characters. Although that's putting it quite simply, there aren't really any good, bad or evil characters in the book. Each person is used often as an instigator or victim of violence which is arguably the only real change to the landscape.

is an interesting lecture about the book, though heavy on literary and biblical reference most of which went over my head. I think I'd like to give Moby Dick a try after this though.
 

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Tara Maya said:
Is it as depressing as The Road? (From the description, I'm guessing, Yes)
It's more depressing than The Road. It's a great book, though, savage and gorgeous. There are no rules. A more true picture of the taming of the West than any cowboys-and-indians story you could name. He has a theory of violence, also articulated in No Country, that might makes right, essentially -- that progress is defined by the victors, and those who win do so by superior weapons, greater violence. It's an ugly truth, to hear it spelled out in the books. Real food for thought.

If you want gentler McCarthy, try All the Pretty Horses. Nothing like the movie, which is just stupid.
 

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kingdead said:
Yeah, I agree with the kid not exactly being the protagonist. He's one of the more human characters in the gang but for most of the book he joins in in the violence or refuses to take action. Similar with the judge being thought of as the villain when really he's just one of the more fleshed out characters. Although that's putting it quite simply, there aren't really any good, bad or evil characters in the book. Each person is used often as an instigator or victim of violence which is arguably the only real change to the landscape.

is an interesting lecture about the book, though heavy on literary and biblical reference most of which went over my head. I think I'd like to give Moby Dick a try after this though.
Ah, yes. I've the two Yale Lectures on my iPod (you can get both the video and audio only for free on iTunes; I recommend it).

Moby Dick is, well, a trying novel. It's, yes, a masterpiece, but a dedication at the same time. One of the most influential novels in American fiction, mostly because it was the first to choose to be influenced by the King James Bible. I must say, I'm not sure I'd call it an enjoyable read... it's a book about three times too long. In fact, I think I recall someone once asking me if they should read it, and I replied no, just read Blood Meridian, mostly because it's less taxing. Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!" is a toughie, too, but also written in both the shadow of the KJ Bible and Moby Dick (Faulkner once said that Moby Dick was the one book from history he wished he'd written). And though everyone has probably already read it, I must say that Burgess' A Clockwork Orange maintains some mighty strong similarities to B.M., despite being written at least a decade before it (Though there isn't a touch of Moby Dick in it). If you've listened to more of those Yale lectures, you'll probably already know Robinson's Housekeeping is tied to Moby Dick as well; think of it as a feminist answer to B.M., but don't let that put you off... it's a great book, it really is. I've already flaunted The Illegal Spy Novel previously, but it too does have many cues to Moby Dick (actually, I'm pretty sure it has some direct allusions to B.M. as well), as well as Don Quixote. It's obviously not a classic, and less well known, but certainly the most enjoyable of the books listed here, and a little more of an assessable read. Finally, regarding essays, if you choose to read Moby Dick, you might as well as invest in Harold Blooms' How to Read and Why. It's not a wonderful book, but it does have both essays on B.M. and M.D.... oh, and come to think of it, also one on Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which I have to imagine Melville read before penning his masterpiece. Definitely check out the Rime of the Ancient Mariner; you can find it anywhere on the internet, famous poem, and it's maybe a half hour read. Moby Dick is a chore, ultimately, and I'd personally recommend a number of the previously mentioned books first, particularly Absalom, Absalom or The Illegal Spy Novel. Or All the Pretty Horses, though it's not written in the tradition of Moby Dick... it's just a very good McCarthy novel.
 

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Jon Olson said:
If you want gentler McCarthy, try All the Pretty Horses. Nothing like the movie, which is just stupid.
It's unfortunate that the movie didn't work. Partially it was the casting - the leads (Matt Damon including) were simply too old. But I worked at Miramax when the film was made and Billy Bob Thornton's original cut was about 4 hours long. It was much better than what ended up being released theatrically.
 

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I read and enjoyed The Road, very moving.

He got away with a lot in his writing style that other writers would be tarred and feathered for doing.

The film was excellent. If you rent the DVD make sure and view special features, lot of good stuff there.

 
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