The Evening Redness

When I finished the Road I knew I’d read something amazing. This was a writer who tapped into something beyond the popular trends in literature, the name-dropping and cultural rhetoric. This was a story outside of time, prose so honed and pure it hit on something primeval. Back before Oprah and the Pulitzer, McCarthy won the McArthur Genius Grant and spent a decade writing an amazing book.

Blood Meridian follows the kid, a sixteen year old Tennessean venturing into the “wild” west. It’s a violent and distorted bildungsroman as the kid puts his lot in with the historical Glanton Gang, a wild group of scalpers and outlaws that ravaged the Texas-Mexico border circa 1850. The “Ahab” of the tale is Judge Holden, a hairless monster of a man, erudite and philosophical, but also barbaric and depraved.

The first third of the book is possessed with untouchable prose, imagery of the stark desert under the night sky, the sun like a jealous god, the very decaying rock – fossils of past civilizations. In this the book mirrors Moby Dick – a journey of men through the wilderness, deserts of the American southwest rather than the wide Pacific, and a quarry of Apache scalps instead of Sperm whales. And like Melville, the landscape and the actions of men stand as grand metaphors for question of deep import – the violence in men’s souls, technology’s place in the ravage of the land, the very notion of creator in this hellish place.

As the book progresses, the Judge explicates his philosophy of violence as man’s only noble goal, and leads the crew into increasingly dire situations. The licensed scalpers resort to brawling with uniformed soldiers, hijacking a river ferry, backstabbing benevolent tribes. And inevitably, those who live by the sword fall by the sword.

While Blood Meridian dwells within history, it does not attempt to explain or reconcile. The novel moves beyond cultural morality to a deeper universal – the eternal violence of man and his relationship with the land. These are the same rocks and mountains that serve as setting for No Country for Old Men, a hundred years later.

And while the subject is bleak, the prose itself is so incredible the book reads ecstatic and fast. As one reviewer mentioned, the scariest thing about Blood Meridian is not the violence itself, but the quickened pulse that accompanies its reveal, the knowledge we’ve been caught up in the timeless dance.

2 Replies to “The Evening Redness”

  1. oh man. mccarthy is incredible. i still think about the road; i think there is no better term than to say it haunts me. i’m bracing myself before i read more.

  2. Still haven’t read your new story but I am trying to find a time that it feels good to read your work, like I can breathe it in – don’t want to hurry it.

    I did read “E-Harmony” a bit back and am still wondering it over. It reminded me of your “Dead End” story for some reason: appearances and other such surfaces.

    *I think the thing that fascinates me the most online is how people adopt cruelty and baseness as if consequenceless. They wear it, like a typographic uniform, a bright flag flown over atrocity… that gets me thinking: I read a book about the history of methamphetamine: one of the men most directly tied to the spread of the “kitchen lab” is a former college student who was busted by the FBI for personal manufacture and held hard by the law. In prison, he decided that in revenge, he would create a disease in society that would overcome authorities. Thus, he wrote not only one of the major pocket guides for meth manufacture (using a shortcut route that made it much simpler, safer), but the book that was used in the 90s for the Tokyo Subway sarin gas attacks. Words can mask such malignancy…


    Did want to comment on the McCarthy thread, though.

    I have a copy of “Blood Meridian” but I think I will leave it until I am older.

    But I did just start volume two of his Border Trilogy, “The Crossing,” and I really wanted to share in your enthusiasm for his language.

    He has an uncanny ability to stir images – I don’t know if it is the words themselves or his dogged devotion to such a specific theme and its collective unconsciousness (that theme: I see from my view as the isolation of man, both as individual and as familial and other ordered units of group behaviour and dynamic, in the scheme of an encompassing, and shared/encapsulated, nature – and all the connected mythologies, the Biblical character of his body of work).

    For me, such a pertinent writer.

    The words and sentences come almost from an internal place, and as such, they create both a spark of resistance and a fusion with the external world. They seem both foreign and ancient/essential. He uses language in such a personal way. I think that adherence to a personal code, to a personal language buttresses so much of the beauty that he is expressing: both a support and a well-spring. For they are truly bold sentences. They shock me at times. Their audacity of form.

    He uses “harrying” in that book in a way that I’ve been walking to and from school, pass under a sun curled Crepe Myrtle and watch paper age in the gutters, thinking about it. A beautiful speciman of language. As if suddenly, I don’t even speak my own native tongue.

    Just a word. And yet, it is “our expression.” One word as if every word and yet, there, the only word possible. A flood and the individual.

    But yeah, was excited and wanted to say that I share in your excitement of reading McCarthy.

    And before departing for an interval, here’s an article that rattled and gave me something. I know it is themes that abide strong with me but I thought you might find something here too.

    Hope that you are well. Tell me about things, if you wish and if you’ve time and inclination. Would like to hear it.

    – R. Adams

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