©1985 Cormac McCarthy; (P)2007 Recorded Books
“The authentic American apocalyptic novel…I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable as Blood Meridian.” (Harold Bloom)
"McCarthy is a writer to be read, to be admired, and quite honestly envied." (Ralph Ellison)
"McCarthy is a born narrator, and his writing has, line by line, the stab of actuality. He is here to stay." (Robert Penn Warren)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Brutally violent, Blood Meridian turns the 19th century American West into a kind of hellish but hauntingly beautiful dreamscape, through which a gang of mercenaries wanders, killing without aim or reason. There is no comfort to be found anywhere in this novel, which overturns all Old West Myths, leaving only a stark, maddening world in which man exists on the edge of nihilism, "civilization" an illusion. The characters are almost opaque, reduced to actions in minimal dialogue. Even the language seems intended to confound and discomfit the reader, mixing arcane, half-forgotten scientific and philosophical terms with passages that sound almost like something from the Bible.
Yet, McCarthy is the definition of a powerful writer. His prose is hypnotic, the book's scenes affecting the reader as much by their eerie beauty and lyricism as by the horror and violence contained within. Their images will stick around in your head for days. The Judge, a monstrous, demihuman prodigy at the center of novel, whose amused, philosophical queries about whether or not the scenes around him represent man in man's natural state, is one of the more memorable characters I've come across in fiction.
Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is filled with powerful questions, about morality, about evil, about humanity's need for violence and dominance, about the nature of God, and so forth. Sometimes these questions are expressed explicitly, usually by the Judge, but mostly, they swirl just beneath the surface of the nightmare, challenging the reader to peer into the abyss and examine them. Though we don't live in such lawless times anymore, the distance from our safe doorsteps to the modern equivalent of a gang of roving, murderous scalpers may be shorter than we think.
McCarthy will certainly never be an author to everyone's taste, and not with this work, but Blood Meridian has made a few critics' "Best of the 20th Century" lists for a good reason. This is a first-rate work of modern literature.
Live in Sydney, Australia. South African heritage. Love audio books. Constant company on my non-stop business travels.
A friend of mine mentioned that Cormac McCarthy described his Pulitzer Prize winning 'The Road' book as his most optimistic. Having found it bleak and spare and a slice of the dystopia that seems to await us, I thought what are his non-optimistic books like. "Blood Meridian" answers this question with a punch to the consciousness that left me reeling. Brilliantly written and conceived Cormac uses starkly defined characters, almost archetypal in their construct, to drag the latent depravity and soulless nihilism embedded in the human condition. It's not easy reading. The casual descriptions of brutality are at times shocking and that, I think, is the point.
So, yes, by contrast, "The Road" is brim full of hope and optimism.
This book presents many of the same themes and works in similar tones found in "The Road". In fact, were dates not used during the tale, you would be hard pressed to differentiate the world of Blood Meridian from McCarthy's other apocalyptic wasteland.
This is not a simple cowboy story. It is a harsh tale of cruel characters in an unforgiving land. It is a challenging tale to listen to. But it is also masterfully told (and rather well narrated). If you liked "The Road", this is highly recommended.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Blood Meridian thrusts us into the deserts of 1849 Mexico, a pumice-floored, dust-coated, sun-blasted, blood-soaked, bone-punctuated wasteland of the soul. This ???hallucinatory void??? is home to snarling flies, demonic swine, vampire bats, ghostly wolves, spitting basilisks, harpy eagles, muttering ducks, and buzzards like black bishops. But the horrifying creatures are the wandering bands of Indians and Americans, performers of creative torture, casual murder, and orgiastic massacre, including eye-gouging, tongue-skewering, skull-crushing, intestine-spilling, scalp-hacking, ear-collecting, genital-lopping, skin-flaying, girl-raping, and baby-hanging. And the ???calamitous??? and ???boiling??? sun rises to meridian ???like the eye of God,??? bookended by bloody skies bookended by starry darkness.
Through it all wanders ???the kid,??? a 16-year-old blessed or cursed ???pilgrim.??? He may be the moral center of the novel, though his trajectory is warped by his amoral father figure, ???the judge,??? a giant, hairless, devil-idol-polyglot-polymath-philosopher who wants to become the ???suzerain??? of the world by cataloguing or killing everything in it. The judge, white as Moby-Dick and charismatic as the Confidence-Man, says that ???war is God,??? and who may gainsay him?
Unlike Virginia Woolf, McCarthy reveals the souls of his characters through speech, action, and landscape rather than through stream of consciousness thought. A grim beauty flares in his biblical style, vivid descriptions, and dramatic similes (though at times he may stretch too far for portent): ???in the night bats came from some nether part of the world to stand on leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds and feed at the mouths of those flowers.???
Reader Richard Poe relates all with a compelling hint of morbid fascination or appalled excitement behind his gravelly, hard-boiled voice.
If you like unromantic, unpredictable, violent, apocalyptic, and beautiful westerns that expose the hellish pit in the human heart, listen to this book.
I should start by saying, I really love Cormac McCarthy's works.
In fact, I think that I would really 'enjoy' Blood Meridian, if I were to have the words in front of me. And I recommend to everyone, All the Pretty Horses, The Road, No Country for Old Men, etc.
The poetic lilt of his prose, his unique approach to storytelling, and the uncompromising spectrum of issues that he gets the reader to confront, make him author with few (if any) superiors in the English language.
The narrator is actually quite good, but the problem with Blood Meridian as an audiobook is actually due to the very qualities that make his books so great. This is a book that demands 100% of your attention at all times, and perhaps to read over a paragraph a few times or relate it to some small passage somewhere earlier in the book.
This is hard to do when listening to a book, and at times I feel frustrated and pulled along faster than I want to be, and losing the narrative line, and subsequently my connection to the story.
I think I will get this book in print and then listen to the book and reference it when needed.
Through the mid to late 1850’s, a gang of men ride the western frontier indulging in an orgy of violence and depravity. The landscape is bleak and hellish, their wandering, aimless and seemingly endless, the vistas deeply symbolic and portentous. On the course of our journey through McCarthy’s dense and vivid prose we are confronted by many questions and themes which are beyond the ability of this particular reader to understand fully.
Rather than attempt any examination of this work instead I direct the potential reader to the internet where may be found a rich vein of critical analysis on this novel. This an astonishing vision, a rare work. It is not “The Road”, but rather its darker and more complex, older sibling. At almost 14 hours it is a remorseless and demanding undertaking. Approach at your own risk.
The definitive portrait of the American West. The definitive novel by the most important writer of his generation. The writing is stunningly beautiful, and Richard Poe's reading is spot-on. A flawless masterpiece on paper and, equally remarkably, in this recorded format. So be a major thinker and put down that Dan Brown: count yourself among the few of your generation who have experienced BLOOD MERIDIAN, the MOBY DICK of its century, before it's too late.
When I started reading I couldn't find the thread in this stream of consciousness narrative. But after a couple of chapters I understood that there was no traditional "storyline" per se. Instead, from the very first paragraph, the reader simply materializes beside a young man who is trying to survive in an incredibly hostile environment. We watch as he randomly encounters various threats and opportunities. The images are horrific, but feel authentic. The writer uses archaic language, the kind one finds in letters and journals of the period. That and the graphic descriptions of atrocities committed paints a vivid and shocking picture for the reader. Not unlike the shock viewers of Deadwood (HBO series) first experienced at that depiction of the Old West, so in stark contrast with our shared cultural myths (ala Gunsmoke). We don't often talk about the atrocities perpetrated against the native population here, and when we do we don't talk about what those atrocities really were. We more often talk about the atrocities committed by natives against settlers. Here we see clearly it was a tit for tat escalation, an apocalyptic era with no limits on cruelty and brutality.
I think it's brilliant. But it's certainly not for everyone.
Never before have I encountered a book that went so far over my head the first time I read through it, but Blood Meridian passed by so high, it's taken me quite some time to reach a point that I could appreciate the work for all its accomplishments. This book is a chore, plainly stated, but - like so many difficult yet great books that are out there - it will be worthwhile for those who decided to take up the task.
As for the reading, Poe did a fantastic job in his narration. Not over-the-top but not a monotonous drone, his choices in the voicing of these characters allowed for the text to really speak out.
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.
I rate this audiobook highly for a number of reasons, firstly I thought the audiobook narrator was perfect, secondly the narrative is satisfyingly long and realistic with a touch of mysticism to the story and so incredibly detailed and metaphorical in it's descriptions of such a hot and desolate world and it's desperate inhabitants, thirdly the author does what I think an author should and that is make me smile with respect and awe at his ability to use words to paint the picture in his mind, something I find hard to do! Finally I think people should be reminded of how humans can act and have acted through history to secure land for our "great civilizations" and "honerable" way of life....
"Madness, Violence and Greed"
The mythology of the European settlement of America begins with the search for the religious sanctuary of the Mayflower, and is enshrined in the Constitution which recognizes the equality of all men. What also saturates and permeates the American psyche is barbaric violence. Blood Meridian is a story that can't be listened to without a break for emotional recovery: it's so vicious, violent and remorseless that it is unbearable. This, of course, is the book's greatness. It's an epic saga of pitiless aggression, automatic racism, all stemming for the false self-belief, and religious hypocrisy of one of the central characters. In our contemporary society where the aim is to present the campaigns of war as fights for rights and freedom, and all of this is presented in a video game format, Blood Meridian, keeps to the fore what is still essential: the depravity of men who cannot limit or challenge their own ignorance, madness and blood lust.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. It is full of strong and often disturbing images which some readers, frankly, won't want to hear. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful book, packed with dark yet stunning pictures and scenes. McCarthy paints a series of magical realist images which, like all great art, touch the imagination deep and point to truth. A word too about the narration. Richard Poe has a mature, rich voice and reads the book with a strength and beauty which I couldn't imaging being bettered.
"beauty and the beast"
a cruel, searing, oppressive, brutal, savage, barbaric and overwhelming journey of the human soul that is a brilliant, dazzling, heart-stopping and mind-bending piece of literature. i am still numbed from this experience.
Classic Cormac McCarthy, gritty, no-holds barred and catalogueing a brutal frontier world completely devoid of emotion and sentimentality - not for the squeamish!
"savage, terrible, beautiful,.."
...and in the end enigmatic.
I will never forget the judge, the kid, glanton and the rest.
and I will NEVER forget the desert.
McCarthy has managed to create the most hopeless and bleak world in modern literature. A must listen, but not for the faint-hearted.
"Visionary, violent, yet redemptive. A masterpiece."
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, is the most overwhelming novel I've read for years. I came late to it in two senses. It's almost 30 years since it was published in 1985, and it is late in my own reading life, because I'm 72. I read it on holiday. Not a comfortable choice, and certainly not the best thing to relax with on a sunlounger, while supping a drink with a hat on. But Blood Meridian is, at the risk of sounding pretentious, on a par with Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' or Beckett's 'Waiting For Godot' or even that most astounding work of all, 'King Lear'. High claims, but give it a try.
You might well have to try it more than once, because it is very strong - at times even rancid - meat. But a lot of people, after they've finished the book, might find they can't read another novel for a while.
I finished listening to the book, and started another. But all my head could think on was Blood Meridian. So I did something I very rarely do. I switched the other novel off and turned back to Blood Meridian, and listened to it again. It's a hell of a book. And I'm not speaking particularly metaphorically. It tells us more about the human condition than most other respectable works we laud so much. Blood Meridian is original, disturbing, heretical, challenging, difficult, and awe inspiring. Just like King Lear.
Wow, what a book, I was enthralled by the tale, the use of language, so concise, painting a picture in my mind in a few well chosen words. An epic not for the faint hearted. The narrator was perfect and I found myself wanting to hear it all, and at the same time make it last longer. I could not stop thinking about the book even when not listening, and even now, months later, the imagery in my mind is still crystal clear.
"Better than 'The Road'..."
What an intense read (listen)! Written around '85 Blood Meridien has the same desolate intensity and horror which we have seen more recently with The Road. An amazing listen
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