©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)
After downloading so many dud books that were recommended by friends, I finally found one that stuck with me and made me think, and made me want to research the history of the regions and events detailed in the book. Paints a horrific picture of the scalp trade in the Southwest, but I couldn’t stop listening. So many user reviews on other sites described the vocabulary of the book as being awkward, so I was worried that it may not hold my attention. This wasn’t the case at all. It is a novel, but you can tell that the author researched the locations and cultures of the areas that the story takes place. I enjoyed the “The Road” and now “Blood Meridian.” Don’t get either if you’re looking for a blissful story. The narrator does an outstanding job. 5 stars.
If you like a collection of random western prose, then this is the book for you. McCarthy uses spectacular wording and describes scenes in vivid detail. However, there is gross lack of organization in any story that might have been told in this book. Scenes jump from place to random place. Reminds you of someone telling you "and one time, in band camp" stories. Was a letdown for me.
I had never read McCarthy so this was just a whim. The action is graphic and often horrific; humanity can be bestial and merciless. There is very little human compassion in this book, and there may have been none on the frontier. The prose is often poetic, and the dialogue seems authentically 19th Century -- either monosylabic or ornate depending on one's education. There seems to be no moral, no uplifting lesson, and no deeper meaning to the violence. The Kid only matures in his accumulation of experiences and he does not seem to draw philosophical conclusions from them. He carries the ears of his victims to his (possible) death, so no remorse.The reader is free to read whatever meaning he desires into the events. Most characters die violently except the enigmatic Judge. He is the cause of, and often the solution to, the violence and salvation that occurs (the latter is always fleeting). If you agree that the lot of humanity is cursed, violent, hopeless and without charity, but that we realize that fact, accept it, but perservere nonetheless, then you will appreciate this book. I could not put it down.
Perhaps I shouldn't be so descriptive in the title of my review because that pretty much sums up what I will say below. Feel free to skip it.
The book itself, like all of McCarthy's work, is stark and brutal, with moments of the most extreme violence puncturing bleak journeys through Texas and northern Mexico. None of it is surprising - events are laid out in the chapter titles - but all of it is painted with such care that the listener can't help but be absorbed by the dread, the darkness and the emptiness that pervades the landscape and the characters. McCarthy is a master of tone and this particular novel a standout among his work.
I do want to say a few words about the narrator as well, because Poe does such a good job contributing to the book and not distracting from it. The roughness of his voice, the evenness of his tone blends in perfectly with the narrative and it was, at times, as if I were reading the book instead of listening to it, and this was my ideal imagined narrator.
In short: I like it.
Unrelentingly bleak and beautifully written, in BLOOD MERIDIAN Cormac McCarthy plumbs the unlighted depths of humanity and finds no bottom. It contains, in the Judge, a character as profoundly nihilistic as I've come across in any literature. Joseph Conrad's Kurz, perhaps, would at least recognize the Judge as a kindred spirit; but the Judge would laugh at any notion of horror - or any emotion save amusement - being the proper response to psychopathology. The novel can be read as a metaphor for the consequences of manifest destiny; with the Judge representing the unstoppable, remorseless, and unrepentingly violent force of U.S. expansion, ceaselessly eliminating or absorbing all that stood in its way, even while uttering the soothing words of beneficial intent. Hard to read, harder to put down.
I've read and enjoyed immensely two other McCarthy novels, "All the Pretty Horses" and "The Road", so I was eager to try what some call his masterpiece, "Blood Meridian." After reading/listening to one-half of the book, I couldn't go on. The story is just one awful violent scene after another, with no indication of a saving grace. This book makes the bleak landscape and doomed world of "The Road" seem like a walk in the park. McCarthy uses odd and arcane vocabulary, which seems unnecessary, and frequently his lyrical descriptions of scenery made me think he was too infatuated with his own writing and not concerned enough with moving the narrative along.
I am a fan of McCarthy's of several years, however I've read his more recent books starting with All the Pretty Horses and the rest of the trilogy that ended with Cities of the Plain.
I went back to give this early book a listen and was just appalled.
I treasure his elegiac and poetic writing style. However in listening to this book, I realized that he had not learned to perfect and limit is use as he had in later books. At some points, I felt like simile and metaphor had lost their meaning as he piled them one on top of another for pages at a time. His later style is more spare.
Further, the brutality which is always present in his writings is much less controlled, and I found myself truly appalled at this tale of a wandering band of psychopaths. These scalp hunters are the main focus of the book. Brutal men always show up in McCarthy's work but usually these are there as a background for the moral development of the main characters. In this book they are the main characters.
I was very disappointed in Blood Meridian, other than as a way to trace the development of a great writer. Considering that it was written 25 years ago, it shows a writer of promise, but is certainly not up to the standard of his later works.
Lastly, I can never decide if Cormac McCarthy really loves Mexico or really hates Mexico. He depicts such scenes of vile brutality and ignorance in that country that it makes one pause at the border station. I've been to Mexico dozens of times in the border areas he depicts and he is usually on my mind while I'm there.
Blood Meridian is almost intolerably violent, set between 1849 and 1878 in the Southwest, Mexico, Texas, and California. The description of the country, the indians, the towns, the bands of private armies hired to kill the indians is fascinating, but the gore is repulsive. Several of the main characters, the Judge, the Kid, the ex-priest make the book significant. We are left to puzzle out who the Judge is, while we listen to his understanding of the world and mankind in general. I must read the author's "No Country for Old Men," which was recently made into a movie. I have already read "All the Pretty Horses," which was also made into a movie. No chance that "Blood Meridian" will be made into a movie, in my opinion.
It was a real struggle to get through this book. The author spends so much time adding adverbs, adjectives and over-flowery descriptions that it made the story hard to follow. And there wasn't much of a story or a point to the whole book. Now I will say some of the descriptions of the battles and death scenes were vivid and raw but that is about the best thing I can say about it.
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