Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West : Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West
By Cormac McCarthy

Like Phillip Meyer's The Son, this novel not only describes the relentlessness and unforgiving nature of the West during the formative times, but also the tough, chaotic and unpredictably violent people it attracted.

A few notes on the form.  First, the protagonist is never named and is referred to as "the kid." He uses physical violence to survive: think of if the protagonist from A Clockwork Orange was by himself in the West.  Beat and kill first, then take the money, food, etc.

Second, the narrative initially focuses on the kid, but he later joins up with a group of men, who are paid to hunt and scalp native Americans and who either are as or even more chaotically violent than s the kid.  The narrative shifts focus to cover the group, to the point where there are swaths of text, where the kid is not mentioned at all.

Lastly, and I am not a master of grammar, but the novel starts off with a fascinating initial tense (past continuous?):

  The kid wasnt going to do that and he saw no use in discussing it. He kicked the man in the jaw. The man went down and got up again. He said I'm goin to kill you.
  He swung with the bottle and the kid ducked and he swung again and the kid stepped back. When the kid hit him the man shattered the bottle against the side of his head. He went off the boards into the mud and the man lunged after him with the jagged bottleneck and tried to stick it in his eye. The kid was fending with his hands and they were slick with blood. He kept trying to reach into his boot for his knife.
  Kill your ass, the man said. They slogged about in the dark of the lot, coming out of their boots. The kid had his knife now and they circle crabwise and when the man lurched at him he cut the man's shirt open. The man threw down the bottleneck and unsheathed an immense bowieknife from behind his neck. His hat had come off and his black and ropy locks swung about his head and he had codified his threats to the one word kill like a crazed chant.
A few other notes: there is not a strong plot-line.  It more follows the kid / the group's travels through the west and their series of violence, but in doing so, you get a sense of the environment and the different personalities.

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