Monday, August 9, 2010
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (8.5/10.0)
Most of the story follows action on and around the Mexican border in the years 1849-1850, when violent encounters between whites and Native Americans were commonplace. McCarthy creates characters that readers of his other work might recognize, at least in broad outline. "The kid" is the unnamed protagonist--a runaway from Tennessee with excellent gunfighting and survival skills, which lend themselves to violence only when necessary for the kid's protection. Judge Holden is the novel's antagonist and represents the embodiment of the violent nature of man. Large and hairless, Holden and the kid are sometimes placed together among the same group, but the reader is always conscious of the tension between them. In the end, it is the kid's capacity for pity and sympathy that places him opposite the judge both physically and philosophically.
Not surprisingly, Blood Meridian is written in a style that emulates (and sometimes parallels) the powerful scenes of Revelation. In McCarthy's version, however, it is the weak and innocent that are found wanting and are condemned to violent death. Indeed, the end of the novel is as ambiguous and as apocalyptic as any I have ever read, wherein [**Spoiler Alert**] the reader can only be certain that violence has triumphed and firmly established itself as the nature of the world. Precisely how that triumph is accomplished (whether by violent murder or homosexual domination) is a subject of some debate.
I think that I have never been quite as unsettled by a novel as I have by Blood Meridian (though The Road comes close). It is considered by many to be McCarthy's greatest work and one of the most important works of our generation. Ultimately, I think that McCarthy's genius lies in his ability to dig deep into the places that many of us are afraid to go and show us the logical outcomes of some of our most troubling feelings and capacities as human beings. As for Blood Meridian itself, it was so very troubling to me as to practically defy description or categorization. I can only say that it is the work of a genius; whether I can count it among my favorites (or even most respected) will take a considerable amount of further contemplation. Blood Meridian begs for discussion, and I am very interested in what all of you have to say.