Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Blood Meridian

While I was in France I read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is perhaps best known to SF fans as the Author of the future-set The Road which won the Pulitzer last year.

Blood Meridian is about the Glanton Gang, who were hired to kill Apaches in the 1840s, and progressed from there.

It's an ostentatiously well written book, and unremittingly bleak and terrible in its portrayal of horror and genocide combined with a touching and detailed painting of the beautiful natural landscape and animal behaviour. It's an extraordinary book, but I'm not sure I could recommend it. I felt gloomy the whole time I was reading it, and that was on holiday. It is a masterpiece of thought and writing, but it is very distressing to read.

It's also quite 'flat' in that it doesn't have a redemptive arc or a meaningful structure, and its characterisation is - not shallow, but the people portrayed are largely shallow stupid ignorant and brutish. But the book is not a simple brutal read, although it is cruel and meaningless.

I found this text, in the wikipedia article on the book, very interesting.

Leo Daugherty in his 1992 article, "Blood Meridian as Gnostic Tragedy." ... describes the novel as a "rare coupling of Gnostic 'ideology' with the 'affect' of Hellenistic tragedy by means of depicting how power works in the making and erasing of culture, and of what the human condition amounts to when a person opposes that power and thence gets introduced to fate."

Daugherty sees Judge Holden as an archon (judge and demon), and the kid as a "failed pneuma" (divine soul). The novel's narrator explicitly states that the kid feels a "spark of the alien divine" and despite his violent streak, he has a measure of awareness and free will that sets him apart from his peers: he is one of the few in Glanton's gang who seems to express any degree of remorse, however slight, or who ever questions, however haltingly, the propriety of their actions. Furthermore, the kid rarely initiates violence, usually doing so only when urged by others or in self-defence. Holden, however, speaks of his desire to dominate the earth and all who dwell on it, by any means: from outright violence to deception and trickery. He expresses his wish to become a "suzerain", one who "rules even when there are other rulers" and whose power overrides all others'.

Daugherty contends that the staggering violence of the novel can best be understood though a Gnostic lens. "Evil" as defined by the Gnostics was a far larger, more pervasive presence in human life than the rather tame and "domesticated" Satan most Christians believe in. As Daugherty writes, "For [Gnostics], evil was simply everything that is, with the exception of bits of spirit imprisoned here. And what they saw is what we see in the world of Blood Meridian."

I think this is an interesting view, and expresses the depth and spiritual significance of the book. However, I would interpret the Judge - the embodiment of evil in the book - as the judgement of brute reality, and what humans become if they mould themselves purely to meet that judgement. I think psychopaths make a decision when they are young, because of the way they are treated as children, that the world requires us to fight unremittingly for ourselves, or to be destroyed. Perhaps this is an accurate view.

And yet if we choose the path of violence and total war, in order to preserve our selves, then we become this evil thing. The Judge chooses not to die.

ETA - I thought of the right phrase for it. Of course - The Judge is literally Manifest Destiny. He is its manifestation. What could be more pertinent.

  • Phew what a scorcher

    I see Gove has backed down on climate change and it's back in the curriculum again.

  • GCSE Computer Science

    My book is now for sale

  • LJ Settings

    At the moment I have set up this journal so that only friends can comment. I hate doing this, but I was just getting too much Russian spam.

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