I finished Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN. I did this because I dearly love his novel THE ROAD. Furthermore, that book seemed to have a point, a plot, a grim redemption. Alas, BLOOD MERIDIAN had no such thing.
Years of people telling me BLOOD MERIDIAN was the ultimate horror novel ended up pissing me off. This was a literary novel posing as an uber-violent western novel. Allow me to summarize for you: violence. Kid who grinds broken glass into an argumentative bartender’s eyes is hired into a gang of insane people and criminals. Women and children and old men are slaughtered at the hands of our main character and his troupe, not just once, thrice, or six times, but on and on ad nauseam. The gang just kills and slaughters whole tribes and towns and roving bands of whomever crosses their paths throughout the novel. Scalps are cut from murdered old women, babies are killed, old men, children and animals are slaughtered. If you like reading a lengthy diatribe in which almost every living thing dies or ends up decapitated, this book’s for you. Innocents are gunned down, stabbed, cut open, and raped. Horses are shot dead, brains are scrambled, idiots are treated like dogs, and the novel’s occasional redemptive qualities are so spread so thinly at the end that you don’t have a moment to smile and think something good just happened. Worst of all, the conclusion attempts to explain everything away in an analogy about how giving yourself fully to war buries such death in your heart that you become one with the grave.
I loved THE ROAD, but BLOOD MERIDIAN was a serious drag. It was a depressing slog through violence for the simple sake of violence, which makes me wonder how literary types who embrace this novel can condemn horror fiction, which usually does grasp for something redemptive, or at least a cool ending that allows for escape. I will admit that the only thing that kept me going in this book was the amazing prose. Still, the near-poetic language was not enough to lift it to any great heights for me. This book was a well-written but nonetheless depressing grind.
Since I posted this, it was shared around Facebook with a bunch of folks piling on saying how much they enjoyed this novel, failing to understand how anyone could find this book to be pointless. No one directly called into question my intelligence, but since I made this post in haste, late at night, after a few beers, I thought I should come back and clarify a couple of things.
BLOOD MERIDIAN just wasn’t my thing. I did not find a single character in the book to care about, and without a sympathetic character, the story for me became pointless — just a series of events. The book was unremittingly grim. Since I read to be entertained, and yes, to escape, this book failed me in that regard.
It just so happens I’m not alone in my opinion; there are about 110 people on Amazon.com who slammed the book with a one-star rating for similar reasons. Some of them even seem to be literate.
As noted, I did enjoy THE ROAD, also grim, but with a noble cause and ray of hope through dark clouds. BLOOD MERIDIAN … I just can’t imagine enjoying it for anything but the prose, which was the only reason I finished it. I agree it was horrific, but not — to my mind — a horror novel.