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Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

By Carrie | Books | August 7, 2009 |

By Carrie | Books | August 7, 2009 |

Set in the 1850s, Blood Meridian tells the tale of the kid, an unnamed boy who joins a band of Indian hunters - the Glanton Gang. They travel Mexico and the US territories, initially paid to bring back the scalps of Indians, they eventually turn on anyone who crosses their path. The tale is full of violence and bloodshed, though the main antagonist is the judge, a mysterious man who first appears to Glanton in the middle of nowhere. He has many skills and often helps the gang when they’re in trouble, but he’s the one the kid must ultimately face down. Much of the book is based on fact. The Glanton Gang existed and many of the events took place, although it is not known whether the judge was a real person.

I’m very torn about this book. I have read Cormac McCarthy before and enjoyed them. I loved The Road, though I initially found the writing style difficult, I was soon totally absorbed in that world and thought the writing matched the story, adding to the bleakness. I enjoyed All The Pretty Horses less, but I do plan on continuing with the Border Trilogy. But Blood Meridian…I just don’t know. On the one hand there’s the me that appreciates the writing and his use of language. It’s very beautiful, the man knows how to turn a phrase. But it can also be very hard going. There’s only so much description I can take before I want the story to move on, to go somewhere. And then there’s the slacker me, (who wakes up intermittently to scream ‘Put the book down! For the love of god, you don’t even know what’s happening! Give me a synopsis of the last three pages. You can’t can you?’), who was less than impressed (and somewhat rude), and desperate to move on.

There were many times reading it that I realised I had been staring at the same page for ten minutes, my mind wandering, or I’d be turning pages without taking anything in and have to go back to see what I missed. It’s a book that demands extreme concentration, and I just didn’t have it to give. It lost me a lot, and very little about it made me want to continue. The story itself (such as it is) became very repetitive - they ride through the desert slaughtering innocents, turning on each other, hitting a town before moving off again - and the people in it were not people I cared to learn the fates of. The kid, though ostensibly the main character, disappears from the narrative for stretches of time, and so his story loses any momentum it may have had.

I guess the main thing is, I don’t know what the book is trying to say. Is it even trying to say anything? Is it about good vs evil? Human nature? Just a history lesson? I don’t feel I gained anything from reading it. I didn’t enter a new world I enjoyed. I didn’t meet new characters I came to care about. I didn’t learn anything. I’m having a hard time convincing myself I didn’t waste my time, and I feel a bit bad about it, seeing as it’s supposedly his ‘masterpiece’ and is so critically acclaimed. I think he’s written better, and I’m more than happy to read and enjoy those, but this one just didn’t do anything for me.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Carrie’s reviews, check her blog, Teabelly’s Place.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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