No question Cormac is tops with words. But I kept wanting to go back and re-listen, thinking I must have missed something, because I had no idea what the book was trying to convey. Does a theme of raw human brutality on the wild frontier have some transcendent purpose I am too thick-headed to apprehend? Apparently so. One good thing about this kind of audio is that if I ever run out of fresh things to listen to, I can always put this on and enjoy McCarthy's word craft. But if there was some "take away" in this, I missed it. Really liked The Road and will probably listen to No Country at some point cause I loved the movie. But then again, there are a number of highly acclaimed works that I have failed to "get."
I love me some audiobooks
I agree with the other reviewers who think of this author as a masterful writer and an artful conjurer of fantastic and disturbing stories. I also agree with the reviewer who states that this is a book that should be read rather than listened to. Unless you can stay with the story all the way through and not be interrupted or forced to listen to small bits over several weeks, then Maybe you can come away with a satisfying finish. I must admit I was lost half way through. I found it hard to keep track of where the characters were, where they were going and what it was they were supposed to be doing. Maybe it deserves another chance when I have lots of time to devote just to listening.
As a plug, if you like this sort of raw humanity, check out the book One Second After by William Forstchen. It will stir more than just your imagination.
I am a reading omnivore. Classics, non-fiction, history, locavore, mysteries. I read it all.
First of all, let me say that I am an unabashed admirer of everything else I've read or listed to by Cormac McCarthy. This includes the Horses trilogy, No Country for Old Men and the Road. He is an almost singular literary beacon in these times. I admire his quality of prose, discriptive abilities, use of word and language structure to convey meaning beyond the words.
Blood Meridian, however, I found a mess of an early effort in his evolution. The key challenge for me was repetition. While lots of things happen (and I understand that McCarthy's focus is on spiritual rather than literal character development) the book seemed to lack a clear plot or any character development. Literature benefits when each event creates some change in plot or character. The endless repetitive brutal episodes in this book do not cause change. In sum they do but we as readers don't need 90% of them.\
Bottom line: I kept wondering why I was continuing to listen to this when nothing seemed to be happening, even when terrible things were happening every minute.
Stick to the later works.
though i'm not a fan of the chapter headings which are too "detailed" like old style victorian or pre-vic novels, the "in which our hero etc. etc etc." delineating all the vital plot points of the chapters, and i realize this is partially the style he's emulating, i would rather not have any surprises or suspense diluted, this is an excellent novel. think Moby Dick crossed with the Wild Bunch and written by Jerzy Kosinski and you may have a sense of the brutality and yet the philosophically poetic language which pops up. there is depth here to be pondered, but be prepared...
Some kind of quality in the characters with which to identify
I usually love his work. This one got me not at all.
I initially purchased Blood Meridian in audio form and enjoyed it so much that I have since purchased and read a printed copy. There are few writers capable of using descriptive language as eloquently and with such dexterity as McCarthy, who is without a doubt among the most preeminent writers of our time. His masterful depiction of the setting evokes extremely vivid imagery of the desolate, unforgiving terrain and lifelike characters. After reading Blood Meridian the first time to absorb the story, I read through the book a second time, stopping to pay particular attention to certain phrases and rereading entire scenes in order to fully appreciate the use of language.
The Judge is absolutely one of the most fascinating characters I have come across. His "suzerain" speech is among the most poignant moments in the development of a character I have ever experienced, and one of a number of glimpses into the fundamental nature of this enigmatic, preternaturally intelligent individual.
Blood Meridian, like many Cormac McCarthy novels, will stay with you long after you put it down.
They say McCarthy's knowledge of history is excellent. If this book is an indication, our western history was really tough on those that went through it. This book is the most gruesome one I have encountered. Not as good as McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, but well worth the entertaining listen.
I decided to read this book after finishing Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which was perhaps the most profound novel I have read for years. When I saw that Blood Meridian, not The Road, is widely considered to be McCarthy's masterpiece, I had to check it out.
I'm sad to say that I was very disappointed. In true McCarthy style, the book is written in vivid prose that relies heavily on similes. Some of the scenes--the Indian attack on the dry lake, for instance--are among the most skillfully illustrated scenes I've ever encountered, and their breathtaking imagery will remain with me for a long time.
Unfortunately, McCarthy's unique talent with words and cadence is not enough to overcome the book's failings. Perhaps because of the history upon which it is based, the book's plot is threadbare. There is no readily discernible arc or story or conflict. The book's main character disappears for hours at a time, removing all feelings of investment on the part of the reader. The book is, with only a few exceptions, comprised of repeated and verbose descriptions of wandering in a desert waste punctuated by scenes of perhaps the most grotesque violence in modern fiction. There were scenes in Blood Meridian that were so horrific and depraved that I nearly abandoned the book.
But unlike the violence in The Road, which serves to convey an important statement about the nature of men and to create a contrasting background against which McCarthy paints the goodness of the man and the boy, Blood Meridian's violence strikes me as gratuitous revelry. McCarthy seems to bask in the blood and cruelty, lingering for far too long on scenes of terrible evil without ever offering a balance. There are no good men in Blood Meridian, only oppressive, repeated, unspeakable evil. There are no real protagonists or characters with whom readers can identify or connect. There are just bad men who offer varying degrees of evil, and who ride around the desert committing atrocities. The book suffers immensely for this lack of moral grounding. It becomes a lacerating, demoralizing slog toward no particular goal or closure. Perhaps McCarthy wished to make a statement by writing the book this way, but I found that it greatly diminished my ability to become connected with the story or the characters in any meaningful way.
The sole saving grace on the character front is the Judge. Preternaturally intelligent and entirely amoral, he is perhaps the most enigmatic character I've ever encountered. Literature classes all over the country have puzzled over the Judge and his role. Is he God? Is he the devil? Is he simply the incarnation of the entirety of man? Is he even real? The character McCarthy created in Holden is simply brilliant, and I found myself simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by him. The book's closing chapters focus heavily on the Judge, and are arguably the best portion of the entire novel.
I will give the story two stars because of McCarthy's raw prowess with language, the fascinating case study in evil and knowledge offered by the Judge, and the strength of the final chapters. Overall, though, I struggled to enjoy the book. And given its length, that is a real problem.
One final point: The narrator did an outstanding job interpreting, coloring, and bringing to life McCarthy's often impenetrable prose. Five stars for narration.
I'm not sure of how to fully explain it, but this book is worth listening to. It's insanely violent and a little tough to get through the first part, but if you stick with it, it's beautifully written.