January 1st, 2012


Book Review: Blood Meridian: or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy

The god of war and violence ghost-writes a Western under the pen name 'Cormac McCarthy.'

Blood Meridian

Vintage, 1985, 337 pages

An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

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Verdict: If you are a Cormac McCarthy fan, then you have to read this book. If you're not, this one will either make you a fan or make you run screaming. Taking a few excerpts out of context may not give the true flavor of the novel. The words and sentences and paragraphs roll around in your mind like odd-tasting alien candy on the tongue, the imagery seeps into you, and you are there in that bad place in the West. A brutal Western that shoots most Western tropes in the head, tops most fantasy novels for mythic evil, and tops most horror novels for violence and gore, this is a book for people who want to see what writers can do when they ignore the rules, but definitely not for anyone who wants a linear story or a novel-like resolution. To say there's no storytelling here would be false, but you don't read it for the story.

This is the book wherewith I "got" Cormac McCarthy, and now I am seriously wondering why he appears nowhere in the books1001 list. He's at least Haruki Murakami's equal (more violence, fewer blowjobs), and hella better than fellow Great Writers of Peen Philip Roth and J.M. Coetzee.

Also by Cormac McCarthy: My reviews of No Country for Old Men and The Road.

My complete list of book reviews.