Blood Meridian


#1

I just finished reading this McCarthy novel for the first time. I like the judge. I couldn’t imagine a better ending than dancing naked at a bar.


#2

Cormac McCarthy is a hack. Here’s a lovely essay (rant) I wrote a few years ago on a very specific subject. Enjoy.

Has anyone actually asked Cormac McCarthy why he hates babies so much?

Is ANY of this baby killing necessary? Does it ever add? Or is it just a cheap parlor trick he thinks he’s entitled to in the same way he’s entitled to write pages upon pages of Spanish with no translation? Or in the same way he has the right to look down his nose at authors who deal with issues of life and death (I’d NEVER describe his work as that… I mean, no one EVER DIES in his books, right?) … I don’t get it. And beyond the baby killing, what’s with the absolute venom he uses when describing said babies? I mean, one could argue that’s Lester talking when he describes the baby as a “drooling little monster,” but let’s be real here, he underlines that this is what he really thinks by giving this baby supernatural coordination so he can capture a robin and rip its legs off with his mouth… You ever tried to catch a bird with your hands before? It’s almost impossible… no baby that is still drooling on itself is capable of that kind of magic.

Which brings up my next point… Why is this guy lauded as the greatest of our time when he writes all these totally implausible scenarios? A TREE of dead babies…how many babies were surviving in a small settlement during that time period? Surely not enough to decorate a tree with! Here’s another: in a post-apocalyptic society, there would be not medical services. Maternal and infant death rates would skyrocket. If a baby DID manage to make it out unscathed, we wouldn’t barbeque it! It’s too precious! A mother’s body is built to feed that baby during famine regardless of how hungry she is… If the mother is dead, another woman can actually start lactation by repeated attempts to feed the child… There is NO REASON to believe we would be eating babies. Dogs and even adults make more sense. It seems (brace yourself) SLOPPY. Just like the lack of proper punctuation seems LAZY (Please don’t jump in with that oral tradition argument, the man himself says “[There’s no reason to clutter up the page with a bunch of stupid dots]”… He doesn’t even try to defend himself reasonably like his fans do). And just like pages and pages of Spanish in the middle of an English language novel is SELF INDULGENT. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. This is what the protagonist would hear as he would hear it, but the point of fiction isn’t to be a faithful record… it never actually happened, so there is no way for it to be a faithful record… the point of fiction is to be read, and if we can’t comprehend what we’re reading, then the point is missed. The story is lost.


#3

Here’s one of my favorite Cormac McCarthy moments… because we’ve all looked at a sunrise before and though, wow, that looks like a penis.

“They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them.”

― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West


#4

Cormac is A GOD. Even Oprah knows this.


#5

Hard disagree.


#6

Speaking of ‘books on tape’, do the people that record his books for this medium automatically get mental health coverage?


#7

Asking the real questions… :smile_cat:


#8

When i have time i have some strong rebuttals in favor of cormac. ely knows how i feel about cormac. his prose is some of the best…ever.


#9

I’ll be waiting. I love to hear from you. Even if it’s about Cormac I’m-gonna-have-a-baby-at-65-and-give-him-signed-editions-of-my-own-books-after-ignoring-the-son-I-had-in-the-1960s McCarthy.

Edit: Not gonna lie, Ely, I’ve been sitting here for 14 minutes watching you type a reply. I can’t wait to see what you have to say. It’s like Christmas for literary geeks.


#10

Well, you cherry picked one section from one of his novels and tried to apply a real world framework to an imaginary hell scape. Also, if you’ve read non-fiction about how violent and horrific the Wild West was, then many of the descriptions in BM don’t seem like they are jumping the shark. Even if you haven’t read those kinds of non-fiction books, do you ever read books that contain magical realism or the macabre? Ely from 10 years ago might type a snarky response about the realism of the characters in Twilight, but I think I’m above that now and you probably don’t read Twilight.

Would you have the same criticism for the imagery in Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings? I mention him because I think he was a big influence on Cormac, specifically during writing Blood Meridan. You can also look at the novel as an indictment of Manifest Destiny, which involved a cartoonish amount of wanton bloodshed. Again, I’m thinking more about non-fiction about encounters with Native Americans and whites. There were things like necklaces made of ears (which is mentioned in BM), so the context is critical.


#11

Well, you cherry picked one section from one of his novels and tried to apply a real world framework to an imaginary hell scape.

But I actually pointed out that the dead/monstrous babies are a device in most of his novels, citing three specifically, but leaving out Outer Dark which is a whole novel about questing to kill a baby…

I am a huge fan of the horror genre, that’s most of my compunction with his writing. I don’t think a deadpan relaying of far-fetched scenarios in dead language without any internal monologue or examination of why things are happening the way that they are is compelling. I think John Ajvide Lindqvist is one of the best horror writers today and the reason why has nothing to do with his writing of nightmarish scenarios, but with his ability to take you back to how you thought when you were young. He understands the human condition.

This isn’t personal and it was very tongue in cheek.


#12

I don’t read horror novels and I don’t think Cormac should be lumped in with that genre.

I feel attacked by your uterus in this thread. I think if we were in person, you could do choke me from afar with it, Darth Vader style. I yield to your uterus.

But seriously, these things are a matter of taste and there was never a writer that hit me the way Cormac did. I could read the prologue to Suttree every day and still have my wig split by it.


#13

I didn’t mean to trigger you, Ely. Please don’t think that I did. I respect that you had a strong emotional response to McCarthy’s memoir.

The reason why I don’t like his books is because I don’t get them. He’s touted as the greatest living writer of our times, and as someone who loves to read, I had anticipated that I would love his body of work. Expectation is the root of all heartache, my experience was being pulled out over and over again by scenarios that I found implausible and seeming to me like they were only included for shock value. I felt cheated. But that has more to do with me than it does with him. I probably came to it the wrong way too, marathon reading 6 books of his in a row and just being disgusted by the time I got through them. I was determined that if there was something to “get” I was going to get it. It kills me to see people (mostly men, mind you, and mostly men who, bafflingly, don’t read regularly) talk about how strongly these books resonate with them and blow their minds. It’s like there’s a party going on and I’m stuck home with no invite.


#14

Did you read the Border Trilogy? Might be more enjoyable.


#15

No, I read Outer Dark, Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. Maybe at some point I’ll attempt to read the Border Trilogy. Right now I’m really depressed. I don’t need to read more depressing stuff, trying to keep it light-- Not Twilight light, but, you know, it’s not the time to re-read “Never Let Me Go.”


#16

Well, I’m adding this to the spank bank now.


#17

if your argument that mccarthy was too violent and leaned too heavily in fatalist themes…then i won’t argue against that…

did you know he spent an extensive amount of time researching blood meridian? i believe i read a couple years at least…living pretty much in the smithsonian…

granted, it’s historical fiction and granted he’s a morbid kind of author.

i have such a fond and deep connection to him because during college my brother and i would bounce music, poems, books, writers off each other…i tend to like the more light spiritual and happy stuff…i would send him philosophy, and cs lewis and economics and david james duncan and wendell berry…he would send me all the beatnik stuff…richard farina, ginsberg…he loved plath and auden

when he begged me to read all the pretty horses i said nah…not for me…it would take me 4 years to get to it…and when i did i went on mccarthy tear. i devoured everything by him and about him. the border trilogy is amazing…the crossing will always remain as one of my favorite books…EVER.

my brother called mccarthy’s writing “purple prose”

i believe there’s a place for mccarthy’s writing…bringing light and shining it on the dark and evil spots of humanity and history…these are more than historical fictions…they’re based on real life and real lives. he just so happens to be the best to deliver…

read this…and you can thank Ely for it…he shared w/ me about 8 or 9 years ago and i’ve never let it go…it’s wonderful… https://www.dropbox.com/s/fd3c0z51r7nbvrq/Inkneck.pdf?dl=0

as for him sprinking in spanish…i don’t know what to tell you…i think it’s necessary and fitting…and it suits his style just fine…i think this is more about you than about mccarthy…the spanish suits the setting and the characters…the language matches the landscape…the never ending run on sentence could just as easily be the metaphor for the seemingly never ending horizon his characters are set upon…

McCarthy’s stories and writing style are necessary for the world…and i am so damn thankful his molecules formed…combined and his synapses fired off some of the most amazing sentences my ears and eyes and brain have ever read.

“There is but one world and everything that is imaginable is necessary to it. For this world also which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thing at all but is a tale. And all in it is a tale and each tale the sum of all lesser tales and yet these are also the selfsame tale and contain as well all else within them. So everything is necessary. Every least thing. This is the hard lesson. Nothing can be dispensed with. Nothing despised. Because the seams are hid from us, you see. The joinery. The way in which the world is made. We have no way to know what could be taken away. What omitted. We have no way to tell what might stand and what might fall. And those seams that are hid from us are of course in the tale itself and the tale has no abode or place of beind except in the telling only and there it lives and makes its home and therefore we can never be done with the telling. Of the telling there is no end. And . . . in whatever . . . place by whatever . . . name or by no name at all . . . all tales are one. Rightly heard all tales are one.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

**“He said that the light of the world was in men’s eyes only for the world itself moved in eternal darkness and darkness was its true nature and true condition and that in this darkness it turned with perfect cohesion in all its parts but that there was naught there to see. He said that the world was sentient to its core and secret and black beyond men’s imagining and that its nature did not reside in what could be seen or not seen. He said that he could stare down the sun and what use was that?**
**These words seemed to silence his friend. They sat side by side on the bridge. The sun shone upon them. Finally the man asked him how he had come by such views and he answered that they were things he’d long suspected and that the blind have much to contemplate.**
**They rose to go. The blind man asked his friend which way he was going. The man hesitated. He asked the blind man which way he. The blind man pointed with his stave.**
**Al norte, he said.**
**Al sur, said the other.**
**He nodded. He offered his hand into the darkness and they said their farewell.”**
**― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing**
“In the night as he slept Boyd came to him and squatted by the deep embers of the fire as he’d done times by the hundreds and smiled his soft smile that was not quite cynical and he took off his hate and held it before him and looked down into it. In the dream he knew that Boyd was dead and that the subject of his being so must be approached with a certain caution for that which was circumspect in life must be doubly so in death and he’d no way to know what word or gesture might subtract him back again into that nothingness out of which he’d come. When finally he did ask him what it was like to be dead Boyd only smiled and looked away and would not answer. They spoke of other things and he tried not to wake from the dream but the ghost dimmed and faded and he woke and lay looking up at the stars through the bramblework of the treelimbs and he tried to think of what that place could be where Boyd was but Boyd was dead and wasted in his bones wrapped in the soogan upriver in the trees and he turned his face to the ground and wept.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing


#18

**_

Has anyone actually asked Cormac McCarthy why he hates babies so much?

_** I’m sure it’s crossed someone’s mind…i personally don’t infer that he hates babies just by reading his novels.

**_

Is ANY of this baby killing necessary?

_** in terms of a writer and storytelling …yes…it could by symbolism for desolation and foreshadowing for what lay ahead in terms of the moral universe he’s painted…

**_

Does it ever add?

_** I think it does…see symbolism…

Or is it just a cheap parlor trick he thinks he’s entitled to in the same way he’s entitled to write pages upon pages of Spanish with no translation? No…he’s anything BUT cheap parlor trick.

**_

Or in the same way he has the right to look down his nose at authors who deal with issues of life and death (I’d NEVER describe his work as that… I mean, no one EVER DIES in his books, right?) … I don’t get it. And beyond the baby killing, what’s with the absolute venom he uses when describing said babies?

_** i would say it’s not his venom…it’s a character’s…it’s the landscape for which he has painted…scorched and scorned…desolate and isolate. a world without babies…even worse…a world in which grown men have no respect for life…or even the rules of human decency…THAT SETS QUITE TEH SCENE EH?

**_

I mean, one could argue that’s Lester talking when he describes the baby as a “drooling little monster,” but let’s be real here, he underlines that this is what he really thinks by giving this baby supernatural coordination so he can capture a robin and rip its legs off with his mouth… You ever tried to catch a bird with your hands before? It’s almost impossible… no baby that is still drooling on itself is capable of that kind of magic.

_** i’ve caught a bird with my hands before…i didn’t eat it or chomp it…a robin landed next to me on our porch…i was 15 or 16 and for whatever reflexive action i took i swooped that bird up and held her in my hand…snatched but unscathed and after much shrieking i released her.

**_

Which brings up my next point… Why is this guy lauded as the greatest of our time when he writes all these totally implausible scenarios?

_** maybe because his prose, his storytelling, his absolutism and conviction and faulkner-esque are all equal or better than what faulkner or hemingway ever came close to…i would say for whom the bell tolls is close. they’re not implausible scenarios…they’re harrowing and hauntingily brutal…if you don’t think for a second that this shit didn’t happen out on the prairie and plains and sierras and desserts than i would think you’d need a reality check…there are and were and continue to be evil huge pieces of shit.

**_

A TREE of dead babies…how many babies were surviving in a small settlement during that time period? Surely not enough to decorate a tree with! Here’s another: in a post-apocalyptic society, there would be not medical services. Maternal and infant death rates would skyrocket. If a baby DID manage to make it out unscathed, we wouldn’t barbeque it! It’s too precious! A mother’s body is built to feed that baby during famine regardless of how hungry she is… If the mother is dead, another woman can actually start lactation by repeated attempts to feed the child… There is NO REASON to believe we would be eating babies. Dogs and even adults make more sense. It seems (brace yourself) SLOPPY. Just like the lack of proper punctuation seems LAZY (Please don’t jump in with that oral tradition argument, the man himself says “[There’s no reason to clutter up the page with a bunch of stupid dots]”… He doesn’t even try to defend himself reasonably like his fans do). And just like pages and pages of Spanish in the middle of an English language novel is SELF INDULGENT. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. This is what the protagonist would hear as he would hear it, but the point of fiction isn’t to be a faithful record… it never actually happened, so there is no way for it to be a faithful record… the point of fiction is to be read, and if we can’t comprehend what we’re reading, then the point is missed. The story is lost.

_** i’m not sure it’s that far fetched…there could easily be whole villages…native or otherwise that have babies…and villages w/ low mortality rates…realistic or not…it’s an easy jump to make when thinking in terms of indian tribes burning through villages…white or native…there are things that happen everyday that will make us shudder…SEE DONALD TRUMP BEING ELECTED PRESIDENT. shudder.


#19

I feel like I bring so much to you guys’ lives everyday.


#20

I take the stance that I care less what a book is about than how it is written. I first read a bunch of his books because he would write things like this:
"seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise"
There is an obstreperous musicality to that, given the many ways he could have written it. I grew weary of his writing for much the same reason.