Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Few Words On Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN

You don't need to take it from me that this Western novel from Cormac McCarthy is a masterpiece - there's plenty of other places online that have made the same claim and with far more veracity since it's publication in 1985 than I will here. I'm merely writing this post to encourage those of you who know nothing of it or do and have yet to embark on it to seek it out. Blood Meridian is without question one of the finest works of art I've ever come across in any medium.

If you've read McCarthy's work before (The Border Trilogy) or watched a film adaptation of one of his novels (No Country For Old Men, The Road), you have an idea of what to expect -- it's a tragic, beautiful, bleak, dense and hauntingly violent story. I've only read two of his novels, but McCarthy's prose has an unique ability to make me feel alive in a way no other author I've been exposed to is able to do. And Blood Meridian accomplishes this feat with far more regularity than when I took on The Road.

Someday I'll re-read this one (something I rarely even consider with most books these days), partly because I'm sure its finer points will have escaped me and also because something this magnificent must be experienced again. I wonder if I'll have a drastically different opinion of it when that time comes, kinda like how some scholars say a 20-year-old will interpret War & Peace vastly differently than a 50-year-old would (and some of those attest that you shouldn't even attempt that one until reaching a more advanced age). I can't imagine at 31 I've read this one too soon, but if I have, it was worth spoiling it.

So, again, I advocate all of you to open this one up. There have been recent rumblings about an attempt to film it, but I frankly don't see how it'd be done effectively, even by the great Nicolas Winding Refn (so says Wikipedia which means it must be true despite lacking a source), let alone that James Franco directorial rumor.

After the jump, my favorite passage from the book. Read at your own choosing.
Of highest interest to me in Blood Meridian was The Judge, the nightmarish hell hound of a man wreaking havoc throughout the landscape wherever goes and with whomever he comes across. Harold Bloom characterized him more eloquently than I could dream to: "...the Judge is, short of Moby Dick, the most monstrous apparition in all of American literature. The Judge is violence incarnate. The Judge stands for incessant warfare for its own sake." Little wonder I was drawn to a character that powerful, isn't it? Anyway, what follows is a passage later on in the book and is mostly a quote from his character (btw, McCarthy doesn't utilize quotation marks to signify dialogue in the novel). I am astounded by it each time I consume it.
     The question was then put as to whether there were on Mars or other planets in the void men or creatures like them and at this the judge who had returned to the fire and stood half naked and sweating spoke and said that there were not and that there were no men anywhere in the universe save those upon earth. All listened as he spoke, those who had turned to watch him and those who would not.
     The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.
     The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man's mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.

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