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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing genius
I am a Cormac MacCarthy fan but had not read his books in chronologic order, Blood Meridian is the most impressive, memorable book I have ever read. It is truly unputdownable (if that really is a word). He writes about the most disturbing and brutal things in such a beautiful and poetic way, that he paints vivid pictures in your mind which stay long after you have...
Published on 21 May 2010 by Tommy Dooley

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If this had been my first taste of Cormac McCarthy, I'd never go back.
Fortunately though, it wasn't. I know he can be brilliant, and indeed, when I saw gushings of "His Masterpiece", "Epic", "Turns American fairytale of discovery of the West on its head", etc splashed all over the cover, I thought, "Great!" I love his idiosyncratic style, his eye for detail, his interesting turns of phrase, and I must say, whatever its shortcomings, this is...
Published on 11 Feb. 2011 by Amanda Huggenkiss


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing genius, 21 May 2010
By 
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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I am a Cormac MacCarthy fan but had not read his books in chronologic order, Blood Meridian is the most impressive, memorable book I have ever read. It is truly unputdownable (if that really is a word). He writes about the most disturbing and brutal things in such a beautiful and poetic way, that he paints vivid pictures in your mind which stay long after you have finished the book.

All of his books seem to have something sinister or evil in them (with the exception of the slightly autobiographical 'Sutree')but in this one the character of 'The Judge' creates his own league. This character was voted the second most evil creation of all time behind 'Hanibal Lechter'and had he been made life like on film the Judge would have pissed it.

This tells the story of what really was the wild west but set in Mexico, the kid (we never get his real name) takes up with a band of Apache scalp hunters who are basically maniachal murderers. So much happens that a synopsis would either not do justice or act as a plot spoiler. This is not a read for the faint hearted and it is not life affirming, but it is a work of genius and art.
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel of breath-taking power and awesome beauty, 8 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
"Blood Meridian", based on real events, charts the bloody adventures of a group of scalp-hunters in the west a century and a half ago.
The extreme (and random) violence of the novel's many gore-infested passages is too much for many stomachs, but then again life in all its raw honesty often is. Ironically for a novel dealing mainly with death and desolation, the finely-honed prose cascades and sparks off the page like a Catherine wheel, literally taking this reader's breath away.
Throughout, the novel is bestrode by the looming figure of Judge Holden, awesome and terrible, all-knowing yet uncaring, omnipotent and omnipresent, an 1850s reworking of the devil.
Read this novel for the stark beauty of its prose, read it for the terror created by the graphic descriptions of the violence man can - and does - commit on man, read it for the surprising amount of dry, laconic humour in the dialogue, read it to discover the Judge, one of literature's great creations. But read it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Gruesome, Weird, 8 Dec. 2007
My book jacket says BLOOD MERIDIAN "...chronicles the extraordinary violence of the Glanton Gang, a murderous cadre on an official mission to scalp Indians." Wikipedia adds that John Glanton "led a gang of scalp hunters. Nominally a mercenary operation hired by Mexican authorities to track down and kill dangerous bands of Apaches, the gang began murdering and scalping non-Apaches and massacring citizens..." and were eventually "declared outlaws."

McCarthy's entry to the Glanton gang comes through two characters. The first is the Kid, who joins up in his mid-teens and participates in its gruesome crimes. The second is Judge Holden, who dominates the gang and has a philosophical view of its random violence.

In McCarthy's hands, the story of the Glanton gang is like a psychopathic road novel, which is held together with genius-quality poetic writing. Read BM and be captured by McCarthy's immense talent as the gang traverses the Southwest and northern Mexico. I open BM at random (the start of Chapter 14) and find:

"All to the north the rain had dragged black tendrils down from the thunderclouds like tracings of lampblack fallen in a beaker and in the night they could hear the drum of rain miles away on the prairie. They ascended through a rocky pass and lightning shaped out the distant shivering mountains and lightning rang the stones about and tufts of blue fire clung to the horses like incandescent elementals that would not be driven off. Soft smelterlights advanced upon the metal of the harness, lights ran blue and liquid on the barrels of the guns. Mad jackhares started and checked in the blue glare and high among those clanging crags jokin roehawks crouched in their feathers or cracked a yellow eye at the thunder underfoot."

The writing is truly amazing.

At the same time, McCarthy uses the Judge to move his narrative beyond gruesome and episodic adventure. Here, the Judge seems to create and sustain a mission of violence for the gang. And when a character temporarily operates outside the gang and the Judge's influence? Then society quickly challenges and usually contains him. (In fact, only the kid is able to avoid self-destruction outside the gang, which provokes a final act of viciousness by the judge.)

Anyway, BM makes terrible (not just aesthetic) sense after the Judge emerges as a force that makes greater violence possible. And in the final chapter, McCarthy's treatment of the slaughter of the American buffalo reminds us that the violence of the Glanton gang and its willingness to massacre lurks in the nature of many men, simply awaiting sanction and leadership.

Two quick final points:

First, I encourage readers who enjoyed BM to try Pynchon's Against the Day. This shares a character (Sloat) and also has traverse motion in the Southwest and Mexico, albeit in family form. But in AtD, the violence is personal and capitalistic, not epic, while the narrative, in its Western thread, is sweet and magical parody.

Second: Have your dictionary ready. McCarthy is the master of the short and obscure word. Heading my long list: affray, swale, sprent, sutler, farrier, vadose, kivas, spalls...
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal yet beautiful!, 10 May 2007
By 
Jack Watson (Boston) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I had never read McCarthy but picked up this book along with "The Road" due to all the Hype from the Oprah book club selection. While the "The Road" is a very good book it is not the masterpiece of "Blood Meridian." This is the most powerful books I have ever read. McCarthy's style is highlighted here: sharp, dry, brittle, and panoramic. I was enraptured by how McCarthy was able to capture the imagery of the southwest landscape with his words. The story itself is horrific, epic, and yet commonplace, the conquering of the west and its people by the whiteman has been better illustrated. On top of all this McCarthy is a grand story teller, who can stretch the limits of imagination without losing the common touch-in other words he keeps it REAL. This is a challenge, but worthy one!
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A White Desert Sand, Turned Pink and Red, 26 Mar. 2007
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Those with weak stomachs need not open the pages of this book. From beginning to end, this is one long travail of unadulterated gore and brutality. It's major mythic character, the Judge, states that war is divine, that nothing on the earth is beyond his notice or does not require his permission to die. And brutal, violent death occurs with great regularity within this book, every couple of pages or so.

The setting is the West and Mexico around the period of 1847, and the license to kill without discrimination is enabled by the Judge's charter of killing and scalping renegade Indians for bounty. If that was all that this group did, perhaps the reader could make some allowance for the portrayed actions, but it quickly becomes apparent that anyone is a target, regardless of guilt, innocence, age, occupation, race, gender, or prior actions. The book becomes a dark celebration of violence for violence's sake.

The Kid, fourteen years old at the start of this book, is the nominal protagonist, drawn into the Judge's group mainly because he had nothing better to do, without other skills or any ambitions. And he is practically the only ray of light within this whole concoction, as he (once or twice) actually shows a little feeling for persons besides himself.

The Judge is an enigmatic super-something, ageless, multilingual, educated, interested in ecology, and much larger than life. Who (or what) the Judge is is clearly central to this book's theme, but he certainly can stand as an avatar of an element of human nature that most people would rather not think about.

McCarthy's prose is very distinct, with odd syntax, unquoted dialogue, and considerable use of some rather rare words. His descriptions of the country are, in some places, nearly prose poems. But this style also leads to what I think is the major flaw with this book, as he never gets inside the heads of any of his characters, remains distant, such that none of his people ever came `alive' to me. Some descriptions of the privations the group experiences while crossing a desert, while quite accurate, remained something happening to a group of stick figures, rather than recognizable humans. Perhaps this is exactly what he wanted, written more as an allegory or parable than any conventional type of story. Certainly there isn't any real plot, as the story careens from one brutal incident to the next.

Perhaps this book can best be described as an archetypal anti-Western, the antithesis of the standard Western, which, amid all the violence, has its focus on heroes. There are no heroes here.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way more than 5., 20 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
Blood Meridian will lead you to all the other Cormac McCarthy books, for that same clear power and beauty; but you will not find it.It is here only that McCarthy has taken the language and forged a novel of such individual intensity that it will strike you like the single clear tone from one huge bell. It is an exploration of an archaic vocabulary and a lost culture using a storytellers skill that was last used by Homer. The story and plot are irrelevant other than McCarthy has fashioned a group of crudely chiseled characters on a wide wide horizon of fine resolution; and he moves the characters across a blasted panorama in a pounding and relentless drama. There are portions of the prose that are so perfect in assembly and content that, like the Bible and just a half dozen other documents in English, they should be read aloud.
In the thousands of books that I will read in the second half of my life I hope to find one more to equal this Blood Meridian.Put this book up on a shelf next to Homer, Cervantes, Melville, and Joyce.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If this had been my first taste of Cormac McCarthy, I'd never go back., 11 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Blood Meridian (Paperback)
Fortunately though, it wasn't. I know he can be brilliant, and indeed, when I saw gushings of "His Masterpiece", "Epic", "Turns American fairytale of discovery of the West on its head", etc splashed all over the cover, I thought, "Great!" I love his idiosyncratic style, his eye for detail, his interesting turns of phrase, and I must say, whatever its shortcomings, this is a beautifully written book. This rating is based entirely on my emotional response to the novel. I can see that it is a great work, but I'm not going to give it 4 or 5 stars because I think I ought to.

What really turned me off was that there was no single character that I could empathise with and get to know. I don't demand a likeable protagnonist - far from it. I've read and enjoyed plenty of novels in which we learn the thoughts and deeds of a thoroughly despicable character. In fact, the story starts out as if it will follow the trials and fortunes of the Kid: a violent, disaffected youth who joins a band of ne'er do-wells on their horrifically gruesome journey across the States in the late 1840s. We get to know a little about him at the beginning, and while he is a malevolent and repugnant character, it seems like we will see things from his point of view, maybe with some insight into the psychology of being a ruthless bandit, his reflections on what is going on, however graphic and unsavoury. However, as soon as he teams up with a group of like-minded others, he melds in with all them and we practically don't hear much of him again until near the end. There are a couple of characters who are given the tiniest of fleshings-out (notably the Judge, Glanton, the ex-priest, Toadvine - although these last 3 hardly at all). But it is very rare that we get anything more than the shallowest of descriptions of any characters. Often, the first time we hear a character's name is when he is dropping down dead, never to be spoken of again.

Most of the book is just a tiresome but beautiful portrait of the desert landscape, with the group riding through it, raping, murdering and pillaging, riding on, raping, murdering and pillaging, ad infinitum. There is absolutely no sense of drive or momentum in the narrative, of building up tension to any kind of satisfying conclusion (although I suppose there is one, of sorts. It just doesn't feel like there will be for most of the book). The plot is aimless and frankly boring. There is lots of violence and sadness, but there is no human aspect to it, no reflection on what is happening. I know we are supposed to do this ourselves as readers, but it is hard to when there is absolutely nothing to empathise with. I must admit the last 60 or so pages perk up a little, which is a relief, but all in all, reading was a chore, not a pleasure.

I am one of those people who cannot abandon a book once they have started it. This is the only reason I got to the end. I certainly admire what McCarthy has done in this book, but there really isn't much to like.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The grimmest book I couldn't put down, 20 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Blood Meridian (Kindle Edition)
Don't read this if you're squeamish. This is an unrelenting meddle of violence and human depravity, but the most chilling thing about it is its ring of truth. Possibly the most amazing writing I have ever read. I see this as a portrayal of the truth about the early American West, cowboys and Indians as they really were in war, grabbing and brutal, dehumanised and lawless, with little redemption. But this book is deeper than that. There are strange echoes of Moby Dick and characters that you don't like but need to get to know. I don't know how McCarthy does this but it truly takes your breath away.
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4.0 out of 5 stars War is God, 29 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Blood Meridian (Paperback)
I'm uncertain what to make of this book, especially since so many critics have compared it to Homer and Melville. I've read the Odyssey, and found the pace and twists in the plot fairly readable and enjoyable. I'd felt compelled to read McCarthy often, but the heavy themes and tough characters in most of the film adaptions of his work (The Road, No Country, All the pretty, The counselor) don't entice me to invest time and effort to read one of 500 page novels chronicling American history, identity and politics.

BLOOD MERIDIAN is surprising easy to read, apart from the metaphorical prose and archaic language, diverges into strange parables and ethereal thoughts about god and death, which is not distracting but sometimes bewildering.

I'd read the novel after reading appalling reviews of the latest film The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott, and written directly for the screen not a adaption of a novel. It was mentioned that the director of Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma and Louise, had wanted to adapt BLOOD MERIDIAN into a film, but I could imagine the difficulties of bringing such a diverse story to a feature film. Problematic due to the inherent racism, violence appearing in the historic scenes of depravity and atrocities, and notleast due to the lack of clear central hero or character with redeeming qualities.

For me, moments seem to recollect or pay some homage to films with similar themes, notably APOCALYPSE NOW, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, LITTLE BIG MAN, COLD MOUNTAIN and LONESOME DOVE. Essentially the story seems like a twisted mix of APOCALYPSE and LONESOME, where the novel mostly takes place from the perspective of the 'The Kid', an unwitting and apathetic innocent similar to Ismael in Moby Dick, thrown into a maelstrom of massacres and disasters all at the whim and enterprise of the mystical and grotesque warrior/psychopath Glanton and his henchman 'The Judge'.

The chapters are short and novel itself is only 340 pages, and to extent I'm glad that McCarthy chose to narrate it from the life and fate of a single character to show the transformations and shifts in the story. I wouldn't somehow have enjoyed it was much if I knew the length would've continued to the duration of Moby Dick or Paradise Lost.

I think what makes this novel so good is that it feels like a film, it constantly reminded me of films I'd enjoyed, and you could imagine Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Fassbender, Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins and Daniel Day Lewis easily slipping into the skins of the characters. The fact that the book is based on true events and inspired by the biography of Samuel Chamberlian during his account in 1849 is equally disturbing and astonishing. I would love to read to his account, but there's something about this novel and it's themes, that for me invokes other shocking and fascinating moments in history, such as Primo Levo If This Is a Man and documentaries I'd watched about Chenobyll disaster. There's something fascinating about evil and death on a mass scale which McCarthy acknowledges - 'War is God'
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54 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book., 26 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
Having eagerly devoured a good number of literary classics from many eras and genres (including most of the McCarthy ouevre), I find myself at a loss to pin down just what it is that makes "Blood Meridian" so utterly, utterly compelling. I have read this book five times now and on each new reading I find more. Other reviewers have lamented a lack of plot but I think this misses the point; history has provided the plot to this novel. Many of the events described between its covers actually happened, and many of the characters did actually exist. McCarthy's "barbarously poetic odyssey" is just that; a beautiful, harrowing narrative charting the fortunes and misfortunes of the characters that populate it. It is a picaresque tale of scalphunters in Texas and West Mexico in the mid 19th century at a time when the white settlers are realising their Manifest Destiny over the aborigines under decree from the rich and the powerful and, by extension, the policy-makers in Washington. The meridian of the title is perhaps the 98th parallel, the dividing line between civilisation and frontier; the lands bequethed to the indian "in perpetuity". This is the geographical arena in which the novel unfolds. But there are many more levels to this tale. There is the ever-present and skillfully maintained metaphor of waxing and waning light; the novel begins and end in darkness. Throughout the middle part of the novel McCarthy blinds the reader with light before heading inexorably toward the evening redness in the west; an relentless fall from the midday meridian . The richness of the prose and the use of language to so vividly evoke a time and a place is astonishing and I have never encountered anything in literature which has such power and grandeur. The book is replete with passages which illustrate this expressive elan:
"The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they lay opposed to each other across the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning."
"They saw patched argonauts from the states driving mules through the streets on their way south through the mountains to the coast. Goldseekers. Itinerant degenerates bleeding westward like some heliotropic plague."
This latter passage perhaps an allegory-within-an-allegory.
The characters which populate this tale seem like ciphers to the grander themes of free-will and determinism, currents of which run through the novel with implacable force. The individual and his will is painted small against a backdrop of deserts and mountains ever shimmering to the horizon and these in turn baulk before the unreckonable cosmos beyond.
"They moved on and the stars jostled and arced across the firmament and died beyond the inkblack mountains. They came to know the night skies well. Western eyes that read more geometric constructions than those names given by the ancients. Tethered to the polestar they rode the Dipper round while Orion rose in the southwest like a great electric kite"
Cosmos and chaos are central themes here. Glanton and his gang blaze a bloody trail through the ever-reddening west, seemingly unstoppable in their bloodlust. But there is a higher order to their hazardous mayhem. A commentator on the society that has arisen from this uncivil civilization, Douglas Coupland, has said "If something appears to be random it's because you are standing too close to a very big pattern".
And above all this towers the character of the Judge. "The judge like a great ponderous djinn stepped through the fire and the flames delivered him up as if he were in some way native to their element". The judge is the only character to survive this epoch and indeed any other. The temporal aspect of American history and indeed our understanding of the universe itself is subverted by the judge. Throughout the events detailed in the book the judge is present, sometimes it would seem - and one is never sure of this - in several places at the same time. The judge has the power to revise the history which has preceded him, recording in his notebook a version which is expedient to the moment and to the future that, in his hand is "antic clay".
The reader is never far from passages of breathtaking beauty or stomach-rending barbarism. "Blood Meridian" pulls no punches and moves seamlessly from aweful descriptions of a primaeval landscape to awful accounts of medieval bloodletting. The attack by Comanches is actually terrifying and one almost finds oneself faced with this "legion of horribles, hundreds in number...bearing shields bedight with bits of broken mirrorglass that cast a thousand unpieced suns against the eyes of their enemies.".
I don't think plot is important to this novel. Plot is determined by the actions of characters; Blood Meridian is driven by some greater force that will make you question the agencies that shape our small lives and the times in which we live. It is a true allegory for troubled times, set in troubled times. Read this book and then read it again. I have hesitated to call this the Best Book Ever Written, but I've yet to read anything which comes close and I'll be surprised if anything surpasses in my small lifetime.
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Blood Meridian
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (Paperback - 1 Jan. 2010)
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