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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy
(2 stars)

Ultimately a lot of my problems with this are the same as when I read "Cities of the Plain" recently so I'll just cut and paste from there to save time.

I suppose McCarthy's writing is fine if you enjoy the Hemingway style, which I don't. I'm not sure what's so beautiful about sentences that go "He shaved and showered and toweled off and got dressed." Seems kind of ugly actually. Reminds me of the stories I wrote in junior high. But he has a Pulitzer and a National Book Award and I don't. Take that!

A few of the author's style choices left me more than a little confused. Let's go down the list:

1. McCarthy doesn't use quotation marks so sometimes it's hard to know when someone is talking and when McCarthy is narrating.
2. McCarthy is adverse to using proper names so you end up with confusing pronoun use. In one case he made it sound like wolves had built a fire. This is especially a problem when the author starts out a new section or chapter with "He" and then we have to wait a few sentences to figure out the "He" in question.
3. Most aggravating of all is that a lot of characters speak only Spanish and McCarthy puts their lines IN Spanish. So tough luck if you don't know any Spanish. I wasn't too bad off since I took a few Spanish classes in high school, but some terms still threw me--and I didn't have a Spanish-English dictionary handy. If this were a movie we'd have the benefit of subtitles but in a novel we have to try and interpret the gist of it from the character's actions, sort of like playing charades.

Here's a new one though:

4. The central character (supposedly) is "the kid" but after joining up with "the judge" and Glanton "the kid" steadily disappears until he's just an anonymous part of the gang as they terrorize Mexico and the southwestern United States. A good quarter or more of the book hardly mentions "the kid" at all until he resurfaces at the end for the final confrontation with "the judge."

As the reader I think I really missed out by another of McCarthy's habits of never getting into the character's minds. Since the characters are so opaque and the central character disappears, the final confrontation between "the kid" and "the judge" doesn't make a lot of sense. I never did understand why "the kid" didn't just off "the judge" when he had the chance, a direct result of "the kid" vanishing and never having any idea what he was thinking.

But suffice it to say if you enjoyed "The Road" then this is pretty much the same thing. A group of people going through a bleak wasteland full of blood, gore, and death. Only in this case it's "the kid" and the gang inflicting most of that blood, gore, and death in order to collect Indian scalps--or Mexican scalps will do in a pinch. Pretty much the whole book is them going from place to place killing people or getting chased off by people trying to kill them. If you're looking for anything happy or hopeful or any of that, you better keep on walking.

That is all.

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