Tedb0t'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
May 31, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: modernfiction, literature
Recommended for: those who love true literature
Read in May, 2007

Blood Meridian is an astonishing work. It was recommended to me by the same person who got me into Moby Dick, and now I believe I understand why.

There are two major aspects I'd like to touch on with this book:

1) Prose. McCarthy is one of those rare literary magicians who, like Melville, is capable of sustained and continuous flows of poetry, often jaw-dropping in their scale and scope. Blood Meridian tends to oscillate from narrative action to descriptive passage. The narrative scenes tend towards a blunt delivery, commensurate with the utterly brutal violence that makes up most of the book. The between-passages, however, which are almost always describing the unearthly beauty of the desert landscape they travel in, spiral out into incredible poetical and lyrical digressions that often defy any kind of conscious comprehension. And McCarthy delivers them effortlessly, in long rambling sentences that genuinely evoke a kind of incorporeal desert mystic contemplating the universe.

2) Nihilism. The above being said, the narrative world of the story is as ugly as the prose is beautiful. In Blood Meridian's 1850's Wild West, human life is absolutely without value. Scores upon scores of innocents (and a few guilties) are slaughtered in cold blood: indians, mexican peasants, old ladies, dogs, children, the cowering and the proud. The agents of these massacres are the principal characters of the book: Glanton and the Judge, two different manifestations of total and all-consuming malevolence. The Judge lives by a code that goes beyond mere "might making right"--he is a lodestone of chaos and death, while remaining seemingly invincible and perpetually calm. Some of the book's most amazing passages come from the mouth of this gnostic archon, who delivers sermons on art, nature, mankind, murder and ceaseless violence. The story's overall effect is one of total nihilism, a world in which no life or object has value, only the annihiliation thereof.

Lastly, I must remark that the breadth of McCarthy's scholarship and research for this book is astounding. I cannot fathom how he wrote this without having lived in the 1850's southwest, though I understand much of it is informed by the confessions of one of the real-life members of the story's central gang.
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Comments (showing 1-6)

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Marge Good review and not too verbose. I have been vacillating between reading Blood Meridian and returning to Stephanie Plum. Your review has made me determined to read this novel - I can't read fluff all the time! I'm the type of person who adores true literature but likes a pleasant escape, too. Thank you.

Tedb0t Thanks very much! It's an intense book, there's no doubt about it, but I'd seriously consider Cormac McCarthy to be one of the most significant living writers in the world today.

Phil Prose and poetry are two different modes. which was it? His writing is just damn over-wrought. there's no way around it.

James Literature should not be intended to suck meaning and value from experience. Nihilism cannot be a compliment. I think you are mistaking it for the Sublime in which the sheer beauty or scale of the object overwhelms human categories. McCarthy certainly goes for that and achieves it occasionally but unfortunately what is most prominent in this book is the nihilistic violence. That's not a good thing.

Aspho Thank you for a great review. I have yet to read Blood Meridian, but I absolutely loved 'The Road'. I have 'Suttree' in my 'to read' list but I was hesitant to read Blood Meridian because of the story/setting, which is not something I'm normally interested in.

After reading your review, I think I will read it sooner rather than later.

Philip Bellew Excellent review. For me, the apparent nihilism of Blood Meridian stems from the fact that the protagonists move through a a landscape and time in which civilization as we know it is largely absent. Throughout human history, and in particular during times of war, this has proven to be the case. Bearing this in mind, I see Blood Meridian as a stark and salutary warning about the fragility of civilized societies, and how the scourges of war, hunger, ignorance, greed, etc., can manifest in unimaginable malevolence. It's also one of the best novels I've read, and is rightly compared with Moby Dick.

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