Finished Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West this morning (it took entirely too long to read this–through no fault of McCarthy’s–time is ever so precious, and novel-reading gets shoved to the end of the list, unfortunately).
What shall I say? Blood. Lots and lots of Blood. The novel paints America–specifically the Western borderlands between Texas, Arizona, California, and Mexico–in deft strokes of dust, mud, lightning, and blood. At some level, this novel is not merely about the bloodsoaked bildungsroman of the main character, but also about our beloved America. Like the Kid (the unnamed and often unmentioned protagonist of the novel) it is born in bloody conflict; matured in sheer, unmitigated violence; lives in, through, and after war (or murder, depending on your point of view); and, however it might want to avoid and deny it, will probably find its end in blood as well–if the prophecy of the novel and the burden of history are to be believed, that is.
Filled with strange historical characters and caricatures (the scalphungry, bloodthirsty Captain John Joel Glanton and mystically, horrifically obscene Judge Holden), this book defies encapsulation–as any novel of literary worth should. One may make comparisons to Melville and Moby-Dick (often cited as McCarthy’s favorite author and book, respectively) or any other American novel of violence ( The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind at the moment, as do assorted Faulkner works–but aren’t you breaking some rule of literary criticism if you don’t mention Faulkner and McCarthy in the same paragraph?)
McCarthy’s style is likewise powerful. It’s at various times–often at the same time–dense, philosophical, poetic, imagistic, biblical, and Western. Stripped of the trappings of punctuation (especially those nattering troublesome commas and quotation marks) the novel’s prose does that mysterious, remarkable, beautiful thing: it “flows” (oh, how my students would mock me for using the oft-banned f-word to describe a text… what does it mean?) McCarthy’s word choice is as ever mellifluous and intellectually pleasing–I haven’t referred a dictionary this much since my Epic in the Western Tradition class–and not a page goes by where a word doesn’t demand that you pause and carefully read aloud with its compatriots, just to hear the sheer sound of it.
There were times when I wasn’t sure I was going to finish, but I’m wholly glad I did. This book deserves to be written about more–and I may do so as I continue to sift this through my various critical filters.