Rarely do I post about books I am still reading. Other than the dilemma of commenting on something I have not yet consumed entirely and therefore I'm like a man who has viewed only a portion of a painting, there's always the possibility that someone will post a spoiler in my thread.
I think, though, in this instance, no one will be able to say "The butler did it."
Fifty pages into Blood Meridian, I say without reservation that this is a masterpiece of writing, unique in its form. I pity the writer who attempts to emulate McCarthy's style. It would be like a five year old with a ukulele, sitting at the elbow of Segovia, mimicking the sound coming off of his twelve-string.
The book takes place along the Texas/Mexico border in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, and it is a hard read because it is- like much of McCarthy's writings- unrelentingly bleak.
Let me post just a short passage to give you a small taste of McCarthy's mastery of writing, and only a small taste, it is.
The passage is from Chapter IV and describes an expedition of "fillibusters" moving southward across the Texas border into Mexico, crossing the Bolsón de Mapimí:
Now wolves had come to follow them, great pale lobos with yellow eyes that trotted neat of
foot or squatted in the shimmering heat to watch them where they made their noon halt.
Moving on again. Loping, sidling, ambling with their long noses to the ground. In the evening
their eyes shifted and winked out there on the edge of the firelight and in the morning when the
riders rode out in the cool dark they could hear the snarling and the pop of their mouths behind
them as they sacked the camp for meatscraps.
The wagons drew so dry they slouched from side to side like dogs and the sand was grinding
them away. The wheels shrank and the spokes reeled in their hubs and clattered like loom-shafts
and at night they'd drive false spokes into the mortices and tie them down with strips of green
hide and they'd drive wedges between the iron of the tires and the suncracked felloes. They
wobbled on, the trace of their untrue labors like sidewinder tracks in the sand. The duledge pegs
worked loose and dropped behind. Wheels began to break up.
Ten days out with four men dead they started across a plain of pure pumice where there grew no
shrub, no weed, far as the eye could see. The captain called a halt and he called up the Mexican
who served as guide. They talked and the Mexican gestured and the captain gestured and after a
while they moved on again.
This looks like the high road to hell to me, said a man from the ranks.
What does he reckon for the horses to eat?
I believe they're supposed to just grit up on this sand like chickens and be ready for the shelled
corn when it does come.
In two days they began to come upon bones and cast-off apparel. They saw halfburied skeletons
of mules with the bones so white and polished they seemed incandescent even in that blazing
heat and they saw panniers and packsaddles and the bones of men and they saw a mule entire,
the dried and blackened carcass hard as iron. They rode on. The white noon saw them through
the waste like a ghost army, so pale they were with dust, like shades of figures erased upon a
board. The wolves loped paler yet and grouped and skittered and lifted their lean snouts on the
air. At night the horses were fed by hand from sacks of meal and watered from buckets. There
was no more sickness. The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot
stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims
exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the
night. They moved on and the iron of the wagon-tires grew polished bright as chrome in the
pumice. To the south the blue cordilleras stood footed in their paler image on the sand like
reflections in a lake and there were no wolves now.
They took to riding by night, silent jornadas save for the trundling of the wagons and the
wheeze of the animals. Under the moonlight a strange party of elders with the white dust thick
on their moustaches and their eyebrows. They moved on and the stars jostled and arced across
the firmament and died beyond the inkblack mountains. They came to know the nightskies well.
Western eyes that read more geometric constructions than those names given by the ancients.
Tethered to the polestar they rode the Dipper round while Orion rose in the southwest like a
great electric kite. The sand lay blue in the moonlight and the iron tires of the wagons rolled
among the shapes of the riders in gleaming hoops that veered and wheeled woundedly and
vaguely navigational like slender astrolabes and the polished shoes of the horses kept hasping up
like a myriad of eyes winking across the desert floor. They watched storms out there so distant
they could not be heard, the silent lightning flaring sheetwise and the thin black spine of the
mountain chain fluttering and sucked away again in the dark. They saw wild horses racing on
the plain, pounding their shadows down the night and- leaving in the moonlight a vaporous dust
like the palest stain of their passing.
All night the wind blew and the fine dust set their teeth on edge. Sand in everything, grit in all
they ate. In the morning a urinecolored sun rose blearily through panes of dust on a dim world
and without feature. The animals were failing. They halted and made a dry camp without wood
or water and the wretched ponies huddled and whimpered like dogs.
That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran
over the metal of the horses' trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little
shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All
night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunder-heads, making
a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid
like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The
thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and
barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom
summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke
nor ruin more than any troubling dream.
A fan of McCarthy and without question Blood Meridan is his cruelest and darkest novel. the subject matter of The Roadmay be on the surface bleaker but not as devastating as B.M.
That it is based on an historical act is mind boggling. Humans are capable of some pretty cruel stuff.
His All The Pretty Horses trilogy is written in much the same style as Blood but is not as dark. Sad enough though.
McCarthy is a great writer no doubt. His No Country and The Road read more like a play than the above novels. Much sparser and the style is unlike the other works.
He has some new work out and I'll need to find it.
Also , if you don't read Spanish well there is a passable translation available via the internet for the many parts of The Pretty Horses . There are large swatches of it.
|Tinker Sailor Soldier Pie|
Interesting timing as I just finished reading No Country For Old Men and am now currently reading The Road. It's the first time I've ever read McCarthy. Such a unique style. I've thoroughly enjoyed both books. I now know which of his I will likely read next.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Balzé Halzé,
Acta Non Verba
NRA Life Member (Patron)
God, Family, Guns, Country
Men will fight and die to protect women... because women protect everything else.
Blood Meridian is many times denser than the two you're reading. He employs a completely different writing style. I would try All the Pretty Horses after The Road.
|Legalize the Constitution|
I’ve got 4 of McCarthy’s books in my library. I was surprised to find that I have two copies of The Crossing (making 5). I will karma one of those copies if any of you would like to have it. I will add Blood Meridian and soon.
I guess I’ll add, The Crossing is the second book of “The Border Trilogy,” All the Pretty Horses being the first, and Cities of the Plain, the third.This message has been edited. Last edited by: TMats,
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
- Lord Byron
|Little ray |
"Blood Meridian" makes "The Road" look like an account of a Sunday School picnic.
And it is beautifully written. It is very dense. Be prepared to read slowly and carefully. The Road is an easy read, but Blood Meridian is not.
I have the new McCarthy book on my Kindle for next.
The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
This is the kind of book that'll ruin me for other authors for quite some time.
It also makes my short story writing pizzle fizzle to a drizzle. No sizzle.
It's kinda like "What's the point?"
|At Jacob's Well|
There's no book in the library of man quite like Blood Meridian. I read a LOT of books, and there are precious few that have struck me like BM. It takes real genius to expand the possibilities of literature at this point, but McCarthy did it.
If you like McCarthy and you like science fiction, may I also recommend Philip K. Dick. He's cut from similar cloth as McCarthy.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5
I was gifted Blood Meridian and started it a while ago. It got put aside when several books I had on hold at the library became available. I'm through those and will be back to BM starting today. It is a slow read, I'm really wanting to read it without taking breaks.
"Nature scares me" a quote by my friend Bob after a rough day at sea.
I couldn't agree more.
I think we have to go back quite a ways to find a writer like McCarthy- Herman Melville, perhaps; not in terms of style, but in mastery of the written word and storytelling.
There are at least two reader's guides for Blood Meridian: Notes on Blood Meridian by John Sepich; A Reader's Guide to Blood Meridian by Shane Schimpf.
Also, if you want to get really egg-heady about it, there's a chapter on Blood Meridian in Deleuze and American Literature - Affect and Virtuality in Faulkner, Wharton, Ellison, and McCarthy by Alan Bourassa. Yeah, that's not pretentious at all, is it?
In the case of a book like Blood Meridian, I recommend a reader's guide (IMO, the Sepich book is the way to go). As noted, there are passages in Spanish and there is a great deal of arcane language, and McCarthy places responsibiity on the reader to discern much of what he is saying.
McCarthy taught himself Spanish to write this book. This is not unique. Writer/director John Sayles learned Spanish in order to write and direct his little-seen film Men with Guns which is entirely in Spanish.
McCarthy is a meticulous researcher and Blood Meridian includes historical characters and events. He also does his research on firearms, and this is reflected in Blood Meridian.
McCarthy is on a different level and his use of language is superb...his prose is poetry. Maybe the last of the truly male voices in American literature.
Paperback copy arrived at my doorstep this morning.
I'm gonna vote for the funniest frog with the loudest croak on the highest log.
Of the three most bleak and affecting reads I've ever experienced, two were written by McCarthy (THE ROAD and BLOOD MERIDIAN); the third was THE PAINTED BIRD by Jerzy Kosinski. I can't agree more with what's been said above about BLOOD MERIDIAN...even of these three, it stands alone in its unremitting and unapologetic power to create a vision, a fever dream, of unparalleled evil and barbarity.
Ain't that the truth.
I vividly remember one passage reading, "He shone like an archimandrite."
"Why is it every time I need to get somewhere, we get waylaid by jackassery?"
-Dr. Thaddeus Venture
How odd you say that at home daddy . I was just thinking about The Painted Bird when this thread came up. It is the most incredible novel. That and Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum moved me in a profound way as a young man.
I always wanted to make a comet like in the painted Bird. I may someday.
It's a book I'd meant to read for decades, and only in the last couple of months *finally* put intent into action. Phenomenal, memorable, soul-rendering.
I've not read THE TIN DRUM...since you feel there's some equivalency in some respect, I'll add it to my list.
Both Blood Meridian and The Painted Bird are works that affected me considerably. The PB more so as I was very young when I read it. Although it was fiction, the reality that similar events to those depicted really occurred was shocking. I have never forgotten it.
Blood Meridian contains some of the most elegantly written passages I’ve ever read, as do most of McCarty’s books.
I'm consuming this thing slowly, like a package of exotic food unobtainable hereafter, or like a beautiful woman who, once gone, will never return. Rarely do books strike me this way and this one may be the most striking of them all.
They posted guards atop the azotea and unsaddled the horses and drove them out to graze and
the judge took one of the packanimals and emptied out the panniers and went off to explore the
works. In the afternoon he sat in the compound breaking ore samples with a hammer, the
feldspar rich in red oxide of copper and native nuggets in whose organic lobations he purported
to read news of the earth's origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small
gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up
of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. The judge smiled.
Books lie, he said.
God dont lie.
No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words.
He held up a chunk of rock.
He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.
The squatters in their rags nodded among themselves and were soon reckoning him correct, this
man of learning, in all his speculations, and this the judge encouraged until they were right
proselytes of the new order whereupon he laughed at them for fools.
Wow, what a trip. Why did I wait so long to get to this thing?
The story about the old harness maker. I had to read it twice.
Words fail me. I am blown away.
The snippets I've posted here are chosen so that I can provide examples without giving away anything significant to those who've yet to read it.
It took a while to soak in, but I think I know the true identity of one of the characters.
McCarthy did his homework. Do you know he wrote most of this book and finished it in a Motel 6? Seclusion and all that, I suppose.
When I kick, stick a copy of this thing in my coffin, will ya? Damn
As a consolation after finishing, I am looking forward to reading Sepich's Notes on Blood Meridian. I hear that it's a history lesson that can stand on its own without having read McCarthy's book.
I've also picked up a copy of Alan DeLay's War of a Thousand Deserts - Indian Raids and the US-Mexican War, nonfiction, of course.
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