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Buckeye Jones

Blood Meridian

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Just finished this. Any other readers of McCarthy's "Blood Meridian"? I'll try and jot down some thoughts, but for now, my first impressions (spoiler free): A gutwrenching, dense, horrifying and often confusing read. Its a book I was willing to give up on a few times, as each new horror was worse than the previous. McCarthy is quoted as saying something like he's concerned only with matters of life and death--but in Blood Meridian, very little concerns "life" and the majority of this one concerns "death".

Reading the lit crit summed up on Wikipedia, my first blush is that most of the critics miss the main point on the judge--I'll be interested in reading your takes.

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It's been a few years since I've read it, but I agree with your general take on it. Lots of details are foggy, but I remember being fascinated and repulsed simultaneously. With the risk of me sounding like a psychotic, this is the only novel I've read that makes violent death seem like a beautiful ballet.

As much as critics mention the Gnostic overtones in the novel (and I feel like they're there), the book is so allusion-heavy that there's a lot more going on. I might have to read it again

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The two main critical approaches Wikipedia references seem to be 1) a Gnostic analysis of the evil of matter vs. the goodness of the spiritual and 2) a psychological analysis of repressed sexuality in particular terms of homoeroticism on the part of the powerful.

I think the second has some merits, but misses the overwhelming evidence for the super or supra naturalism of the judge--Shaw, I think, seems to assume the concrete materialism of the story.

The first pits some spiritual goodness on the part of the kid (he alone reserved some measure of clemency for the heathen). But I'm not so sure that my understanding of gnosticism is sufficient to account for the personification of evil we seen in the judge.

We see here a character in which all men recall meeting, and apparently ages not over the course of the novel (sort of like Richard Alpert in Lost hmmm), but whose philosophy of domination and death reminds me strongly of Satan. And my first take, and not accounting by any stretch for the breadth of allusion in the novel, is that the judge is Satan in the flesh, and the account is of the corruption he wreaks on mankind and of the frustration he faces in not having acheived true and final victory.

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We see here a character in which all men recall meeting, and apparently ages not over the course of the novel (sort of like Richard Alpert in Lost hmmm), but whose philosophy of domination and death reminds me strongly of Satan. And my first take, and not accounting by any stretch for the breadth of allusion in the novel, is that the judge is Satan in the flesh, and the account is of the corruption he wreaks on mankind and of the frustration he faces in not having acheived true and final victory.

I agree with this; I went into the novel knowing that some critics thought Holden was a Gnostic archon, but as I read I felt like he was more corrupt, more truly evil than any other character I've seen in a novel. Even how the Glanton gang first finds him (in a volcanic area, sitting in a crater waiting for them so he can assume leadership and teach them how to make gunpowder) is eerie and wrong.

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I think it is a difficult read, it is like running a gauntlet. I really can't recall reading anything as unrelenting in violence and the darkness that leaks into and/or out of human hearts. I was amazed that McCarthy was able to maintain the tone throughout.

I felt bruised and blood splattered and by the end I wanted a vacation at a spa.

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By the way: Todd Field is now the director assigned to the film adaptation. Fascinating.

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Yeah, I just saw that on the book's Wikipedia page. I don't know what to make of that, Jeff, since I haven't seen any of his movies (that he directed, at least). Your thoughts?

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By the way: Todd Field is now the director assigned to the film adaptation. Fascinating.

Wow! Very interesting news.

Jason: You should see Little Children. You may remember that we had a pretty good thread on the film (and book) here at A&F.

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Yeah, I definitely read through it (them?). I maybe know too much about the plot of both, so I put seeing/reading on the back burner. I definitely got spoiled plot-wise on them, so I'm sorta scared to take it in (with some of the themes).

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Here's a steller pdf on the book via here written by one very insightful Dan Moos that he wrote for the Cormac McCarthy Journal.

for me the event on page 246 as observed ***spoiler beware *** here and its echoes with a similar object

picked up again and elaborated so in No Country For Old Men with Chigurths coin is splendid , That along with the Meridian's ending coda seismic as well with the counterpoint it offers up.

just rocks my world, im still blown away reading it once again.

Edited by Jacques

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By the way: Todd Field is now the director assigned to the film adaptation. Fascinating.

I cannot in any way imagine this book in filmed form--Ridley Scott's quote is accurate; its far too savage.

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Here's a steller pdf on the book via here written by one very insightful Dan Moos that he wrote for the Cormac McCarthy Journal.

for me the event on page 246 as observed ***spoiler beware *** here and its echoes with a similar object

picked up again and elaborated so in No Country For Old Men with Chigurths coin is splendid , That along with the Meridian's ending coda seismic as well with the counterpoint it offers up.

just rocks my world, im still blown away reading it once again.

Ultimately, Blood Meridian is about exchange value and

commodification under both nineteenth-century imperialism and twentiethcentury

late capitalism

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long post a bit elliptical but some thoughts now that i have some time ...

Buckeye I concur with ye on the obvious part of Moos essay ,,, i myself squirmed a bit with this take that Blood Meridian is ultimately about this. true memory a bit foggy its been 2 yrs since i read it last... reading much winnie the pooh to my little boy of late , i bare a meager mind. Still i appreciated even more Moo's treatment of representation , the economy of signs and how these are employed so and by the Judge who himself as a fictional character has grown with t each read into a personal favorite as villian, monster and/or fallen angel or even perhaps due ti his height some remnant of the Nephalim (gen.1-6 ) Oops there i go stretching interpretation a bit sorry,,,any way who could play the Judge in the film? Daniel Day Lewis.or Gary Oldman are the only two that come to mind, maybe Leem Neeson ... and yes while Russel Crowe did have the same vibe with sketchbook and quoting scripture in 3:10 to Yuma i cant bring myself to seeing him naked....whoa i know,,,Viggo Mortgenson and even better i think he can really draw as well.

So seeing now that i too am guilty of stretching interpretation on occassion the tensile strength and economic determinism of Moos arguement to arrive at the meaning of Blood Meridian went unobserved in my first read,,, true it might very well be the undercurrent but i myself think Corrmac MCarthys end coda there seems to point in some way to something more. The absence of this element and its beauty as a group of signs presented there like some moving tableaux is curiously absent in Moos essay leaving me to wonder . Is Blood Meridain truly just about just this,,,,

or is it posing a question, a bloody one at that pointing so with viscera still attached to something well beyound nature's tooth and claw,,, as theres something to the end coda or epilogue there...(as i loaned the book out i know not which off hand) . It seems to be a standard in most of McCarthy's books. Oblique but remaining like some sentinel none the less over the whole work itself.

When i read Meridian for that memorable first time i missed completely this manifest destiny and war arguement ..perhaps floored by the reality of the story and knocked senseless by the almost time machine feel of it.... it was as one reviewer so aptly put like a fever dream.. .with all of it ratcheted up to even higher levels of value upon each of the Judges entrances and exits amidst the harsh brutal world of the 1850's depicted there and even better all so familiar as it takes place in locales near where i live here in southern Arizona.

Still with this prejudice in tow such an economic take while having merit to some, seems to me a bit outworn and as u so aptly put Buckeye rather obvious .

Perhaps unrealated at first glance ... recently read Jeffrey O''s noble thread about Mythical Thinking and Dawkins latest example of hubris, and i think this book has the same, surly enough that the end of Blood Meridian could qualify....and if Dawkins wants so a land without God surely here it is, but all that aside what i really found striking was BethR's excellent and brilliant observation of pre- Voyage Eustace Scrubb in post #5 and Jim Janknegt's great mention of Scientism run amok in post #11....

[He] liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

and how too uncannily like the Judge.....

The Cormac McCarthy Journal p. 28

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Jacques, I excerpted a lot of your quote and then realized that it was simpler and easier for the reader to just scroll up.

I must admit I'd be curious as to the casting of Holden in Field's film, but will most likely not watch it--I can't imagine it filmed without either being little seen and often banned like Pasolini's Salo, or so cleansed and edited to be nothing like the novel. And that's without taking up the question that I've not got one drop of interest in having these images burned into my mind through a visual auditory medium. I'll pass thanks. Still, I think of McCarthy's description of the judge, grotesque yet infantile, hairless and corpulent, and I'm not so sure that there's a known actor out there--maybe Ned Beatty in his prime and in stilts.

In my commentary on the obvious meaning, I was not criticizing Moos' take as too obvious, but too obscure. Commerce and trade does play a large role in Blood Meridian, but the Glanton gang is not so excluded from trade as Moos seems to make out. Note the final third of the novel details the scheme to take over the Yuma ferry and charge exorbitant rates, and its undoing happens in part due to the sending of key enforcers to San Diego to buy supplies. So, that these men are incapable of "civilized" trade because they trade in that which is of final value (lives) is too stretching I think as a criticism of market economics. (a true republican i am! :) )

I think the Occam's Razor interpretation stands for me as the satanic explanation of the true experience of Manifest Destiny.

And I didn't know what the heck to make of the epilogue. Made no sense to me. Is this a common thing with McCarthy--I've only read this book of his (though I have "The Road" on tap). It did remind me of Ed Tom Bell's dream at the end of the NCFOM movie.

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(I apologize in advance, as I haven't read this in a few years.) I think the epilogue has people digging post holes? All of the characters in Blood Meridian are focused on making one thing: death. The folks at the end are doing agricultural things, making and cultivating something else. I think it's the juxtaposition of the two that's supposed to speak for itself.

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By the way: Todd Field is now the director assigned to the film adaptation. Fascinating.

Sigh. Now there are reports (here, here) that James Franco is planning to direct it. I wanted the Todd Field film.

Edited by Overstreet

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Sigh. Now there are reports (here, here) that James Franco is planning to direct it. I wanted the Todd Field film.

Or better yet, I don't want this as a film. Some things should stay on the written page.

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I started the audiobook for this during my commute last week. Because I wanted something that would prepare me for the day ahead.

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I started the audiobook for this during my commute last week. Because I wanted something that would prepare me for the day ahead.

I'm glad I don't have your job....

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Slate looks at previous drafts of Blood Meridian:

It’s easy to forget that McCarthy is blood and bones. We often fall into the trap of thinking about artists, particularly the reclusive ones, as single-minded and stoic. But releasing your personal papers is, invariably, an exercise in vulnerability—and there are moments of it in McCarthy’s notes. In a letter sent around 1979, he told a close friend that he had not touched the Blood Meridian manuscript in six months out of frustration. In his notebooks he searched for inspiration, jotting down quotes from William James, Joseph Heller, Lord Byron, Martin Luther King Jr., Flaubert, and Wagner. And he was certainly not immune to bad ideas: Early on he fancied Blood Meridian to include period prints, mainly lithographs and woodcuts, illustrating the gang’s Western journey.

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