Cormac McCarthy

by eyeslice 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • eyeslice
  • beksbks


  • eyeslice

    I have just finished reading 'Blood Meridian' in which he paints a very disturbing view of humanity, I should I say specifically men.

    It begs the question of just how civilised we really are and easily any pretext on cilivilisation can be replaced with wanton violence.

    Looking at the atrocities of the past it is hard to not share his views.

    Can't edit my original post - but can this reply. Sorry.

  • hecouldbewrong

    His stories are bleak. I enjoy his style, though.

  • changeling

    I like him too. Read "The Road" and saw "No Country For Old Men". But his views are always soo pesimistic. Of course, he may be right, but I hope he's not. :)

  • truman

    I have read several of his books, but read Blood Meridian first. It is a masterpiece, a terrible masterpiece. I read it with a small group of college students who were doing summer discussions of several books. Here are some of my thoughts on Blood Meridian from that time:

    In reading this novel, I thought that I should keep continually in mind that McCarthy is telling a story on many levels at once. The Kid does not have much history that we are privy too. He seems to have been born to trouble, from what we do know. His origin is in death; his mother died in childbirth. We are also told that although his father was a schoolteacher, but the Kid is uneducated. His ignorance fosters his innate taste for mindless violence. The very next sentence sets the mythological stage: "All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man" (that latter phrase is from a poem by Wordsworth). One way to read that is by viewing humanity as a gradually maturing entity. Whatever 'man' we are now (or at the time of the story) is the offspring of the 'child' that has come before. And that 'child' is carelessly bloodthirsty-as you point out, not killing to survive, but out of some instinct or for sport.

    Yes, I agree, the Kid represents some aspect of humanity that lives from a perspective of instinct, yet at times, it seems that the Kid does have a glimmer of something beyond that. All of them do at times (Glanton has a dog that he treats as a pet-but so did Hitler). Yet those sparks die quickly in the life they lead. If I remember correctly, nearly every one of the men in the gang had some kind of 'normal' life before their mutual murderous spree (with the exception of the Judge, who seems to be the Devil incarnate). They have in them both the animal instinct of tooth and claw, and some higher form of humanity-as do we all. Their environment and the gathering weight of their actions reinforce the former and smother the latter.

    I guess it is difficult to dispute what is pointed out in the Judge's analysis of raw human nature-that chaos, conflict, and brutality dwell in its core. I might quote the philosopher Hobbes that without the Leviathan of government, natural life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. The experiences of the Glanton gang certainly fit that description. The Judge says that "war is god", that it is "the truest form of divination". It is a test of wills in which the ultimate Will is compelled to choose a winner, thereby forcing a unity of existence. I say that by this measure, war is not god, but a challenge to god. It seeks to wrench an answer from the universe about the meaning of life, even if that answer is death.

    On the other hand, I personally do not subscribe to this interpretation of war and its meaning. While it is undeniable that humans are prone to fighting and killing one another, I think it within our capacity to transcend that. If we need to take a Nietzschean view that moral law as "an invention of mankind to disenfranchise the powerful in favor of the weak", so be it. Maybe that is a stage of the journey. If I had to believe that life as depicted in "Blood Meridian" was the fulsomeness of the human spirit, I would sooner see us all die. It is that repellent. The characters' actions were for nothing but blood lust, the glee of destruction. It is a truism that destruction and construction are inextricably intertwined, and that every act of construction is built upon a previous act of destruction in some manner. Every great civilization is built upon the ruins of the one before. Change is the nature of the universe. But in the case of the Glanton gang, the destructive impulse has run wild. It is the extreme, not the norm. And yet the world is overrun with extremes.

    At times, as I read this book, I was hard pressed to avoid the conclusion that McCarthy in some way is justifying the actions of these horrific episodes. Perhaps, he is only describing them. I saw the way in which the gang turned upon those who dispatched them in the first place as a warning: When we choose to employ violence to address our problems, we attract to ourselves what we send forth. It matters not whether our own hands do the killing or we send out 'human' tools as our agents. I think this can easily be seen in recent history. And yet, over and over, we wonder why we are being attacked by others. (By 'we', I mean individually and collectively, not any particular group). The Mexicans who charged the Glanton gang to bring back scalps for pay thought they could do unto others with impunity, but is was not so. But they did not set the whole thing in motion did they? They were only reacting to attacks by the Indians, who were reacting to the encroachment of invaders to their land, who were reacting to something else, and so on. Where does the reacting end? Is this what the epilog is saying?

    My biggest question in the story is why did the Judge come back to kill the Kid, after so many years? Was it because he had made a life for himself after the killing? Does his death refer to the fact that no matter whether we are peaceful or warlike, we all face death?

  • Open mind
    Open mind

    Cormac is a very poweful author.

    If I was the father in "The Road", I would have been very tempted to kill my son and then myself. But, as I finished the book, I was glad I didn't.


  • eyeslice

    Great synopsis Truman!

    The Judge certainly is the most difficult character to get to grips with. He is obviously highly intellectual, a linguist (he seems to know half a dozen different languages) and eloquent, surely traits that separates man from the rest of the animal kingdom, but at the same time is most a vile, evil individual.

    I do find McCarthy's style of writing a little unusual in that he does not use quotation marks to distinguish dialogue. Perhaps that is because of that crappy old typewriter he used for nearly all of his working life.

  • MegaDude

    Read "Blood Meridian." As previous reviewers have said, it seemed to be a story of men energized and rengerated through violence; that man was basically scum. One of the most unpleasant but well-written books I have ever read. Some of the images still stay with me: The tree of hanging babies, the indians raping the male dead, the scalping of children. The vision seemed consistent with McCarthy's other books I have read: The Road, No Country For Old Men, which I loved. "Blood Meridian" is remarkably in step with the theme of "The Painted Bird," another famous book just as well written and just as dark a view of humanity. I understand they're making "Blood Meridian" into a film. It will be a joke. The book is unfilmable depravity after depravity with no hope whatsoever. If you liked the book you might be interested in reading "Notes on Blood Meridian," which just came back in print. It tracks the original source material that McCarthy used for his book.

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