Thursday, November 22, 2007

the evening redness in the west

I have been re-reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, probably because there's all this buzz over No Country for Old Men (of which I am not a big fan). I decided to give Meridian another whirl because I realized I had not bothered with this book since throwing my copy out an open window at Sellards Scholarship Hall in 1987. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I had misjudged. So, I'm an open-minded person. I'm willing to admit when I've made a mistake.

Okay, I made a mistake. This is a great book. It's not for everyone, and it's obviously not for those it's for at every time in their life. Get off my back, syntax police. Other critics will tell you more, in a more compelling way, than I'm going for here.

Here's my complaint. I got a copy of the Modern Library printing of the book, which has an oddly fetching photo of McCarthy on the front, and an essay by Harold Bloom at the beginning. About which: um, seriously, this should maybe go at the end. Unless the assumption is that the only people reading this edition of this book are people who have already read this book. This essay is odd. It sort of irritated me, which is strange because in many ways I tend to agree with Harold Bloom (i.e., that the point of reading is aesthetic enjoyment, not making some kind of political statement). In many other ways, I do not (i.e., that the best DeLillo book is Underworld; that Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco" is some kind of watershed moment for music). But in the main, I don't mind him so much. But this essay struck me as unnecessarily condescending, and frankly overwritten.

At any rate. There's an awful lot going on in this book. Under no circumstances would I recommend it to my mother, whom I know quite well. Nor would I recommend it to someone, conversely, whom I do not know well. The violence may be allegorical, but I suspect not. Maybe there's something to the idea that violence is what we bring to the table, and it's the suppression of violence that is the only thing that makes civilization. Living beyond the pale may mean embracing the violence. Shades of Conrad, shades of Melville. This is a fine book, a frightening book, a book that causes me concern. This is why I love to read.


J said...

Well said. If one only knows of McCarthy because of Oprah, or "The Road," they will find "Blood Meridian" ... shocking, to say the least. It's a great book, greatly written, and one that should not (perhaps can not) be read triflingly.

Amateur Reader said...

The Modern Library "CHarterhouse of Parma" puts the give-it-all-away essay at the end. Someone over there is paying attention.

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