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what i read: blood meridian

July 28, 2011

i’m desperately slow on reading this summer. i blame this fact on my frenzied attempts to finish my thesis (it’s due on august first, my most recent draft, so i’m clearly a crazy person right now) and commuting. because reading on the skytrain makes me sick and i don’t want to barf on the expo line and have everyone think i’m pregnant. and because i’m in thesis mode, that is why my blog posts have been so few and far between. sorry.

anyway, after the harrowing experience of lolita, i thought why not try something more light hearted and frivolous? bwa ha ha! and so on a reccommendation i picked up cormac mccarthy’s blood meridian.


let it be said that i love it when books have dual titles. it’s purely for show. it’s lusciously self-serving. it’s so pretentious. and since i love faulkner, and have praised him so much on this sad blog, you know how much i love pretention in writers. because if you can’t be pretentious as a writer, when can you be?


i’m still having serious problems processing this book.

one of my friends said – you’ll love this. it’s very masculine writing. you’ll appreciate that. which really got me thinking. typically, i would classify hemingway as the quintessential “male” writer – sparse, terse prose, brief descriptions, concentration paid to male relationships. but what is “masculine” or “male” writing? does it emcompass violence, war, gore? does it encompass rape, or sexual crimes? is it – forgive this – penetrative? who knows. i suppose mccarthy is a “male” writer in that i know many males who read and tout his books. in fact, anyone who has recommended his books to me has been male. i need to dedicate more time to the gender “split” in writing, and i guess that’s something for another post.


the first page i thought “oh, this is faulkner.” or FAULKNERIAN, if you will. how utterly pretentious is that term? i love it. and it was. i had shied away from reading mccarthy for so long because while i do love gory and violent writing (bottled up rage issues?) i didn’t want to read about babies being skewered and eaten. the road seemed gratuitious – that was the assumption i had made without even reading it. it seemed too male, somehow. too bleak. too commercialized, as seen in the success of the movie.

oh i don’t know. i was stubborn. but the first page of blood meridian fishhooked me. mccarthy shifted his language with crude and determined intention. he purposefully moved adjectives and adverbs around. i love love love a writer who fucks with language. who takes the staid and boring rules of english and shakes them up and cups them in his hands and then sees what falls where it may. who pairs adjectives with nouns in ways that people don’t normally. i like jarring images. shortened sentences. prose where you can hear the punctuation with breaths. it’s slick and lush and rude.


yes, the plot meandered.everyone spoke almost the same, without true speech tags or quotation marks, and therefore links of speech were hard to follow. sometimes it was impossible to tell who had just finished speaking. a muddle of words. and some characters remained unnamed for the whole book – the kid, the man – or changed names – bathcat, the vandiemenlander – and then everytime i was attached to a character, they died. only two – maybe three – make it out of the book alive (arguably so). it made me upset. i was jerked around like a friggin marionette. i felt rage. i felt sadness. and the narrative was … off. while the book starts out with the omniscient kid and his story, it often and abruptly departs from the kid and strays to other characters. the narrative is a cat rubbing against other people’s legs! nothing sticks.

yes, it was violent. the first few instances of violence were so bloody, so brutal, that they stuck with me. the images. after a while, the violence becomes almost rote in its frequency. this had the potential to dull the effect, but the dulling was … it was fine. because, to me, it showed how people become inured to things like that. a scary comment on the human condition, kind of.


can we talk about the tarot? being someone who owns more than one deck, and who reads tarot cards on a frequent enough basis, i was both confused and seduced by the tarot card scene. does mccarthy have a chilling and deep knowledge of the deck? i can’t tell. there wasn’t enough for me to grasp with the theme of the tarot. the card of “the fool” is a very prevalent theme throughout the book but… i couldn’t tell who the fool was. the judge? well, maybe, as the judge is everywhere and sees everything, and has an otherworldly air, but the fool is not as a malicious and repulsive character as that. the kid? the kid does go on a journey, but he is not magical enough, not imminent and godly enough to be the fool. and the card was drawn for jackson, but jackson is not not not the fool. he is murdered. he doesn’t survive the book. he is a liminal character. doesn’t exist. so why is he the springboard for the discussion of the fool and the relevance of the tarot cards?

and why the four of cups for the kid? why CUPS? this story has nothing about cups in it. this is not some emotional, creative journey. nobody does pour themselves out. no – this story is swords, through and through. red and fire and air and sand. blood. injury. a focus on physicality and the body and the surroundings. a need for solitude. disruption. travel. war. all of the things that the suit of the swords is known for. cups is water and life. there is none of that in the setting of the desert. life eludes, and everything is sere. it’s something like this that makes me believe that maybe mccarthy has a less than stellar knowledge of the deck… but then again, using the extremely nuanced card of the fool as a touchstone for the book suggests that maybe he does. i can’t tell. and that frustrates me, because it means that i can’t decide on what the theme of the tarot is.

this book exhausted me, and i have many feelings about it. i don’t think that this will be the only blog post i do on it. there are still so many characters to bust open and sift through. complexities that are far too vast for just wordpress.

all in all? yes i like it. for the language, mainly. there is a scene in the desert night, a lightning storm, st elmo’s fire, wild horses – it sounds trite, but the language used brought tears to my eyes because it was so fresh and so beautiful. it’s something that i strive to write like. fucking genius.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 5:46 pm


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