Blood Meridian: or The Evening Redness in the Westby Cormac McCarthy.
"You can find meaness in in the least of creatures, but when god made man the devil was at his elbow."
This book is a Western. But it isn’t. To me what the term Western has come to mean is the loveable, corny, and historically revisionist films that were big in Hollywood in the 1940’s and 1950’s. In most of which the leading man (usually replete in a white shirt and brand new Stetson) will at some point walk into a saloon, the saloon will fall silent/the piano player will stop, the leading man will fix a steely glare and address a blackly clad gunslinger at the end of the bar with a line like “I’ve come for you Jed McGrew” or some such nonsense, and then there will be a fist fight between the two (usually leading to the collapse of a card table), and then the leading man shoots the gunslinger and gets the girl and they sojourn to the nearest sunset, The End. None of the aforementioned happens in Blood Meridian. Although I have since reading the book read on the internet that there is a luke-warm film project to get BM to the big screen. The film could only ever be a very loose adaptation of the novel because of the human destruction depicted in the book.
The story is set in the Texan and Mexican border country of the 1840’s and tells the tale of a group of mercenaries who set out to earn some money by delivering to the authorities the scalps cut from some of the members of the native American tribes in that area. The story starts in Tennessee where our central character (referred only to in the book as ‘Kid’) is recruited into the hunting party of cutthroats. The book is typical of McCarthy’s style. He depicts the deserts, skies, mud, and mountains of the south-west states of the U.S so vividly that you can almost hear and not just feel the heat. The story is littered with exchanges between the transitory gang and the strange and colourful characters and situations they find themselves in. This is probably the most violent book I have ever read. Its set in a place which wasn’t just lawless, but a place where evolution and reason have no hold over anything. The savagery in the book is from both the native Americans and the white race but mainly from the whites who saw the prehistoric aboriginals as nothing more than animals.
I often spot similarities between the art of Bob Dylan and Cormac McCarthy. Each of them offer up imagery in either lyrics or prose in which they trust the reader or listener to take what they have offered up and lock into it. What McCarthy gives you in his books is a panorama of a bygone America and its people which will not be found on the History Channel. Blood Meridian is heaven and hell, man and woman, wilderness and human, sky and earth, and good and evil.
One of my favorite Dylan lyrics is "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face". I'm sure Bob wouldn't mind if I stole and amended the line but with McCarthy: The ghosts of America howl from every line of his page.
His is an original and ageless poetic style for those who jump head first into it.
PS: Re: Lyric. Sorry Bob.