Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian (or Evening Redness in the West as it is also known) is McCarthy’s 5th novel published in 1985 and is praised as one of the 20th century’s finest novels. This western novel is loosely based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s and is full of the time’s violence and grit. According to wikipedia McCarthy did a great deal of research for this novel and even the seemingly unimportant passages rely on historical detail.
The Glanton gang segments are based on Samuel Chamberlain‘s account of the group in his memoir My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue, which he wrote during the later part of his life. Chamberlain rode with John Joel Glanton and his company between 1849 and 1850. The novel’s antagonist Judge Holden appeared in Chamberlain’s account, but his true identity remains a mystery. Chamberlain does not openly appear in the novel. Some critics have suggested that “the kid” is a fictional stand-in for Chamberlain.
Lev Grossman describes McCarthy’s novel: ” In the 1840′s a young boy joins a band of cutthroats who hunt Indians on the border between Texas and Mexico, under the leadership of an amoral, albino arch-monster known as the Judge. Rarely has literature presented spectacles of violence more extreme or less gratuitous. Blood Meridian summons up shadows of Dante and Melville, and demands of every reader that they reexamine why and how they cling to morality in a fallen world.”
And if this doesn’t paint a clear enough picture of what you can expect from Blood Meridian then the opening paragraph of Caryn James’ review surely will clear things up for you:
Blood Meridian comes at the reader like a slap in the face, an affront that asks us to endure a vision of the Old West full of charred human skulls, blood-soaked scalps, a tree hung with the bodies of dead infants. But while Cormac McCarthy’s fifth novel is hard to get through, it is harder to ignore. Any page of his work reveals his originality, a passionate voice given equally to ugliness and lyricism.
I have to say that although I’m not really a fan of violence in my reading I am drawn to novels that portray another time (even more so if there is some historical detail to it) and if there is a particular violence that goes along with that story I’m open to reading about it. Overall I’m very intrigued by the storyline. I’ve also read that the novel contains unusual and archaic words, has no dialogue quotation marks, and no apostrophes for contractions which makes me think this must be pretty interesting to read because surely McCarthy chose this style for a purpose…McCarthy has also never given interviews concerning this work so it is completely up to the reader to make their own interpretations.
Have you read Blood Meridian? What were your thoughts?