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Michael Barnes
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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

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Scout Board Game Review

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The Split - Review

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Blood Meridian

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06 Feb 2014 09:46 #171381 by Hatchling
Blood Meridian was created by Hatchling
Anyone read Cormack McCarthy's Blood Meridian? I just finished it and I'm trying to figure out what I think of it.

Beautiful and subtle descriptions of the landscape and all things sensory. As great as those descriptions were, I found myself wishing there was more character exploration. While there is something valuable about the feeling of “trudging along” that was evoked for me when reading descriptions upon descriptions of trudging across Mexico and US, I found myself wishing there was more psychological meat in the book. But then I read the final ten pages. Those final pages made it all worthwhile. Here is my take in a very short word:

The lone cowboy who moves through the world nomadically, never laying roots, never becoming too attached, surviving only in provisional and temporary alliances, coexists almost indifferently with various others who trudge along a journey of their own. It doesn’t make sense, from this kind of person's perspective, to insist that there is only one ultimate story to tell about the world and one person to tell it. Things are various and random, different paths in life coexist. Every now and then those paths cross and blood must be spilled. But such war is peripheral to the journeys and lives that unfold.

The judge who kills that lone individual and all that he stands for insists that for human existence to have any meaning, it must be captured in a single, authoritative account that excludes other accounts. The existence of all things has meaning only if one life refuses to coexist indifferently with other forms life and instead rises above them, conquers them, possesses them, speaks on their behalf, knows them more than they know themselves. If life is to have any meaning at all, there must be a single point of reference around which everything else must gravitate and orbit. Otherwise a nihilistic, mutual indifference reigns. And that is why war is sacred, why rituals are purified in blood. The ritual of life must be purified in the blood of violence because only then does it become a centre that can act as a foundation for everything else. History is the story as it is told by the victor, the one (and only one) who judges it and gives an account of it. It cannot be any other way.

Very interesting book. I only wish those last ten pages, which are super concentrated, where spread out a bit more, and in different ways, across the whole book. Either way though, It's hard to figure this book out. I am curious to know what others who read it thought about it.

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06 Feb 2014 10:18 #171384 by Cambyses
Replied by Cambyses on topic Re: Blood Meridian
I just read this over the summer. I find McCarthy's writing to be powerfully descriptive in spite of how sparse it is. To be honest, I would have preferred it without the final pages. I think that a lot of the themes that you highlighted (which I agree are the main thrust of the Judge's speech) are already present and available to the reader throughout the earlier parts of the book. Obviously this is an issue of personal preference, but I would prefer not feeling like I "had to have it told to me" at the end.

I found the book much more difficult to move through than its short length might suggest, but I am very happy to have read it. I think that I'll want to read it again, but not until I forget enough of it to be able to approach it semi-freshly.

I cannot encourage you enough to listen to this two-part lecture on the book and its relations to other works in the English literature canon. It significantly increased my appreciation for the work. Lecture in two parts:

Open Yale Courses: Blood Meridian, part 1
Open Yale Courses: Blood Meridian, part 2
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06 Feb 2014 11:41 #171392 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Re: Blood Meridian
I've read it three times now, my first time was about 6 years ago. It's my favorite book by far, and I'm looking forward to reading it again in the near future. It's the only book I've ever read multiple times (although plan on re-reading "The Sound and the Fury").

It's fucking brilliant, epic, and thought provoking. The judge is one of the most interesting characters ever penned. I also really enjoy the ending. So many memorable scenes from the sulfur gunpowder craziness to the opening preacher. Completely memorable yet esoteric.

If they ever make the movie it will likely be terrible. Hard to capture the existential surrealism and violence in an appropriate way on screen.

If you enjoy McCarthy's style, check out The Road and Outer Dark. The Road is probably his second best, and the movie is actually pretty damn good as well.

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06 Feb 2014 12:07 #171399 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic Re: Blood Meridian
One of the best books I have ever read as well. I finished that and said, "OK, he's going to win the Nobel Prize."

It stands alone among westerns--and in many ways totally subverts the genre. It's insanely violent and grotesque. Judge Holden is a horror and whatever he tapped to realize that character is a well Cormac returns to in his other works (cf No Country For Old Men).

I feel like the book is a shibboleth for readers that have checked the darkness in themselves. It is like nothing else I have ever found at the local Barnes & Noble. Conversations about Blood Meridian tend to go like this:

"Have you read Blood Meridian?"
"Yeah, whoa."
"Yeah."

As for his other works, I would send folks to All The Pretty Horses, which has one of the best paragraphs I have ever read:

By the time they had three of the horses sidelined in the trap blowing and glaring about there were several vaqueros at the gate drinking coffee in a leisurely fashion and watching the proceedings. By midmorning eight of the horses stood tied and the other eight were wilder than deer, scattering along the fence and bunching and running in a rising sea of dust as the day warmed, coming to reckon slowly with the remorselessness of this rendering of their fluid and collective selves into that condition of separate and helpless paralysis which seemed to be among them like a creeping plague. The entire complement of vaqueros had come from the bunkhouse to watch and by noon all sixteen of the mesteños were standing about in the potrero sidehobbled to their own hackamores and faced about in every direction and all communion among them broken. They looked like animals trussed up by children for fun and they stood waiting for they knew not what with the voice of the breaker still running in their brains like the voice of some god come to inhabit them.

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07 Feb 2014 04:41 - 07 Feb 2014 04:43 #171438 by Matt Thrower
Replied by Matt Thrower on topic Re: Blood Meridian
McCarthy is my favourite author. After four books - Blood Meridian, The Road, No Country for Old Men and Suttree - he's yet to disappoint. We've discussed him on these boards several times.

Blood Meridian is an extraordinary story, written with consummate skill, but I was vaguely irked by a sense of po-faced academic worthiness that lurked behind it, a feeling that it was written to please professors more than punters, or even the author himself. There is apparently a subtext running through the book concerning ancient and extinct variants of Christianity, and while it's always wonderful to find allegory in books, I think that's a step too far into willful obscurity.

Doubly so because there's already such fine depths stretching away below the magnificent vistas of prose on the surface. The identity of the judge, the comparison of violence then and now, the nature of evil and its possible amelioration and redemption.

It's unfortunate that they're such overwhelmingly masculine books. I've yet to see him write a well-rounded female character. But then again if celebrated authors weren't so overwhelmingly male, there'd be more of a place for books like that. It's more of a fault with the culture than with McCarthy himself.
Last edit: 07 Feb 2014 04:43 by Matt Thrower.
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07 Feb 2014 08:50 #171443 by ThirstyMan
Replied by ThirstyMan on topic Re: Blood Meridian
Just ordered it on Kindle based on your recommendations.

Will hit it when I finish this latest Donna Tartt book which is really good so far (as good as The Secret History which was a brilliant read).

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07 Feb 2014 12:15 #171469 by Attrition
Replied by Attrition on topic Re: Blood Meridian
While I really enjoyed Blood Meridian, I found it to be a bit overwrought, despite the laconic protagonist. Don't get me wrong though, the portrayal of the devil showing up naked in the desert, cooking up gunpowder from volcanic brimstone and bat guano, and "recording" people and objects before destroying them is some top notch shit.

Of all the McCarthy endings that will floor you, "No Country" is a contender but the last page and a half of "The Crossing" still takes it by a mile. Overall the border trilogy with all its roadside prophets isn't as lean as "Blood Meridian," but it really does have more meat.
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07 Feb 2014 14:54 #171474 by Hatchling
Replied by Hatchling on topic Re: Blood Meridian

MattDP wrote: There is apparently a subtext running through the book concerning ancient and extinct variants of Christianity, and while it's always wonderful to find allegory in books, I think that's a step too far into willful obscurity.


I think it depends on how you choose to read or interpret a book. I myself don't like meta readings that chase allusions in books to other books. The Yale lectures linked to above are interesting and I'm glad I listened to them, but they are very meta. The prof reads the novel as a history of literature in its own right, and this reflects her professional interests of the English prof aspiring for mastery of a canon. I much prefer making sense of a work on its own terms, drawing only from the resources that are available within its pages. I feel the same way about visual art (other than pop art of course). Jazz and other forms of music that appropriate far and wide are another matter entirely. There is something amazing in how a standard like Round about Midnight can be so differently interpreted, and recalling/noticing that history is part of the enjoyment. It's like a cross-generational jam.

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07 Feb 2014 15:05 - 07 Feb 2014 15:17 #171475 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Re: Blood Meridian

MattDP wrote: It's unfortunate that they're such overwhelmingly masculine books. I've yet to see him write a well-rounded female character. But then again if celebrated authors weren't so overwhelmingly male, there'd be more of a place for books like that. It's more of a fault with the culture than with McCarthy himself.


I love McCarthy, but COMPLETELY agree.

Also, FWIW, I think having personal some experience (visiting or living) with the US Great Plains or West/Southwest adds a lot of additional perspective to most of his work.
Last edit: 07 Feb 2014 15:17 by Gary Sax.

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11 Feb 2014 04:00 #171725 by mikko_r
Replied by mikko_r on topic Re: Blood Meridian

ThirstyMan wrote: Will hit it when I finish this latest Donna Tartt book which is really good so far (as good as The Secret History which was a brilliant read).


I didn't realize she had a new book out. Thanks.

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