Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian

Lots of people love this book, but I just couldn't get into Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian". I get that it's supposed to be a book about senseless violence. I get that it's not supposed to have any moral development. I get that it's written in a brutal, pseudo-biblical style. But it bored me. I found it hard to care about the mindless acts of savagery, gluttony, and debauchery in McCarthy's world. Yes, these men are terrible. But they don't develop and we don't have any insight into their internal life. "Blood Meridian" simultaneously bored me and creeped me out.

Yet the book is rescued by "The Judge." A profoundly disturbing man - a combination of Melville's Ahab and Milton's Satan - the judge is McCarthy's redemption. Completely hairless and seemingly all-knowing, the massive judge daintily flits throughout the narrative sowing bloodlust and provoking destruction wherever he goes. But he's a bit too preachy for my tastes. While the judge's powerful and pale visage will likely haunt my dreams, I can't help but feel as though McCarthy is striving too hard, too pretentiously, in his attempt to create a literary landmark.

Yale's Amy Hungerford has a great two part series on "Blood Meridian" in which she addresses McCarthy's debt to Milton and Melville and his quest for literary originality. All authors struggle with this, and I remain uncompelled by McCarthy's attempt. This novel was particularly disappointing because I was so touched by his much more recent novel, "The Road".

The best part of the entire book is the judge's discourse on war. I've excerpted a few of the best bits below:

War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way... All other trades are contained in that of war... It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not... The judge smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.