I don't understand how anyone could dislike this. It's basically a novel about ideologies and philosophies and how they apply to human beings, not abo...moreI don't understand how anyone could dislike this. It's basically a novel about ideologies and philosophies and how they apply to human beings, not about them in general, and McEwan's prose is so precise and fabulous that reading this whole thing, a book where barely anything actually happens except for near the end, was incredibly involving and fascinating. The characters feel like genuine people, there is no political condescension or sloganeering, just thoughtful human debate. I'm also constantly amazed that Ian McEwan is a widely respected, 'serious' author who very often ends his stories with twists or major revelations which make us reconsider what comes before. Even a clever twist in genre fiction usually feels slightly cheap, but McEwan is so graceful with his writing that it damn near always works. "Black Dogs" is a strange combination of the early McEwan and the later McEwan, not that the two are ultimately separated by more than the author's age and the benefit of hindsight. An incredibly affecting and intelligent novel.(less)
It's really good. It's the sort of genre book that would work even if there was no supernatural content or even horror-based suspense, just because th...moreIt's really good. It's the sort of genre book that would work even if there was no supernatural content or even horror-based suspense, just because the setting and characters are so well-drawn.(less)
“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
Hard to think of things to really say about this. It's a bit like trying to review a Monty...more “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
Hard to think of things to really say about this. It's a bit like trying to review a Monty Python sketch that is famous even for a Monty Python sketch ("Nudge Nudge" or "Dead Parrot" or "The Lumberjack Song"). Everyone knows about it, most people seem to have encountered it, and people either like or dislike it already.
I guess it's worth noting that this book is not just a lot of dry wit. The characters are great, the universe well-drawn, and the topics approached are quite weighty and dealt with intelligently, which is why it annoys me a bit when some people talk about this book like it's just fluff. (less)
As with Infinite Jest, 2666, Underworld, Moby-Dick, and a handful of other books that have affected me on some deep gut level most other books just ha...moreAs with Infinite Jest, 2666, Underworld, Moby-Dick, and a handful of other books that have affected me on some deep gut level most other books just haven't gotten to, I struggle to put into words what I want to say about Blood Meridian. I've tried to figure out what the issue is.
I think it has something to do with art working the way it's supposed to. Really great art ought to have qualities that are ineffable. Really great art ought to have an ineffable effect on someone experiencing it.
I think it has something to do with feeling like I want to say something that is worthy of being said. I know some people approach their entire lives with this attitude, and don't say much. Usually it's a successful strategy and these people have a certain gravitas most of us don't. I certainly don't possess that ability or desire to remain silent until I have something really worth saying. But with Blood Meridian and generally art that is at this level of excellence, I find myself able to discuss it with others face-to-face but not really able to contribute anything in written form that doesn't sound like a retread of what's in the jacket copy or in every review already written.
I'm aware, however, that this is exactly the kind of vague platitudinous stuff that people sometimes use to justify their love for mediocre art. Which is why I'd like to refer people to Notes on Blood Meridian, to Harold Bloom's foreword to the 25th Anniversary Edition (which is good even though Harold Bloom wrote it), and to the massive amounts of material already written on this novel. That stuff expresses a lot of what I would want to say anyway. That this is an epic in prose more than a novel. That it is American literature's Iliad. That it is the most violent work of literature you're likely to encounter, but that this violence is not the violence of fantasy gratification. That it is partly about evil, and sincerely so, but nonnaively so. That the language is some of the most beautiful ever written, but that it is used to tell one of the darkest tales ever told. Etc.
Since I'm referring people to stuff, and though it doesn't have anything to do with that last point really, I should also mention Lucero frontman Ben Nichols' album The Last Pale Light in the West, which is based on/inspired by this novel, but owes about as much to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.
This is the novel that taught me what literature at its best can achieve. When I picked this up for the first time, I was in my mid-teens or so and essentially a nihilist and I liked the Beats and Ellis and even Palahniuk to some extent. This book taught me the value of literature. Its most noteworthy achievement, for me, is that it is about the very worst that human beings are capable of, but emerges, as I've said before somewhere, not with a seething, juvenile nihilism but with a genuine comprehension of evil.
When David Foster Wallace listed this on that list he made of 5 great neglected American novels or whatever it was many years ago, all he could say was "dont even ask" (yes, no apostrophe). Although it turns out "DFW’s copy of Blood Meridian is the most heavily annotated book [the guy providing this info has] ever seen. There is almost no white space left. The endsheets are filled with sequential questions to himself. On the title page he wrote MORE OR LESS NO COMMAS, in bright red ink."
So yeah, anyway. It's fucking great. It's the best work of fiction I've ever read, certainly one of the greatest works of American literature. It's also truly horrifying and draining. I guess the last thing I have to say is that part of the book's greatness is its strange pace. Its plot moves like that of a thriller. Its plot wants you to lurch forward, but the sentences require you to read carefully, to read slowly, to absorb, to contemplate, to reread, to think. But it does this while having this truly massive visceral impact. It is perhaps the single greatest example I know of of how fiction can be viscerally involving yet intellectual, sincere and authentic yet nonnaive and noncynical.