Book Review: Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West By Cormac McCarthy
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the “wild west.” Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
A Sneak Peek Into “Blood Meridian”
See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.
Night of your birth. Thirty-three. The Leonids they were called. God how the stars did fall. I looked for blackness, holes in the heavens. The Dipper stove.
The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.
At fourteen he runs away. He will not see again the freezing kitchenhouse in the predawn dark. The firewood, the washpots. He wanders west as far as Memphis, a solitary migrant upon that flat and pastoral landscape. Blacks in the fields, lank and stooped, their fingers spiderlike among the bolls of cotton. A shadowed agony in the garden. Against the sun’s declining figures moving in the slower dusk across a paper skyline. A lone dark husbandman pursuing mule and harrow down the rainblown bottomland toward night.
A year later he is in Saint Louis. He is taken on for New Orleans aboard a flatboat. Forty-two days on the river. At night the steamboats hoot and trudge past through the black waters all alight like cities adrift. They break up the float and sell the lumber and he walks in the streets and hears tongues he has not heard before. He lives in a room above a courtyard behind a tavern and he comes down at night like some fairybook beast to fight with the sailors. He is not big but he has big wrists, big hands. His shoulders are set close. The child’s face is curiously untouched behind the scars, the eyes oddly innocent. They fight with fists, with feet, with bottles or knives. All races, all breeds. Men whose speech sounds like the grunting of apes. Men from lands so far and queer that standing over them where they lie bleeding in the mud he feels mankind itself vindicated.
They is four things that can destroy the earth, he said.
Women, whiskey, money, and niggers.
On a certain night a Maltese boatswain shoots him in the back with a small pistol. Swinging to deal with the man he is shot again just below the heart. The man flees and he leans against the bar with the blood running out of his shirt. The others look away. After a while he sits in the floor.
He lies in a cot in the room upstairs for two weeks while the tavernkeeper’s wife attends him. She brings his meals, she carries out his slops. A hardlooking woman with a wiry body like a man’s. By the time he is mended he has no money to pay her and he leaves in the night and sleeps on the riverbank until he can find a boat that will take him on. The boat is going to Texas.
Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny 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. The passengers are a diffident lot. They cage their eyes and no man asks another what it is that brings him here. He sleeps on the deck, a pilgrim among others. He watches the dim shore rise and fall. Gray seabirds gawking. Flights of pelicans coastwise above the gray swells.
They disembark aboard a lighter, settlers with their chattels, all studying the low coastline, the thin bight of sand and scrub pine swimming in the haze.
He walks through the narrow streets of the port. The air smells of salt and newsawn lumber. At night whores call to him from the dark like souls in want. A week and he is on the move again, a few dollars in his purse that he’s earned, walking the sand roads of the southern night alone, his hands balled in the cotton pockets of his cheap coat. Earthen causeways across the marshland. Egrets in their rookeries white as candles among the moss. The wind has a raw edge to it and leaves lope by the roadside and skelter on in the night fields. He moves north through small settlements and farms, working for day wages and found. He sees a parricide hanged in a crossroads hamlet and the man’s friends run forward and pull his legs and he hangs dead from his rope while urine darkens his trousers.
A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with.
He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there.
He works in a sawmill, he works in a diptheria pesthouse. He takes as pay from a farmer an aged mule and aback this animal in the spring of the year eighteen and forty-nine he rides up through the latterday republic of Fredonia into the town of Nacogdoches.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
MADDENING, ONEROUS, DULL
Boys and girls, I know the opinions on this book varies, because it isn’t exactly an easy book to read. However, if you are one of those who adored this novel and loved the storytelling and whatnot, I’d suggest you stop reading right now because from here onwards, there will probably be cursing, and I probably will not be kind with what I’m about to say because I really, truly, fucking hate this book with a passion.
With that said, if you are still reading this sentence right now, well then, let’s get started with the review shall we?
First off, I wasn’t able to finish the book. Don’t get me wrong, I tried––lord trust me I fucking tried––but I just couldn’t. I push on through a good half of the book before I called it quits.
As far as the “storyline” goes, there really isn’t much to it. For as far as I’ve read the book, there were a lot of descriptions of the landscape––and by a lot, I mean a lot of descriptions of the landscape. And of course, then there were the violence. The scalping, the killing, the raping. You mention it, this book probably has it. And to be honest, the violence really doesn’t bother me a lot, not sure what it says about me as a person, but after a while, I find myself desensitizes to it.
There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there’s no God in Mexico. Never will be.
If you’re looking to read about a book where there are actual plot, with climaxes and character arcs, I’m sorry to say, Blood Meridian wouldn’t be the book for you. I think what it tries to do is to emulate the lengthy and arduous journey of the main character––whose name I already forgot––into words. If that was why, then it explains the continuous and lengthy description of the landscape because it could be that Cormac McCarthy would like the readers to really experience fully what our main character sees throughout his journey in the Wild Wild West.
Straight up unlikable. There isn’t even one character who I could root for, let alone care about. I get that they’re all evil, terrible people, but for fuck’s sake there are absolutely no change in them whatsoever. No redemption, no character arc, no nothing.
Even after reading half of the book, there characters that were there from the very beginning still think and act the same way. The only one with some chance of character growth is honestly the Judge. Despite me not being able to finish the book, I was naught and went straight in to the spoiler section. Well what do you know, I was actually correct about the Judge. In the end, he really did something that none of the readers would have seen coming.
AM I STUPID OR AM I REALLY STUPID?
Now, of course I’m not saying that I’m Einstein level smart, however since I read a bunch of books monthly, I would say that in terms of smarts, I’m at least not dumb.
But reading Blood Meridian had me pulling my hair out because of how hard to understand this book was. From the very fist page, I knew I was going to be in trouble and already wanted to DNF on page 3. However, thinking that Blood Meridian is a classic novel, not to mention how many praises that this book received from readers, I decided to switch to audiobook and keep pushing onwards.
Well…needless to say, audio book doesn’t help all that much because like the book, I had a hard time understanding what was actually going on in the book and would eventually end up thinking of something else totally. So then, I decided that I was going to read while listening to the audiobook. And that worked, for half of the book before I eventually gave up and decided that life’s too short to torture myself that way.
When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry.
Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.
Throughout those tens and hundreds of pages, I probably understand about 20% of it. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. The whole time, I was quite literally crying while pulling my hair because I could barely understand what’s going on in the book.
SPEAKING WITHOUT QUOTATIONS
I don’t know if this is what the cool kids do these days, but I don’t get why McCarthy had his characters speak without using the quotation mark to let the readers know that they were speaking. It was really only thanks to reading this book alongside with an audiobook that I knew when someone started speaking because the narrator would change his voice accordingly.
Had I have read the book as is without the help of audiobooks, I would have been confused trying to figure out which ones are conversations and which ones aren’t.
A MIXTURE OF LANGUAGES
Another thing I don’t understand about Blood Meridian is the usage of different languages in the book. Spanish, French, German and god knows what other languages is there in the book.
Now, I get it. If it’s only a conversation or two in spanish, I don’t mind for it. It’s important to also show the various of different people and races in the book, that much I agree. However, it makes absolute no fucking sense to start writing the vocabulary for horse, bar, carriages in spanish too.
No man can put all the world in a book.
I’m getting really heated up here, and maybe McCarthy have a point in mind that he wanted to make while writing some of the nouns in Spanish and such. But for fuck’s sake, at least you could have put an asterisk to explain what it means in the footnotes instead of having the reader to also have a dictionary in hand while reading your damn fucking book. As if it’s not already hard enough trying to figure out what the hell the book is on about, now he also requires you to understand Spanish and French and German to truly understand the book.
Man, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book other than the fact that I truly despise it. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, well, maybe my enemies. But other than that, this book is definitely un-recommendable.
However, seeing that this book is a classic, there must be a reason why it is one. It could be because it was written in a way that was so confusing that the reviewers had absolute no idea what they were reading and just decided that it was a good book? I don’t fucking know.
To read this book, I believe you have to be in the right mindset for it. And I have heard that Blood Meridian is actually one of the hardest-to-read books that McCarthy have written. A lot of readers who adore Cormac McCarthy recommend readers to warm up with The Road first to get a feel of how he writes and see if they like it.
Although, if you’re an absolute lunatic like me who have no care for rules and your own mental well-being, I’d say go right in for Blood Meridian. I mean, obviously in my case I gave up and have sworn off reading his books, at least for a while. But who knows, you might come out the other side a changed man with all his landscape descriptions and characters scalping their victims.
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