Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West [NOOK Book]

Overview

"The fulfilled renown of Moby-Dick and of As I Lay Dying is augmented by Blood Meridian, since Cormac McCarthy is the worthy disciple both of Melville and Faulkner," writes esteemed literary scholar Harold Bloom in his Introduction to the Modern Library edition. "I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable."

Cormac McCarthy's masterwork, Blood Meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. ...
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Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West

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Overview

"The fulfilled renown of Moby-Dick and of As I Lay Dying is augmented by Blood Meridian, since Cormac McCarthy is the worthy disciple both of Melville and Faulkner," writes esteemed literary scholar Harold Bloom in his Introduction to the Modern Library edition. "I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable."

Cormac McCarthy's masterwork, Blood Meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. Its wounded hero, the teenage Kid, must confront the extraordinary violence of the Glanton gang, a murderous cadre on an official mission to scalp Indians and sell those scalps. Loosely based on fact, the novel represents a genius vision of the historical West, one so fiercely realized that since its initial publication in 1985 the canon of American literature has welcomed Blood Meridian to its shelf.

"A classic American novel of regeneration through violence," declares Michael Herr. "McCarthy can only be compared to our greatest writers."


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

John Banville
The book reads like a conflation of the Inferno, the Iliad, and Moby—Dick… an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement.
—John Banville, The Independent (London)
Harold Bloom
Blood Meridian…seems to me clearly the major esthetic achievement of any living American writer.
— Harold Bloom,The New York Observer
Alan Cheuse
McCarthy employs a neo-Biblical rhetoric, a soaring, pulsing…always stirring diction without parallel in American writing today.
— Alan Cheuse,USA Today
From the Publisher
"McCarthy is a writer to be read, to be admired, and quite honestly—envied."
—Ralph Ellison

"McCarthy is a born narrator, and his writing has, line by line, the stab of actuality. He is here to stay."
—Robert Penn Warren

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307762528
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/11/2010
  • Series: Vintage International
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 20,188
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in1933 and spent most of his childhood near Knoxville, Tennessee. He served in the U.S. Air Force and later studied at the University of Tennessee. In 1976 he moved to El Paso, Texas, where he lives today.  McCarthy's fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West--the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three in the Southwest and Mexico. The Orchard Keeper (1965) won the Faulkner Award for a first novel; it was followed by Outer Dark (1968),  Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses, which won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award for fiction in 1992, and The Crossing.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Blood Meridian (1985) seems to me the authentic American apocalyptic novel, more relevant even in 2000 than it was fifteen years ago. The fulfilled renown of Moby-Dick and of As I Lay Dying is augmented by Blood Meridian, since Cormac McCarthy is the worthy disciple both of Melville and of Faulkner. I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable as Blood Meridian, much as I appreciate Don DeLillo's Underworld, Philip Roth's Zuckerman Bound, Sabbath's Theater, and American Pastoral, and Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. McCarthy himself, in his recent Border trilogy, commencing with the superb All the Pretty Horses, has not matched Blood Meridian, but it is the ultimate Western, not to be surpassed.

My concern being the reader, I will begin by confessing that my first two attempts to read through Blood Meridian failed, because I flinched from the overwhelming carnage that McCarthy portrays. The violence begins on the novel's second page, when the fifteen-year-old Kid is shot in the back and just below the heart, and continues almost with no respite until the end, thirty years later, when Judge Holden, the most frightening figure in all of American literature, murders the Kid in an outhouse. So appalling are the continuous massacres and mutilations of Blood Meridian that one could be reading a United Nations report on the horrors of Kosovo in 1999.

Nevertheless, I urge the reader to persevere, because Blood Meridian is a canonical imaginative achievement, both an American and a universal tragedy of blood. Judge Holden is a villain worthy of Shakespeare, Iago-like and demoniac, a theoretician of war everlasting. And the book's magnificence-its language, landscape, persons, conceptions-at last transcends the violence, and converts goriness into terrifying art, an art comparable to Melville's and to Faulkner's. When I teach the book, many of my students resist it initially (as I did, and as some of my friends continue to do). Television saturates us with actual as well as imagined violence, and I turn away, either in shock or in disgust. But I cannot turn away from Blood Meridian, now that I know how to read it, and why it has to be read. None of its carnage is gratuitous or redundant; it belonged to the Mexico-Texas borderlands in 1849-50, which is where and when most of the novel is set. I suppose one could call Blood Meridian a "historical novel," since it chronicles the actual expedition of the Glanton gang, a murderous paramilitary force sent out both by Mexican and Texan authorities to murder and scalp as many Indians as possible. Yet it does not have the aura of historical fiction, since what it depicts seethes on, in the United States, and nearly everywhere else, as we enter the third millennium. Judge Holden, the prophet of war, is unlikely to be without honor in our years to come.

Even as you learn to endure the slaughter McCarthy describes, you become accustomed to the book's high style, again as overtly Shakespearean as it is Faulknerian. There are passages of Melvillean-Faulknerian baroque richness and intensity in The Crying of Lot 49, and elsewhere in Pynchon, but we can never be sure that they are not parodistic. The prose of Blood Meridian soars, yet with its own economy, and its dialogue is always persuasive, particularly when the uncanny Judge Holden speaks (chapter 14, p. 199):

The judge placed his hands on the ground. He looked at his inquisitor. This is my claim, he said. And yet everywhere upon it are pockets of autonomous life. Autonomous. In order for it to be mine nothing must be permitted to occur upon it save by my dispensation.

Toadvine sat with his boots crossed before the fire. No man can acquaint himself with everything on this earth, he said.

The judge tilted his great head. The man who believes that the secrets of this world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.

Judge Holden is the spiritual leader of Glanton's filibusters, and McCarthy persuasively gives the self-styled judge a mythic status, appropriate for a deep Machiavelli whose "thread of order" recalls Iago's magic web, in which Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio are caught. Though all of the more colorful and murderous raiders are vividly characterized for us, the killing-machine Glanton with the others, the novel turns always upon its two central figures, Judge Holden and the Kid. We first meet the Judge on page 6: an enormous man, bald as a stone, no trace of a beard, and eyes without either brows or lashes. A seven-foot-tall albino almost seems to have come from some other world, and we learn to wonder about the Judge, who never sleeps, dances and fiddles with extraordinary art and energy, rapes and murders little children of both sexes, and who says that he will never die. By the book's close, I have come to believe that the Judge is immortal. And yet the Judge, while both more and less than human, is as individuated as Iago or Macbeth, and is quite at home in the Texan-Mexican borderlands where we watch him operate in 1849-50, and then find him again in 1878, not a day older after twenty-eight years, though the Kid, a sixteen-year-old at the start of Glanton's foray, is forty-five when murdered by the Judge at the end.

McCarthy subtly shows us the long, slow development of the Kid from another mindless scalper of Indians to the courageous confronter of the Judge in their final debate in a saloon. But though the Kid's moral maturation is heartening, his personality remains largely a cipher, as anonymous as his lack of a name. The three glories of the book are the Judge, the landscape, and (dreadful to say this) the slaughters, which are aesthetically distanced by McCarthy in a number of complex ways.

What is the reader to make of the Judge? He is immortal as principle, as War Everlasting, but is he a person, or something other? McCarthy will not tell us, which is all the better, since the ambiguity is most stimulating. Melville's Captain Ahab, though a Promethean demigod, is necessarily mortal, and perishes with the Pequod and all its crew, except for Ishmael. After he has killed the Kid, Blood Meridian's Ishmael, Judge Holden is the last survivor of Glanton's scalping crusade. Destroying the Native American nations of the Southwest is hardly analogous to the hunt to slay Moby-Dick, and yet McCarthy gives us some curious parallels between the two quests. The most striking is between Melville's chapter 19, where a ragged prophet, who calls himself Elijah, warns Ishmael and Queequeg against sailing on the Pequod, and McCarthy's chapter 4, where "an old disordered Mennonite" warns the Kid and his comrades not to join Captain Worth's filibuster, a disaster that preludes the greater catastrophe of Glanton's campaign.

McCarthy's invocation of Moby-Dick, while impressive and suggestive, in itself does not do much to illuminate Judge Holden for us. Ahab has his preternatural aspects, including his harpooner Fedellah and Parsee whaleboat crew, and the captain's conversion to their Zoroastrian faith. Elijah tells Ishmael touches of other Ahabian mysteries: a three-day trance off Cape Horn, slaying a Spaniard in front of a presumably Catholic altar in Santa, and a wholly enigmatic spitting into a "silver calabash."Yet all these are transparencies compared to the enigmas of Judge Holden, who seems to judge the entire earth, and whose name suggests a holding, presumably of sway over all he encounters. And yet, the Judge, unlike Ahab, is not wholly fictive; like Glanton, he is a historic filibuster or freebooter. McCarthy tells us most in the Kid's dream visions of Judge Holden, towards the close of the novel (chapter 22, pp. 309—10):

In that sleep and in sleep to follow the judge did visit. Who would come other? A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents, he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing.

I think that McCarthy is warning his reader that the Judge is Moby-Dick rather than Ahab. As another white enigma, the albino Judge, like the albino whale, cannot be slain. Melville, a professed Gnostic, who believed that some "anarch hand or cosmic blunder" had divided us into two fallen sexes, gives us a Manichean quester in Ahab. McCarthy gives Judge Holden the powers and purposes of the bad angels or demiurges that the Gnostics called archons, but he tells us not to make such an identification (as the critic Leo Daugherty eloquently has). Any "system," including the Gnostic one, will not divide the Judge back into his origins. The "ultimate atavistic egg" will not be found. What can the reader do with the haunting and terrifying Judge?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 189 )
Rating Distribution

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(114)

4 Star

(37)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(14)

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(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 189 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2008

    Where Red Turns Purple

    While appreciating McCarthy's achievement, I consider the 'style' unnecessarily affected. The innovation of dropping quotation marks, apostrophes, and most hyphens should not be confused with creativity. His approach leads to confusion rather than clarity. Strunk and White would be aghast. Similes and metaphors are often incongruous. The conjunction 'and' is used ad nauseam where commas will suffice and signal where a reader can pause. Enough with the grammar lesson though. It would be interesting to hear how the author justifies the appearance of a lanneret, a harpy eagle, ringdoves, jackals, and even nectar-sipping bats that (in the US) are found only in Big Bend National Park. Repetition of 'They rode on' becomes nauseating. For what purpose are less familiar words - thrapple for windpipe, aubergines for eggplants? Spanish words are distractingly misspelled. Eventually there's a point where erudition becomes ostentation. The character Judge Holden, whose discourses would daze an Oxford professor, personifies this negative factor. However, in defense of the 'ambiguous' ending, I ask what would the reader wish? One may suppose that McCarthy painted himself into a corner, but a novel takes on life when its characters have their own say as to resolution. Leaving the matter for interpretation was a beautiful stroke.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2009

    Overrated

    I feel like the only one who doesn't like it but I have to share my thoughts about it. I found it very confusing and disappointing. It started off interesting but then so many characters were thrown into the story, most of which were unimportant or killed in the next chapter. I found it annoying how much attention I had to put into reading it. McCarthy would describe the scenery or the desert for so long that I'd lose focus and then something important for the story would happen, so I'd have to go back and re-read nearly everything to the point where I didn't care about anything the book had to say anymore. I didn't like any of the characters, I stopped caring towards the end of the book how crazy or evil any of them were. For the last 1/4 of the book, I was so confused that I didn't know who was killing who, where anybody was, who was alive or dead, so I found myself reading as fast as I could because I wanted to finish it as quick as I could just to end it. And to top all of that, it was unnecessarily violent, I personally like violent books and movies, but this was so ridiculous to the point where it was really annoying.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    McCarthy's hyperviolent Moby-Dick

    "In that sleep and in sleeps to follow the judge did visit. Who would come other? A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there a system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of any ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing."<BR/><BR/>If you didn't like reading that, you won't like reading Blood Meridian, as that passage is from the novel. I pity you if you don't like it.<BR/><BR/>Judge Holden is the most evil character that I've ever read. <BR/><BR/>McCarthy's writing is aesthetic genius. <BR/><BR/>That's really all I have to say. It's a masterpiece.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2007

    The sun, an hour above the horizon, was poised like a bloody egg on the thunderheads.

    This was my first McCarthy. I suspect that like others I came to it at the recommendation of Harold Bloom, of whom I am a sort of disciple. (For the record, Bloom does not say that this is the 'best American novel in 50 years¿', instead he says that BM is the 'greatest aesthetic achievement of any American novelist in 50 years.' Bloom, as usual, has chosen his words carefully.) And despite Bloom's valid enthusiasm, McCarthy is a true if still only slightly inferior inheritor of Joyce and Conrad via Faulkner, as well as of Hemmingway, Melville, Twain and perhaps Whitman. Upon first glance at the text, one is reminded of Faulkner at his most desperately purple and Joycean. Deeper one sees Hemingway's mechanics and structure and use of Spanish dialog, as well as Whitman¿s¿ and Stevens' taste for a wide and unusual vocabulary. (Judge Holden in the preacher's camp, falsely exposing the preacher as a phony is pure Poldy in Nighttown.) 'Phantasmagoric', found in the text, is an appropriate adjective for BM. Set in the 1850s in Texas and Mexico, it follows the hypergrotesque (I'm still not sure that word is strong enough) odyssey of the the Kid, an orphan who enlists with the Glanton gang, a pack of wretched mercenaries hunting Apache scalps for bounty. As such BM is 350 pages of nightmare bloodletting, all written by an author whose powers of naturalistic description are fearless and masterful and apparently bottomless. It all takes quite a toll, since it leaves few places for the reader to rest. McCarthy evinces none of the anxiety that propels his precursors, like Melville, to let some light slip out and betray hope-- and that, all moralizing aside, may be the novel's only real flaw. Howevermuch the first few pages of BM might resemble the first few of Moby Dick with its invitations to 'See' and then proceed to lead us sleepily into a mad and bloody epic, BM will not suffer an Ishmael to tell his dreamy tale. When we do get to rest from the decapitations and disembowelings in BM, it's in a space of Kafkan absurdity, a Beckett-like vacuum of absence of meaning, or thankfully (!) in the anti-Dostoevskian philosophizings of Judge Holden, who is the true center, anti-center, of the novel, something more than superficially like Moby Dick's white whale. That the reader is placed in such a desperate space, however, and that we must sit by the fire and somehow be glad for (and rightfully terrified of) Holden is clearly the novel's greatest strength. Holden, perhaps the Devil himself, whose real interest among the Glanton gang is in the Kid, in whom he sees something redeeming that he cannot let be, is a charming and gentlemanly renaissance man who also happens to be an abyss of negation and destruction, an albino giant Old Scratch whose principle of being/non-being is that 'War is God'. The novel is emotionally taxing and frustrating, and it has its major aesthetic flaws (also inherited from Faulkner and Twain: Faulkner when the rhetoric unintentionally mocks itself-- but that is rare since the writing is so controlled and taut--, and on a large scale like Twain in Huck Finn, when BM seems to go off the rails about 3/4 of the way through), but it is a must for any serious reader of American novels.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully savage

    First, be warned, this story is not for the faint of heart. That aside, it is probably one of the most beautiful and monstrous books I've come across in recent memory. The juxstaposition of considerably luscious descriptives for an austere backdrop alongside stomach turning violence with an equally existential/fatalistic twist to the characters is such an exciting dichotomy. The book is one that stays with you. It can evoke some serious reactions- that's not only rare in my opinion, but prized. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorites and of his work this is, in my opinion, his epitome.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing

    There is not one redeeming character in the book. I cannot remember ever before reading a book that did not have have one character that projected some semblance of nobility. No doubt the book does accurately portray a level of humanity that existed in the "wild west" but thank God it did not win out. Like many (all?) of McCarthy's books it explores the dark side of human behavior in greater depth than many people may be able to tolerate, but his style of writing, with minimal attention to grammatical correctness, while still managing to produce captivating tales, is astonishing.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    cannot recommend

    I am sloshing through this mess. I will finish the book only because I refuse to throw money away. There's no real story or plot here; no flushing out of characters. Main character has no name at all. Sorry, Cormac, this is a total loss of writing talent.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    McCarthy's Masterpiece

    The darkest and most disturbing book ever put to paper. McCarthy's vision of the American West is apocalyptic in scope and steeped in depravity; a haunting tome and the only book that ever gave me nightmares.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2006

    More Insight into this book

    I have known about this book for over 15 years and have looked for other resources related to this book to help deepen my appreciation for the genius of Cormac McCarthy. I recently stumbled across a new tool on John Sepich's website - a complete concordance of 'Blood Meridian'. The breakdown of McCarthy's word choices and variety will blow your mind. After spending some time on the site, I am going to go back and re-read this book. I am sure that it is going to be even more intriguing now than previous reads.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    brutal truthiness about the' wild west'

    The author has an uncanny way with vivid but often times terse description. His characters are alive and morally grey. The reader follows the 'kid' as he journeys through hell on earth around the boarders of Texas and Mexico.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2010

    Masterpiece

    A great book. once it gets to you i am sure it will become a page turner.
    A definitive modern masterpiece, at the same level of faulkener, guimaraes rosa or conrad. must read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Bloodshed~

    I was eager to read "Blood Meridian", like most I heard it was a classic and profound read full of violence and gore. It was, but I found the reading in the 1st 100 pages tedious and slow going.

    I really enjoyed the book as a whole, but found many of the descriptions long winded!

    The violence and outright lunacy of the scalp hunters is what kept me reading. The main character is "The Kid", who for 14 years old is a tough one. Several other great characters in the book, "The Judge", wow, McCarthy could write a book just about him.

    This was only my 2nd McCarthy book, the other being "The Road", which blew me away. If you like McCarthy, you'll probably enjoy "Blood Meridian", but the blood and violence level is very, very high if your not comfortable with it.

    Personally I'm looking forward to reading "Outer Dark" next, hoping to get back to the McCarthy I adored after reading "The Road"!

    When you finish this book, if you feel like you have some unanswered questions, look up "Blood Meridian" on Wikipedia.com and you'll find a long analysis about the characters and the ending! I know I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Painful to read..

    Like others have pointed out, it seems that McCarthy has chosen to use the most obscure words possible. Words that are not chosen for any editorial process, but merely for the routine of confusing and boring the reader. For example. "The cat crossed the road". Using McCarthy's style, "The nested swallows of black-chroma colored hair on the cat swayed malignantly as tendered across the rough-effed mandril pavement as to stutter eastward toward the magenta abyss".

    If you like to feel important or more intelligent than others, then by all means read away. If you prefer to read and not break out the thesaurus or read ten sentences that should have given you the gist in one then stay away.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    highy recommended

    Blood meridian is a great book. Its about a young boy who ran away from home at fourteen. his mom died while giving birth to him and his dad is an alcoholic. he first meets judge holden in texas who is a tall and hairless man and well educated first he's just traveling alone on his mule then he gets attacked and arrested. this guy named toadvine says they both would be good indian hunters so they both join the glanton gang.
    they start off by killing indidnas but eventually they kill anyone who crosses thier path. they kill numerous people, rob people. they go on a long odyssey looking for the indians leader and killing any indian they see. the bulk of the novel is thier activies and conversations.
    i loved Mccarthy's language throughout the whole book. hes uses such good imagery and great and original similes.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Tireless Evil

    A Classic in the Faulkner-ian sense. It is enormous in its scope and ambition on par with Melville and it's Milton-esque Biblical connotations of good vs. evil. It is a land of evil and barren of hope. The characters are drawn from an actual journal from the US Mexican War. It is devastating and nightmarish. This book will haunt you with its vivid account of no-holds-barred gurrilla warfare where no one is safe not even the dogs. It's as frightning a depiction of blood thirsty evil in the world as has ever been written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    May change the way you read.... Forever.

    Not many contemporary works of fiction have inspired as much purely critical analysis as this book. Give the man his due - after all McCarthy is thought by many scholars to be a modern day Faulkner. It seems that a siginificant portion of people who have read this piece either love it or hate it - a smaller portion of people can't figure out what the hell they should think about what they just read. In any event, the book will worm (that's right, worm) its way into your mind and soul and nest there. You'll find yourself looking at things a bit differently, just knowing that in our own past, not so long ago, men such as this walked among the humans. Makes you feel small and fragile - but at the same time wise and slick, like you know a filthy little secret to which the rest of them aren't privy. Catching your breath every now and then as you move through the pages and every so often flashing the book a nervous smirk so as not to piss off any of the characters. Worth the read? Absolutely.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West

    This is by far the greatest book of all time!!!This is my third book by Cormac McCarthy and I found this one to be his best one. This is a pretty difficult read since you have to be 100 % in the book and the fact that it's like the most violent book ever. I thought Anton Chigurh was a bad dude but Judge Holden is even more evil. The prose in this book is so beautiful. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone unless they don't mind a story about a bunch of scalphunters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2003

    A Pilgrim's Regress

    McCarthy has one of the most distinctive voices in American fiction today. In my view, he is our finest Western writer--though not in the traditional sense. With its long, sinuous sentences, vaulting and maddening philosophical musings, and lurid passages of the grotesque, BLOOD MERIDIAN is a literary descendant of Faulkner's novels. Yet it offers us a much darker vision: America's Westward Expansion is merely a regression into a bloodlust as old as humanity itself. Occasionally the prose is overblown, and the writing would have benefited from some judicious condensing. My main reason for withholding a star is that I'm not sure what is at stake in this story. Should we see the kid as presented with a choice between embracing the demonic violence embodied by the judge and repudiating such violence? Yet the kid remains as knee-deep in the mayhem as everyone else, and his fate left me unmoved. At one point, the kid wanders out of the mountains into a clearing where a tree has been struck by lightning. Animals of all kinds--mountain lions, birds, tarantulas, scorpions--have gathered around the fiery tree. It is a mystical, wonderful image, one I wish had been developed. It suggests that peaceful community can be as primal as violence. If only the kid had followed this path!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2003

    A masterpiece of violence!

    This is the most grotesque novel ever written in modern literature. Cormac McCarthy should have earned the Pulitzer Prize for a novel so splashed with blood and massacre, it outranks all the horrific books published by Stephen King or Jews who have written about their concentration camp experiences during World War II. To read this book is like memorizing detailed instructions on how to butcher a cow in a meat plant. The novel could easily take the place of Caulfield¿s Catcher in the Rye as the number one book the FBI would find in a serial killer¿s home. The story is not about murder, although one see¿s it in each gripping chapter of Indian massacres, merciless bar fights, child killings, and simple I don¿t like seeing your face, so I¿m going to chop your head off scenarios. Instead, the story gives us an understanding that world peace can never be obtained in a society ruled by competition and war-making genes flourishing in all of us. The novel is brilliantly executed and keeps the reader ¿with a strong stomach¿ reading until the climatic end. Cormac writes with a poetic style, distorting descriptions with brilliant metaphors, so one receives an exciting view of the landscape like only Melville and Faulkner can do. The highlight of the book is its haunting albino character, Judge Holden, a Moby Dick or Satan in human form who exploits the shortfalls of humanity. One could imagine Marlon Brando of Apocalypse Now in the character Judge Holden, but with white skin and a vocabulary as prolific as a Harvard graduate. The Judge kills with relish and gives creditable excuses for all his murders. If you have read Stephen King¿s The Stand, you will find many similarities between Holden and Randall Flagg, they are the same demonic entity, but the Judge is more brilliantly done up. In the end, the Judge is neither evil nor sympathetic to the human cause, but is a reminder to our mortality and how useless self-gain, entertainment, and love means in the end when all that invites us is death.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2002

    I Loved It Masochistically

    An amazing book that made this aparently low-level reader's head ache. Written in a style that becomes difficult to follow at times(with a lack of quoations marks and labels of whose speaking). While it contains many thick sections that must be trudged through, and Faustian references that could easily be missed(a 14 year lapse in time between pro- & antagonists, twice that found in Faust) McCarthy's superb and gut renching descriptions of gore and death flow effortlessly into the Judge's rants on religion and agency. An excellent read, if you can get through it! I just wish I had a peer to discuss it with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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