Tony's Reviews > Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
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's review
Mar 06, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: u-s-lit
Read from March 02 to 06, 2011

This, and The Border Trilogy, are clearly McCarthy's attempts to express, philosophically and psychologically, his view of the unique American character.

Evil percolates in primordial violence. This country was filled with violent children orphaned by war. And...You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow.

No one can craft a sentence, or dialogue, like McCarthy. And no one can kill like him either. People are dispatched by the page here. Shootings, stabbings, often motiveless. Scalped before or after death. Crucified. Hung. Hung by their feet, disemboweled and roasted over a fire. Random and seemingly senseless. When the lamb is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf. The mother doesn't show up very much. War endures, McCarthy says with a tone of inevitability. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other.

The other defining character trait is restlessness, pervasive and persistent. Here's just a little sampling, culled from a hundred pages or so:

they rode up the street...they halted...they rode west...they rode out of town...the rode on...the crossed the del Norte and rode south...they rode on...they rode like men invested with a purpose...they rode their horses through the tracks of their dismounting...they rode up onto the western rim...they rode on into the mountains...we rode all night...then they rode on...all afternoon they rode singlefile...they rode all day upon a pale gastine...they rode on...they rode up through cholla and mopal, a dwarf forest of spined things...they rode onto the plain at dawn...all the day following they rode and all the night...they sat their horses...there was no reason for them to stop and no hope in it any more than there was in the riding but as they were riding they rode and the Americans put their horses forward once again...they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun...they rode for days through rain and they rode through rain and hail and rain again...they rode through the long twilight...they crossed...they ascended...they climbed...they passed...they picked their way...they clattered...they descended...they rode on.

Eventually they rode into Allegory.

The kid, the judge, the expriest are all clearly more than just great characters and you can spend a long time mulling what they mean and how they intersect. Why did this farrago of characters, so good at killing others, turn against each other? Why was the expriest the catalyst? Perhaps the abandonment of faith, the descent into godlessness was on McCarthy's mind. Why did the judge take the imbecile with him? It is the false moneyer with his gravers and burins who seeks favor with the judge.... If it's a comment on the judicial system that for all its brilliance is no more than the expression of raw, indiscriminate power and evil, then I say "No shit".

This is a book to be studied, if you wanna. But it's beautiful, for all its violence and restlessness. America endures, for all the imbeciles and killers and judges.

McCarthy's answer?

Then they all move on again.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez Wonderful review.

Tony Thank you, G.

message 3: by Beata (new)

Beata R Tony, I have read two Cormac McCarthy books and have yet to understand why he is so widely revered. I want to like him, to feel that he is profound and says something new and insightful...but I feel that all he really does is describe, in run-on sentences, the evil nature of man. I'm still waiting to understand his overwhelming acclaim.

Tony McCarthy's early works, in particular Child of God and Outer Dark, read like prose poems, with a purchase on the language I hadn't seen before. I liked All the Pretty Horses (which is also a great, if unheralded movie) and Suttree a lot. But McCarthy has become a caricature of himself. If you came to him through his later works, I can certainly see how you might be underwhelmed.

message 5: by Beata (new)

Beata R Tony, I have not read those earlier works, and cannot bear him in his latter ones. If you ask me who the greatest living Western writer is, I'll say Larry McMurtry every time.

message 6: by Beata (new)

Beata R Perhaps I should qualify that by replacing "Western writer" with "writer of Westerns"

Tony Perhaps a small point, but I wouldn't call McCarthy a Western writer nor a writer of Westerns.

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