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Review: "Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West" by Cormac McCarthy


If "the west" of the middle 19th century (1850-1880) and by west I mean Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California and large portions of northern Mexico, resembled anything, anything at all, like the men, experiences and savage brutality depicted in this book, it is difficult to imagine how anyone at all survived. Saying that, I have read that McCarthy did extensive research in order to write this book and that much of it was actually based on a real group "The Glanton Gang" who killed and scalped native Americans for a price. Despite my sheer revulsion, I could not put this book down for an instant. The characters, in their language, physical descriptions, experiences and settings were so compelling that I pushed on feverishly to see what was coming at them or for them over the next mountain range or through the barrom door. To make a very modern analogy, Quentin Tarantino's recent movie "The Hateful Eight" is the only visceral cousin that stands close to "Meridian", yet it pales in comparison. Initially, the contracted, semi-formalized language of the characters was so sparse, yet appealing, that I could not get enough of it. Later, as more characters are introduced, especially "the Judge" there is an absurd eloquence, both in language and thought that transcends the harsh realities of the physical world. The judge is unspeakable; a giant, hairless, philosophical, sadist. From what deepest hell he has emerged into the volcanic, senseless, void of the southwest is anyone's guess. A demented, appealing, brilliant, wise, monster his brothers could only be Hannibal Lecter and Adolf Hitler. The main character, "the Kid" who at the latter edges of the book grows into "The Man", possesses our only hope of human reasonableness, and he is not a compassionate character at all. In the end he meets a fate we can only imagine since the author, for the first time in the book, does not grind our faces into the bloody viscera of the story. This was not a book, this was an experience which I cannot remove from my memory banks. Unfettered, brilliant, disturbing account of human nature at its worst, but one which exists, in subtler tones, all around us.