20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
If this had been my first taste of Cormac McCarthy, I'd never go back.,
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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Initial post: 27 Apr 2014 18:09:04 BDT
I agree; I gave up 150 pages in. The Kid is just misanthropic for the sake of it; I couldn't relate at all, so I had no cue to follow as a reader. David Lurie in J.M Coetzee's 'Disgrace' is reprehensible, but you find ways to like him. My friend has urged me to give McCarthy another chance. Is he worth it?
In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2014 09:20:19 BDT
Amanda Huggenkiss says:
I really enjoyed 'No Country for Old Men' and 'The Road.' Same bleak outlook / idiosyncratic style, but the characters and situations were more relatable, and there was a kind of purpose to the narratives other than simply 'unsympathetic, anonymous bandits traipse about raping and pillaging.' I only read 'Blood Meridian' because I had enjoyed those 2 so much and found them really accessible, so I wouldn't say that BM is representative of CM's entire output.
Just my thoughts!
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