Cormac McCarthy is, to say the least, a divisive author. I know many readers (and writers) who, like me, admire his books. And I know many equally capable readers and writers who do not like him, for a variety of reasons.
McCarthy has little respect for the conventions of punctuation. He’s big on ambiguity. He often circles around a scene and sneaks up on you rather than confronting you head-on. He is not easy.
But, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, another author I admire, “So it goes.”
Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West, is among my favorite books and my favorite by McCarthy. Professor, author, and literary critic Harold Bloom calls it “the ultimate Western, not to be surpassed.” This, despite the fact that he was so overwhelmed by the book’s violence he set it aside twice before finally finishing it.
And there’s no question it is a violent book. It’s based on history—the exploits of a band of murderous scalp hunters operating in the American Southwest and northern Mexico.
Whether it’s violence or just about anything else he’s writing about, McCarthy has a way of saying things that’s unsurpassed. His descriptions are so spare, yet vivid, they surprise you—forcing me, at least, to re-read passages for their beautiful language.
Bloom also has this to say about Blood Meridian: “The book’s magnificence—its language, landscape, persons, conceptions—at last transcends the violence, and converts goriness into terrifying art, an art comparable to Melville’s and to Faulkner’s.”
Not bad comparisons for a Western novel.