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Blood Meridian


Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian
average rating is 5 out of 5

Historical Fiction, Fiction, Extreme, Dystopia

R. Alex Jenkins

Blood Meridian is an intense experience!

I really want to give it five stars because of how important and revered it is, but there are seeds of doubt.

Technically, Cormac McCarthy isn't the greatest writer because he chooses to be otherwise and doesn't follow standard rules!

- Mini spoilers are used at the beginning of each chapter.

- Action takes place in an almost stream of nonsensical consciousness followed by sudden overuse of third-party 'he' and 'they' all the time.

- There are no quotation marks around any of the conversations, making dialogue fluid but sometimes hard to follow.

Blood Meridian technically breaks so many rules while being intense to read, going to show that the linguistic rulebook doesn't matter a jot! What matters is knowing how to tell a story and making all the loose ends tie up in a realistic and believable manner.

A great artist lays paint on canvas and says make what you will of that! Enjoy the landscape for what it's worth!

It takes a long time to care about or connect with any of the characters in its survival against the odds nature. You see yourself in there, competing against the weather, environment, buzzards and indians, relishing the fight against collective eradication, grasping, puking and maiming to the last breath. You envisage your savage self and lack of humanity. Characters are portrayed as blank canvasses, unlikeable and totally impersonal, looking into the eyes of vultures with nothing to reflect back besides death 💀. Nobody to care about: not the Kid, Toadvine, Glanton, the Expriest or the Judge? There is little friendship, and certainly no compassion or love.

And this is where I'm on the fence. Although bleak, barren, repetitive and droll in places, Cormac McCarthy paints an incredibly detailed picture of life in the wild west and how roughshod and haphazard it must have been at the time. It's immersive yet depressing, with little fun, enjoyment or lightness of spirit, yet still utterly profound.

Being realistic as possible, unabashedly gruesome and thoroughly doing your historical research helps a lot! Cormac McCarthy could have gone further and described detailed architecture and the biological constitution of animals, indians and plants at Charles Darwin levels as a historical compendium of the Texas/Mexico border in the 19th century.

Suffocating immersion in the barren wild-west world does not necessarily make for heart-pounding reading though. Blood Meridian is no page turner, but how can it be awarded anything less than five stars for what it does to your state of mind? It's Van Gogh in a gaudy and distasteful way as equally and inexplicably mesmerizing.

Life back then was hard. For everyone.

Two of my favourite subgenres are dystopia and existentialism. Close to the edge and on the path to destruction and doom through no fault of our own. Blood Meridian isn't quite either, doomed for sure, but not really existential because nothing we do makes any difference. There is no escape or opportunity to change the situation. Aliens don't pack up and leave and zombies won't eventually run out (they don't breed). Instead we get endless bucketfuls of grime, trowels of bleakness and spades of hopelessness to separate Blood Meridian from the marauding pack.

This is an amazingly dark and dusty experience going endlessly round in circles in its pursuit of glorified destruction at the expense of others. Endless violence and selfishness, scarce supplies, frequent injuries and imminent death, so depressing it's strangely compelling.

This is everything I ever want from a book. Acknowledgement that we are little more than odd little creatures, raping away, murdering and endlessly pillaging others while hurtling around the sun.

Blood Meridian needs time to percolate (or fester). Time for its putrid heart to seep into your soul. I have nothing but admiration for this brutal book in its detached and disconnected hell.

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