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Book Review: Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West

McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West. 2010 Modern Library Edition ed. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2010. Print.

 

Many consider Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian too violent to read. Violence begins onGUEST_e7b7a5bd-5894-4e82-907d-da212ef1d4e8 the second page and continues unabated to the end. McCarthy delivers a treatise on man’s inhumanity to man in the form of genocide. Blood is a constant theme as blood is spilled in one senseless massacre after another. Blood is not the result of conflict, but the reason for it.

McCarthy weaves what could be a series of short stories describing the worth or lack of indigenous people’s lives in the latter half of the nineteenth century west. The story, seen through the eyes of the narrator, follows the Kid and a gang of killers. McCarthy’s narrator never allows the reader inside the mind of the characters. We learn only what McCarthy wants as he develops his characters. He forces the reader to imagine one’s vision of the murderous thoughts. He is masterful in constructing his performers while forcing his readers to judge them.

McCarthy uses understated allegory to deliver messages that express what the characters are or what they represent. Spitting is used throughout as a symbol of the low regard the men have for anything, including human life. The insult of the act says more than dialogue could deliver. Wolves are symbolic actors. Almost daily, we see wolves. The humans and the wolves are representative of hunters looking for easy prey. The only difference, wolves kill for survival.

Glanton and his gang are inherently immoral, evil, clichés of bad guys in black hats. The governments of Mexico and the United States, equally evil, legitimatize genocide. This allowed for the ferocious and persistent murder and attempted extermination of the native peoples of both countries.

Genocide is the predominant theme. Except for the Delaware’s, the Indians are shown as savages. This holds even when the Diegueño Indians rescue the Kid and the ex-priest. “They would have died if the indians had not found them” (312). The narrator refers to these people as savages, as aborigines. “they saw the halfnaked savages crouched…” (312).

Two central characters, Glanton and the Judge, build upon the theme of genocide. Glanton, when he kills an old Indian woman sitting in the square of an impoverished Mexican village. When he sees three of his men squatting with her, he dismounts and kills her. “The woman looked up. Neither courage nor heartsink in those old eyes. He . . . put the pistol to her head and fired” (102). On the very next page, he confirms his complete contempt for life when he tells the only Mexican in his band to scalp the woman’s corpse with these chilling words, “Get that receipt for us” (103). She is nothing more than a hundred-dollar bounty.

The reader becomes almost inured to the violence. Once the butchery began, it seems as though there can be nothing more disturbing—there is—the Judge is evil incarnate. The gang surprises and attacks a large Indian encampment, “the partisans [Glanton’s men] nineteen in number bearing down upon the encampment where there lay sleeping upward of a thousand souls” (161). The Judge leaves the devastated village with a captured child, a ten-year-old boy. He treats the child humanely, and the boy becomes somewhat of a mascot. Three days later, the depth of the Judge’s evil is shown. “Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle, but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it” (170). The reader is left to wonder if the Judge killed the boy because he thrives on murder, or if he defiled the child and killed him afterward.

McCarthy’s colorful and graphic language adds significantly to the ability of the reader to see, understand, and experience the scenes and settings. Short and straightforward, his portrayal of the gang as they cross the desert, conveys in a few easy to read lines, in which the reader can feel, and smell the riders. “They rode on, and the wind drove the fine gray dust before them and they rode an army of graybeards, gray men, gray horses” (259).

The Kid, born into a violent world, dies a violent death forty-five years later. Some assume that the Judge, a pedophile, and sexual deviant, rapes the Kid and leaves him for dead. We’ll never know the answer.

McCarthy’s final message to the reader, evil cannot be eradicated; it lives forever.

2 Comments

  1. Jonathan Cramer

    Nice work 🙂

    Please update my email. Soon this one will be deleted and I like your reviews

    Reply
  2. mesloan1@aol.com

    George, Very impressive review, but I guess I am becoming more empathetic in my old ages………I would probably not get very far in this book. However, I think there is great importance to be forewarned as to what kind of material you are about to read.  This saves you from wasting a look of time before you decide you don’t want to read it.  However, you did say the violence starts on page 2, so I guess that would be soon enough. Mike

    Reply

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President Talented Writers – PAULA CHINICK

Paula Chinick is another amazingly talented writer from the Tri-Valley Area.

Red Asscher Cover

Writing as P.C. Chinkck, Paula has completed her first novel, Red Asscher~Living In Fear, a spy thriller set in 1943 China. The terror and atrocities experienced by the Chinese at the time of the Japanese Occupation is intense in this too believable novel. A fearful American woman thrown into Japanese occupied Shanghai confronts her tragic past. As the story progresses, murder and treachery find her.

Toss in a few spies, add some Communist Chinese intrigue, and the story comes to life. I wasn’t able to put it down once I turned the first page.

Look for Red Asscher-Living in Fear to be published this year

Paula is working on the second book in the Red Asscher Series, Red Asscher~The Mission.

Paula has contributed short stories to:

Tri-Valley Anthology – Voices of the Valley: First Press (Createspace 2011)
Oakland’s Creative Writing Anthology – Tapestry
The California Writers Club Literary Review 2013

Originally from Seattle, Paula has lived in California for over 25 years. She spent the majority of her career in Information Technology as a project manager working for various Fortune 500 companies. She holds an MBA in International Business from John F. Kennedy University. After the economy collapsed, she decided to retire and pursue her greatest passion – writing.
She is the president of California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch www.trivalleywriters.org.

Paula has a very interesting Tag Line, one that gives one pause for thought: If you live your life in fear and had the opportunity to change…would you?

For more information, visit her website: www.redasscher.com

3 Comments

  1. Julaina Kleist-Corwin

    I am so involved in the characters from the first novel that I can’t wait for RED ASSCHER, THE MISSION.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      I can’t give away the ending, but you will love it. Do you know when she plans to release RED ASSCHER, THE MISSION?

      Reply
  2. jkroyce

    I, too, have had the privilege to read Red Asscher before its official publication. And, I agree, it’s a page turner. Paula Chinick shows her great talent in everything she writes.

    Reply

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