268 of 293 people found the following review helpful
The Sanctity of Blood,
By A Customer
This review is from: Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Paperback)
I've read all of Cormac McCarthy's earlier books set in Tennessee, such as "The Orchard Keeper" and "The Outer Dark" and I've read his "Border Trilogy" which contained the wonderful, "All the Pretty Horses." Nothing, however, that this wonderful author has written can prepare the reader for the sheer brutality and the sheer lyricism of "Blood Meridian."
The Old West portrayed in "Blood Meridian" is not the Old West of Zane Grey or even of Larry McMurtry. Images of the most horrific abound in "Blood Meridian," (charred human bones, blood-soaked scalps, a tree hung with the bodies of dead infants), all rendered in McCarthy's gorgeously lyrical writing.
As far as I'm concerned, "Blood Meridian" is McCarthy's best book, by far. It doesn't have the "feel good" qualities sometimes found in "All the Pretty Horses" but I didn't expect it to. "Blood Meridian" is the book in which McCarthy makes crystal clear the one theme that runs through all of his writing: the undeniable presence of evil in the world. The fact that he writes about this evil in language so lyrical and so elaborately beautiful only intensifies the horror of it all. We feel as though we have left the real world behind and entered into some surreal place from which no escape is possible.
"Blood Meridian," which takes place in 1847, is loosely based on actual events and is the story of a fourteen boy, known only as "the Kid." Drifting through the American Southwest, the Kid joins a disparate and bloodthirsty band of Indian-hunters-for-hire led by a mysterious and learned man called, Judge Holden.
It is after the Kid joins Judge Holden and his band that McCarthy really hits his stride. Juxtaposed next to descriptions of the most horrific and grotesque are images of the most sublime beauty. Consider this description of a group of Indians, "...wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery...one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a blood stained weddingveil." That's prose most authors would kill for.
McCarthy, unlike most writers who portray horror, concentrates not on the horrific images themselves, but on his characters' reactions to them. I'm not at all surprised at this, for McCarthy is not a horror writer; he is a writer of literature of the very highest order.
Although many people would have expected McCarthy to keep his emphasis on the Kid, he chooses to concentrate on the character of Judge Holden instead. Anyone who has read this book knows it was a good choice for the Judge is the dominant personality in "Blood Meridian" and all the other characters in this book are defined only in relation to the Judge. It is also the Judge who exemplifies McCarthy's major themes and it is he (the Judge) who becomes a metaphorical and spiritual father to all of McCarthy's later characters.
This is not a typical "Western novel," not even a very, very good "Western novel." In this book, the line between the victims the perpetrators of evil is subtlely drawn...if it is drawn at all. McCarthy seems to be telling us that all men are villains, all men are perpetrators, all men are bloodthirsty...if only the reward is high enough. And for some, evil, itself is its own reward.
I am giving nothing away by saying that the ending of this book is a sophisticated and stylistic masterpiece involving both the Judge and the Kid. The last image we have of the Judge is one that epitomizes the sheer lunacy of the man. In a saloon where a trained bear dances on the stage, we see the Judge, "...naked, dancing...He says that he will never die." In a beautiful and enigmatic epilogue, however, McCarthy skillfully denies the Judge the last word in the novel.
This is a sophisticated and complex book, far more complex that it would appear on the surface or even after one reading. It is filled with the Faulknerian prose that has become a McCarthy trademark (though McCarthy employed it less in "The Border Trilogy"). These convoluted sentences, (in my opinion, far better than anything Faulkner ever wrote), can be difficult, since they contain within them the seed of all of McCarthy's writing.
This brilliant novel is more than just a book; it is an experience. It is an experience of horror, of beauty, of the insanity of man. Set in a time when man attempted to sanctify himself in the blood of other men, this is, without a doubt the rawest exposition of horror I have ever read, yet, at the same time, it is probably the most beautiful book I have ever read as well. It is something that simply defies description. Read it for yourself and see.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2009 8:32:23 PM PST
Why would you not give a spoiler alert - here of all places?
This was just plain rude.
Posted on Dec 8, 2009 7:44:09 AM PST
Stuart Ball says:
You jacked a lot of this from the times review.
Posted on Mar 26, 2010 2:10:13 PM PDT
Donald E. Miner says:
I could not have said it better myself. When I carried this book with me for a few days I could think of little else. I literally felt as though there was a living object in my pocket or briefcase or by my bed -- and not necessarily a living object I wanted to touch. This is the greatest book I have ever read, and I have read many. It is also the most frightening thing I have ever read. God help the man whose mind produced this!
Posted on Apr 9, 2010 1:45:29 PM PDT
Terence S. Dale says:
Just started reading this book, and I have to say I had no idea what was in-store until reading the first few pages, I was shocked but had to continue reading just out of the sheer surprise of the characters. I love westerns, and I have to say this ranks up there, my next stop is The Border Trilogy.
Posted on May 24, 2010 1:34:01 PM PDT
Lon Lawson says:
If I'd read your review before reading this, I would've hunted you down and punched you in the teeth. You put a spoiler in your review? I can't fathom what was going through your mind when you thought people should know details of the end.
And Holden didn't lead the gang, get your facts straight. Terrible review.
Posted on Oct 16, 2010 8:18:39 AM PDT
James Kitching says:
The finest existing American writing, by far,
In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2011 7:23:46 AM PDT
Terrence Aybar says:
Ha! I loved your response and I agree with you wholeheartedly.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2011 11:27:25 AM PDT
The Truth™ says:
"God help the man whose mind produced this!"
Blood Meridian is a payment made to his masters, who he has to thank for his fame. Notice the full title, which is symbolic and refers to the violent end of the Western Civilisation, which they are bringing about (multiculturalism and ethnic strife, economic disasters, war, and so on, in preparation for the New World Order): Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West.
The book is intended as psychological-sorcerous preparation. You could see it as a kind of sick joke, like giving JFK the book "The King Must Die" a couple of days before shooting him dead.
Read Hoffman's "Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare".
Notice also this Guardian article:
William Gibson recommends Blood Meridian as his no. 1 "holiday read". He is the 13th author who recommends a book in that article. The 13th! A coincidence? Again, read the book by Hoffman.
Gibson was in the East while communism was "collapsing". He writes the following in the recommendation of his: "A few nights later, over in the east, I continued to experience intense overlays of Blood Meridian. Indeed, I think those overlays helped me better comprehend what I was seeing, and not to panic. The Judge, I knew, would understand all of this."
Excuse me? The Judge would understand?
Who wants to try decoding that paragraph? I wonder if anyone who read that article even bothered to think about what that paragraph meant.
Another interesting detail in the article is "holiday". It's to be understood as holy day. Basically, Gibson's holy choice for reading material is Blood Meridian. Creepy stuff. Another servant of the psychopathic schizophrenics who run the West through their control of central banks and parts of secret services and the media.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2011 5:50:23 AM PST
I agree with this comment more than the review. I did not take the book as a representation of evil but more the conquering nature of man. It also seemed like an affront to the "divine right" assumed by many Americans.
Posted on Jan 15, 2012 4:11:42 PM PST
red in the rainbow says:
I read the last chapter twice and I still don't know what happened. The epilogue didn't help. Could someone please explain what HAPPENED?