·Karen·'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
Aug 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: usa, mttbr-2012
Read from January 03 to 08, 2012

This is Jane Austen antimatter.

Trying to convey how this was so different to anything I've ever read, it occurred to me that it was like a huge black vortex that would suck early nineteenth century marriage plot novels into the void. It's the complete obverse of sweet girlie stuff: no lurve, no irony (I wonder if Cormac McCarthy has a humour mode? If he does, he certainly wasn't in it writing this), no insightful self-discovery or examination of the human heart. No, this is bleak and bloody, gory and grisly, there are bludgeonings and beheadings, shootings and stabbings and skewerings and scalpings, and piles and piles and piles of corpses - as a film, I wouldn't have been able to stand it. How could I stand it here? Well, it was usually over pretty quickly. He doesn't dwell long and lovingly on every detail: radical and dramatic images burn on the mind's eye, but no prurient poking and puddling. Nasty, brutish and short. Stomach churning, but not for too long.
Then there is little in the way of plot. Characters? Bad, worse, or imbecile. So what pleasures does it afford, pleasures that can compensate for the horror? Or is it the horror that becomes pleasurable? Yes, that is the worrying thing - obviously the language is a wonder and can make up for much, but there is a very troubling phenomenon. The reader begins to take on the reasoning of the charismatic, satanic Judge Holden: this is a game in which the stake is life itself. There is only life or death, nothing else. And the Glanton gang is so evil that we can take joy in their annihilation, and the kid is the only one who has shown the slightest faint scruple when it came to slaughtering, so we hope for his survival and follow keenly his fight for life. And did I mention the language? Majestic, portentous, weighty, reminiscent of Milton and Blake and the Bible. Sparse, terse dialogue. Sumptuous description. A fearless novel that shocks and troubles, especially when you realise that this is based on real events on the Texas borderlands in 1848-51. "... and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay."
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Reading Progress

01/04/2012 page 58
17.0% "Stomach churning."
01/05/2012 page 128
38.0% ""Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travellers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin?""
01/07/2012 page 157
47.0% ""If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and to die but in the affairs of man there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement.""
01/07/2012 page 212
63.0% "Strong stomach required."

Comments (showing 1-50 of 87) (87 new)

Merilee I've got that out to read soonish, too. Let me know when you start.

·Karen· I will. Is it on a list at the moment? I see that Bekah just read it too.

message 3: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I bought it recently too. I loved 'the road' and 'no country for old men' though neither are happy books.

Merilee OK, Karen, Cynthia and I for starters... (in our spare times...;-)

message 5: by Michele (new) - added it

Michele Ooh, me, too. This will be my second McCarthy book, after The Orchard Keeper. Just finished Black Boy, following along with Yale professor Hungerford's lectures and enjoying them immensely. Next up for me is Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.

Merilee Let's let Karen wield the starting pistol...

·Karen· Not till after my hols I think. I looked at some reviews and I got the feeling it's something where you need a little help with references? (I've never read any McCarthy). Something where you'd need google at your elbow. So not ideal for the plane journey.

Merilee Maybe too harrowing in subject matter for the hols as well..

message 9: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Enjoy your trip Karen. Is this the second wedding celebration?

·Karen· @Merilee: yes, I took a peek at some reviews and it looks fairly horrifying.
@Cyn: yes, well, the third if you count the party for young folk down in the beautiful university town of Heidelberg where they met. But the upcoming is the real one with papers signed and an officiant uttering the magic formula.

message 11: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Have fun and I hope Rebecca has another wonderful day.

·Karen· Thank, C, I'm sure we'll all enjoy this one - less stressful!

·Karen· Tony, you must have been ready in the starting blocks again. Ta!

message 14: by Tony (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony A coincidence of time. But you had me at "This is Jane Austen antimatter."

message 15: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Really good review Karen.

·Karen· Thanks, C. will you be reading it soon, do you think?

Merilee I'm looking forward to what I know will be Karen's great review. I'm on about page 75. Very hair-raising so far....but excellent writing.

James Murphy I like your saying there's only life or death, nothing else. As in all McCarthy fiction, death is a physical place to which you can be assigned or taken. And often it's a person you encounter. Good review.

·Karen· Thanks J. Yes, entirely uncompromising. Stark choices.

message 20: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia James wrote: "I like your saying there's only life or death, nothing else. As in all McCarthy fiction, death is a physical place to which you can be assigned or taken. And often it's a person you encounter. G..."

I often feel like McCarthy is writing about hell :(.

James Murphy Yes, sometimes he is, I think. Or sometimes someone who wants to take the characters there. He's dark, but he's brilliant.

Merilee The 3 I've read (This one, The Road, and Orchard Keeper) are very very dark and hellish...but brilliant. I would need to break up reading him with something more cheering.

message 23: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Merilee wrote: "The 3 I've read (This one, The Road, and Orchard Keeper) are very very dark and hellish...but brilliant. I would need to break up reading him with something more cheering."

Murph and Merilee that makes three of us who find him brilliant. And Merilee I can't imagine being able to read his books in a row.

message 24: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W Jane Austen antimatter! What a great line.

message 25: by s.p (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p Jane Austen antimatter. Hilarious. Great review. McCarthy has really only one humorous novel, Suttree. It was my favorite of his, but even though it is quite laugh out loud funny at times, it is also very, very sad at others and as always with him, quite dark.

Merilee I can't seem to read more than 30 or so pages at a time. So sad and so violent, often gratuitously, yet definitely brilliant. I've got about 100 pages to go. I wonder how close to the real picture it is?

·Karen· Thanks, Eric and SP.
@Merilee, yeah, I can understand how you feel. I got a little worried about myself, that I did become able to read this without flinching. But I've not gone out on a berserk shooting spree (yet) so maybe the effect is wearing off again. Maybe that's part of it? To make us see how living in a time in which violence is so run of the mill would affect you?

message 28: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia LOL Karen. I always figured you and Merilee for shooting sprees in waiting. Have you seen the series Deadwood? It's set in North Dakota territory right after the centenial. At least every episode there's a body count. It starts to feel normal. Sadly i think there was a time and a place where such things happened/happen.

Merilee Cynthia, we'd need you to lead the gang!! I haven't seen Deadwood - yet. It's on my list. Look at The Sopranos for violence, too. I think I got most upset when Christopher sits on the dog and squishes it to death. Tony keeps saying: You sat on the f'in dog! I was shocked when Blanton (sp - my book is not right here) buys the two little puppies from the young boy and then promptly throws them into the river. Totally gratuitous - no scalps involved...

message 30: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Don't get me started. Kid and animal violence makes me CRAZY. At least grown people can comprehend what's going on and have some complicity.

What do you think we should call our gang? The Internationals? The Read and Rock Menopausers? Two Mothers and a Spare? Teach and Shoots? We shoot in many languages?

message 31: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Oh i got it: "The don't make me get off this couch gang".

message 32: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia "If I can read it I can do it. BANG"

Merilee I believe we have gotten you started, C. I'll bet you still have your little cowgirl outfit, complete with 6-guns, tucked away somewhere;-)

message 34: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Whoops. I did kinda run with it didn't I? Let's just say I wasn't really into dolls. My brother and I and all the neighbor recruits would dig and make forts on the empty lots in our 'hood. We had shields in case a dirt clog fight broke out.

Merilee I knew you had the background!!

·Karen· Yay! We're all as tough as old boots. Or should that be as old as tough boots. Anyways, no messing with us.

Merilee speak for yourself;-)

·Karen· Go on! I'm just back from my fitness class, and I managed (drum roll, trumpet da da da da) A PRESS UP. Yes! ONE.

I can do seven when I'm allowed to do them from a kneeling position. Actually, I don't see the point of them at all, all they're good for is for doing press ups.

Merilee Are press ups the same as push ups?? I can do half of a regular one - the down half - LOL

They are supposed to be very good for upper body and core strength but I'm not good at them, esp. with a soreish left wrist.

Maybe we should practice with slingshots or something.

message 40: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Oh yeah....everyone is ascairt of us!! pffttt. have you guys seen the commercial about velveeta and roitel chiles melted together to jazz up any get together? They show 4 guys sitting together in a livingroom bored to death as one of them reads aloud from a book. The tag line is 'roitel makes any gathering fun'. The funny thing is the book looks like the pic from John Williams 'Stoner'. What the heck I'm talking to two people who don't live in the states. never mind. Where's my gun?

Bettie☯ press-ups is good enough for a fancy-dress ironing board

message 42: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia If I say I did a press-up/push-up that's code for 'i've fallen and can't get up'.

Merilee Fancy-dress ironing board???? Bettie, please 'splain.

I had never heard of roitel until someone sent me a ridiculous thing in which a giant snowman is made from Velveeta and cream cheese (no calories there) and then allowed to melt in a slow cooker. The object is to dip with a nacho while the poor fellow is melting and one of my friends mentioned throwing in some roitel. I believe that Bettie is British and will also have no clue what we're talking about. I lived in the States long enough to know more than enough about Velveeta...

Merilee P.S. Cynthia, you and I bring out the worst of OTness in each other;-)
Back OT: Maybe the Blood Meridian guys would have loved them some Velveeter 'n' roitel...
(the GR spellcheck did not like my Velveeter...)

·Karen· So who needs huge deltoids anyway, is what I say.

Cyn, please keep talking to us even if we don't have a clue what you're on about. It's fun anyway. Is Ro*tel a brand name?

message 48: by Bettie☯ (last edited Jan 23, 2012 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bettie☯ Merilee wrote: "Fancy-dress ironing board???? Bettie, please 'splain.

I had never heard of roitel until someone sent me a ridiculous thing in which a giant snowman is made from Velveeta and cream cheese (no calo..."

Karen told me that she asked her man what to go as - and he replied 'dress in grey and go as an ironing board.'

Hope that is right as an approximation; it only came up because I stated Karen was more 'well-rounded' than myself.

·Karen· BTW in case you're all wondering about the ironing board reference (WTF?) Bettie happens to know that my charming hubby once suggested that, come carnival/mardi gras and a certain pressure to get into fancy dress, an ideal costume for me would be to wear nothing but grey and go as an ironing board.

Bettie☯ ETA - I was trying to convey that K was fairer/more reasonable than myself

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