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Brutally violent, Blood Meridian turns the 19th century American West into a kind of hellish but hauntingly beautiful dreamscape, through which a gang of mercenaries wanders, killing without aim or reason. There is no comfort to be found anywhere in this novel, which overturns all Old West Myths, leaving only a stark, maddening world in which man exists on the edge of nihilism, "civilization" an illusion. The characters are almost opaque, reduced to actions in minimal dialogue. Even the language seems intended to confound and discomfit the reader, mixing arcane, half-forgotten scientific and philosophical terms with passages that sound almost like something from the Bible.
Yet, McCarthy is the definition of a powerful writer. His prose is hypnotic, the book's scenes affecting the reader as much by their eerie beauty and lyricism as by the horror and violence contained within. Their images will stick around in your head for days. The Judge, a monstrous, demihuman prodigy at the center of novel, whose amused, philosophical queries about whether or not the scenes around him represent man in man's natural state, is one of the more memorable characters I've come across in fiction.
Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is filled with powerful questions, about morality, about evil, about humanity's need for violence and dominance, about the nature of God, and so forth. Sometimes these questions are expressed explicitly, usually by the Judge, but mostly, they swirl just beneath the surface of the nightmare, challenging the reader to peer into the abyss and examine them. Though we don't live in such lawless times anymore, the distance from our safe doorsteps to the modern equivalent of a gang of roving, murderous scalpers may be shorter than we think.
McCarthy will certainly never be an author to everyone's taste, and not with this work, but Blood Meridian has made a few critics' "Best of the 20th Century" lists for a good reason. This is a first-rate work of modern literature.
44 of 45 people found this review helpful
Blood Meridian thrusts us into the deserts of 1849 Mexico, a pumice-floored, dust-coated, sun-blasted, blood-soaked, bone-punctuated wasteland of the soul. This ???hallucinatory void??? is home to snarling flies, demonic swine, vampire bats, ghostly wolves, spitting basilisks, harpy eagles, muttering ducks, and buzzards like black bishops. But the horrifying creatures are the wandering bands of Indians and Americans, performers of creative torture, casual murder, and orgiastic massacre, including eye-gouging, tongue-skewering, skull-crushing, intestine-spilling, scalp-hacking, ear-collecting, genital-lopping, skin-flaying, girl-raping, and baby-hanging. And the ???calamitous??? and ???boiling??? sun rises to meridian ???like the eye of God,??? bookended by bloody skies bookended by starry darkness.
Through it all wanders ???the kid,??? a 16-year-old blessed or cursed ???pilgrim.??? He may be the moral center of the novel, though his trajectory is warped by his amoral father figure, ???the judge,??? a giant, hairless, devil-idol-polyglot-polymath-philosopher who wants to become the ???suzerain??? of the world by cataloguing or killing everything in it. The judge, white as Moby-Dick and charismatic as the Confidence-Man, says that ???war is God,??? and who may gainsay him?
Unlike Virginia Woolf, McCarthy reveals the souls of his characters through speech, action, and landscape rather than through stream of consciousness thought. A grim beauty flares in his biblical style, vivid descriptions, and dramatic similes (though at times he may stretch too far for portent): ???in the night bats came from some nether part of the world to stand on leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds and feed at the mouths of those flowers.???
Reader Richard Poe relates all with a compelling hint of morbid fascination or appalled excitement behind his gravelly, hard-boiled voice.
If you like unromantic, unpredictable, violent, apocalyptic, and beautiful westerns that expose the hellish pit in the human heart, listen to this book.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, is the most overwhelming novel I've read for years. I came late to it in two senses. It's almost 30 years since it was published in 1985, and it is late in my own reading life, because I'm 72. I read it on holiday. Not a comfortable choice, and certainly not the best thing to relax with on a sunlounger, while supping a drink with a hat on. But Blood Meridian is, at the risk of sounding pretentious, on a par with Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' or Beckett's 'Waiting For Godot' or even that most astounding work of all, 'King Lear'. High claims, but give it a try.
You might well have to try it more than once, because it is very strong - at times even rancid - meat. But a lot of people, after they've finished the book, might find they can't read another novel for a while.
I finished listening to the book, and started another. But all my head could think on was Blood Meridian. So I did something I very rarely do. I switched the other novel off and turned back to Blood Meridian, and listened to it again. It's a hell of a book. And I'm not speaking particularly metaphorically. It tells us more about the human condition than most other respectable works we laud so much. Blood Meridian is original, disturbing, heretical, challenging, difficult, and awe inspiring. Just like King Lear.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful
The mythology of the European settlement of America begins with the search for the religious sanctuary of the Mayflower, and is enshrined in the Constitution which recognizes the equality of all men. What also saturates and permeates the American psyche is barbaric violence. Blood Meridian is a story that can't be listened to without a break for emotional recovery: it's so vicious, violent and remorseless that it is unbearable. This, of course, is the book's greatness. It's an epic saga of pitiless aggression, automatic racism, all stemming for the false self-belief, and religious hypocrisy of one of the central characters. In our contemporary society where the aim is to present the campaigns of war as fights for rights and freedom, and all of this is presented in a video game format, Blood Meridian, keeps to the fore what is still essential: the depravity of men who cannot limit or challenge their own ignorance, madness and blood lust.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
I initially purchased Blood Meridian in audio form and enjoyed it so much that I have since purchased and read a printed copy. There are few writers capable of using descriptive language as eloquently and with such dexterity as McCarthy, who is without a doubt among the most preeminent writers of our time. His masterful depiction of the setting evokes extremely vivid imagery of the desolate, unforgiving terrain and lifelike characters. After reading Blood Meridian the first time to absorb the story, I read through the book a second time, stopping to pay particular attention to certain phrases and rereading entire scenes in order to fully appreciate the use of language.
The Judge is absolutely one of the most fascinating characters I have come across. His "suzerain" speech is among the most poignant moments in the development of a character I have ever experienced, and one of a number of glimpses into the fundamental nature of this enigmatic, preternaturally intelligent individual.
Blood Meridian, like many Cormac McCarthy novels, will stay with you long after you put it down.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I have loved this book since I first picked it up, and the audiobook version is incredible. The narration really adds depth to the overall story and I was really impressed with his commitment to his portrayal of the characters. Highly recommend.