Guest Book Review: Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

| On
January 23, 2016
Hello, everyone!

As part of those new features I mentioned I wanted to add to the blog a few weeks ago, I bring you: Guest Reviews! In which I make my husband write reviews about the books he's reading and bring some variety into my little corner of the internet, since we read very different things most of the time.

Without further ado, here's the first Guest Review of Joie des Livres!

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
by Eddie V

Cormac McCarthy doesn’t give a damn about your delicate sensibilities. He doesn’t give a damn about your idea of proper sentence structure, your limited vocabulary, whether you know who or if anyone is talking or if you even know what the hell is going on. In Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy spins a yarn so grisly and violent that none of your namby pamby "rules" matter. Yet, however horrible the events that come to pass, there is still a subtle beauty in the way that he describes the truly wild West and makes the reader ponder the purpose of our very existence.

Blood Meridian is a fictional account of true events that took place in the late 1840s across parts of the American South West and Northern Mexico and it follows the never named kid as he finds himself riding with the legendary Glanton gang. The gang consists of real badasses with badass names like Toadvine and Bathcat, who are contracted by local governments to hunt down and scalp a tribe of Apache Indians that have been terrorizing small towns and villages. The Apache are described as "a horde from hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning" (p.55), so you can see how important the gang feels it is to wipe out their population from the face of the earth. The methods used for this wiping, however, are probably worse yet as we see gruesome scenes like of infants being swung "by the heels … and bashed their heads against the stones so that brains burst forth through the fontanel in a bloody spew" (p. 165). Lovely, right? However, the story isn’t really about cowboys versus Indians.

The story isn’t really about good versus evil or right versus wrong, either; if anything it may be about something like evil versus slightly less evil, but evil nonetheless? Or is it even evil at all? Could it just be human nature regardless of what we may label as good or evil? This is what I believe the philosopher of the gang, Judge Holden, is explaining to us when he says things like "it makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone" (p.262). With thoughts like that, it’s the judge who serves as the true antagonist in this novel. There isn’t anything he doesn’t know or can’t do, literally; he’s fluent in every language, he’s an astronomer, he can lift anything, he can make gunpowder from scratch using only what he finds in the desert, he can lawyer his way out any legal situation, he's an expert in paleontology, botany, astronomy and astrology, and anything new he encounters he studies and jots down in his notebook. So, if he’s a 100% sure bet in anything and everything, we can only conclude that his take on good and evil is foolproof. "Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak;" (p. 263) he’s telling us that any kind of sense of morality we think we have is a lie to ourselves and deep down we’re all just vicious animals. This is what makes him the scariest motherfucker I’ve encountered in literature; because we will instinctively try to deny that as a crazy man’s notion but at the same time know it as true.

But how does our "hero," the kid, respond to all of this? Is he our champion of moral fortitude or is he swayed by the Judge’s understanding? This dilemma is what makes this novel a masterpiece, in my opinion. The way McCarthy forces us, the readers, to question ourselves and our sense our morality in a world full of evil really injects us into and makes us an essential part of the story and of his art.

This is probably the hardest I’ve ever worked on reading a book as it took me two back to back read-throughs of the book with a dictionary app by my side to even attempt an interpretation of the ideas Cormac McCarthy is trying to express in Blood Meridian, and I can honestly say I had the best time doing it. Also, I can see how this story may have influenced the making of the equally excellent "psychedelic western" film, Dead Man by Jim Jarmucsh. I am looking forward to reading more of McCarthy's works, but I feel that any book I read after this will have a hard time knocking this off the throne of being my "most favoritest book of all-time ever."

Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon