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Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian
by Cormac McCarthy


 
To: ALL Date: 07/25 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 10:27 PM All, I guess that I'm allowed to begin the discussion of BLOOD MERIDIAN now. I am rereading the book (second time through) since I want to be able to participate in the discussion. For now, I have a few observations about the first couple of chapters that I thought might interest you. All my cites refer to the Vintage edition of the book. Page 3--"His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster." The hewers of wood and drawers of water bit refers directly to a passage in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapter 9. The Gibeonites went to Israel and deceived the Israelites; they dressed as exhausted travelers and offered to serve the people of Israel in exchange for protection. When Joseph learned of their deception, he said that they would not be killed (because Israel would not break its promise to the enemy Gibeonites), but that they would always be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Notes about this biblical passage say that hewers of wood and drawers of water would have been common house servants. Not sure how the passage relates to the book, but I think it may be important. Also on page 3: "...the child the father of the man" is from Wordsworth's "My Heart Leaps Up." And a favorite passage one which has a lot to do with the meaning of the whole book, I'm convinced. Dialogue between the kid and the old hermit. Lost ye way in the dark, said the old man. He stirred the fire, standing slender tusks of bone up out of the ashes. The kid didn't answer. The old man swung his head back and forth. The way of the transgressor is hard. God made the world, but he didnt make it to suit everybody, did he? I don't believe he much had me in mind. Aye, said the old man. But where does a man come by his notions. What world's he seen that he liked better? I can think of better places and better ways. Can ye make it be? No. No. It's a mystery. A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it. You believe that? I dont know. Believe that. *** Seems to me that's important. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 7/25/95 9:30PM CT To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 07/26 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 10:52 AM Marty, Just started BLOOD MERIDIAN. It seems to be about a homeless kid wandering through Mexico. Where have I seen this plot before? Oh well, Henry James made a living with rich young heiresses wandering through Europe. If only Isabel Archer had broken a bottle over someone's head. --Jim in Oregon (who after a bout with Rilke seems to be suffering from terminal silliness) To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 07/27 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 3:46 PM Marty, I just read the first two chapters, and it starts out with "a bang", I think. So far, it is full of colorful characters and interesting thoughts as you pointed out. Do you know the purpose of the sub headings at the beginning of each chapter. I decided to wait and finish the chapter before reading the sub headings. I have read the first two installments of THE BORDER TRILOGY so I am glad that you recommended this book. It lets us get to know the author a little better. After I finish reading the board notes today, I am going to try to read your home page on the web. Jane in Colorado where the heat is BACK (98 today). And of course we don't have air conditioning because WE DON'T NEED IT!!! Ha! To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 07/27 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 4:38 PM Marty, I also was struck with the dialogue between the hermit and the kid and it stayed with me throughout the book; especially the part about 'it's hard to know your mind because your mind is aught you have to know it with' (rough translation). It's one of those circular philosophical questons that can boggle the mind one is trying to use. You have to "go out" of your mind to understand it? Just a thought. This book could be discussed paragraph by paragraph and use up more words than the book itself. Sherry To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/27 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 5:53 PM Jane, This is just a guess, since I haven't done extensive study in the area, but I seem to recall having seen some of the old western pulps with similar synopses at the beginnings of their chapters. In any event, I think that they are interesting in their own right because they show what McCarthy wanted to emphazize in each chapter. Oddly, several of those subheadings refer to events that take very little space in the book, but when pointed to their existence by the subheads, the events tend to jump out at you. Just a thought--McCarthy is sometimes criticized for not plotting correctly, by some definition. It's been said (notably by Vereen Bell, if I recall correctly) that his books are almost anti-plot. That is to say that he doesn't give the proper emphasis or space to his story. The kid's childhood, for example, should require more writing about (according to someone) than two pages. Personally, I don't hold with these anti-plot folks. It appears to me that McCarthy's writing is very clean and straightforward. The book starts and focuses unflinchingly on one character until the book ends. There may not be any subplots, but a good writer knows when they'll just clutter up the place and dispenses with them. I'd say that McCarthy's plots come from an older and more epic tradition--they tell a story--one story--without complicated diversions. Now, a strange question, perhaps an esthetic one: why the absence of quotation marks and other apostrophe-like methods of punctuation, including the comma? I have a theory, but I'd rather not say just yet. Also, Jane, you'll feel differently about the Border Trilogy after reading this book. BLOOD MERIDIAN provides a sort of brooding backdrop of history to both ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and THE CROSSING. For gail: my home page is completed for the time being. The biography of McCarthy is as current as I'm able to make it. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 7/27/95 4:48PM CT To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/27 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 5:53 PM Sherry, Your comment about one going out of his mind to understand it strikes a chord with me some way. I think perhaps McCarthy would say that the mind is incapable of understanding itself. The heart, however, can be understood. But (I infer from BLOOD MERIDIAN) the heart of man is a thing which is perfectly capable of making him lose his mind when it is laid bare. A question for discussion: is this a male book? If so, how? When McCarthy says man, does he mean men and women (using the word in its older, gender-neutral sense) or is he talking about man and man only? His books are rather male-heavy. Is that significant, or is he simply being true to his source material and the mythos out of which he draws his material? --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 7/27/95 4:56PM CT To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 07/31 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 3:00 PM Marty: BLOOD MERIDIAN was my traveling companion last week, and it's quite a book. My initial impression was of an extraordinarily cinematic novel: the sense of space, color and action, the necessity of filling in all internalized or psychological details for yourself, all reminded me strongly of the manner in which a movie imprints itself on the mind. An excellent example is the battle scene on pages 51-54 -- it flows across the pages as if seen by a camera. It would take an extremely talented film maker to compress the action and drama contained in those three pages into anything like a similarly compact cinematic moment (score another one for the fundamental superiority of prose over visual art for for the efficient conveying of information. Of course, efficiency isn't everything but it has a beauty of its own). The question is, what kind of film? John Ford meets Sam Peckinpaugh after they've attended a Road Warrior Film Festival? Frankly, I got a little down on a steady diet of dead babies, decapitations, eviscerations, emasculations, amputations, hangings, burnings, supporating sores, drowned puppies, blasted kitties, gut-shot horses, and mutilated mules, not to mention an array of scalpings, skinnings, and plain old gunshot wounds too numerous to catalogue. My notes from on board the airplane where I started reading bear the entry: "HIERONYMUS BOSCH at page 57". (Actually, that's not quite correct; I misspelled 'Hieronymus' in the original, but cleaned up my act for publication) Page 57 is where we encounter the notion of dead babies as Christmas tree ornaments, and I had to ask myself: I have some idea of what Bosch was doing, but what is McCarthy up to here, aside from triggering my gag reflex? I think the foreshadowing in the conversation between the hermit and the kid is important as to that question, but there's a great deal more to look at, farther down the old trail. I think I'll wait on that, however, till Marty moves us a little further along in the book. Dick in Alaska, where he's now reading The English Patient, and is very glad to be back on-line with this witty, thoughtful and pleasant group of folks To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/31 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 5:06 PM Marty; I'm about 3/4 through Blood Meriden. No one can deny it's marvelously well-written. The guy plays the English language like Itzak on his Strad. But migawd, as we used to say in grammar school, blood and gore all over the floor. I'll reserve further discussion of what he's up to for after I've finished the book. Except to say that too much continuous gore, awful and varied though it is, numbs one's sense of horror. Dick is right in that it brings to mind some of the work by Heironymous Bosch, especially the right hand panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights, usually interpreted as a vision of Hell. By the way, Dick, most art historians aren't real sure what Bosch was up to. There's almost as many interpretations of his work as there are art historians. And the images aren't all horrid. In fact some of his fantasies look like downright fun. Ruth To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/31 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:34 PM Ruth: Don't get me wrong; most days I'm a Bosch kind of guy, especially for that stuff with the rubber knickers and the daffodil stems. But, good golly, Mr. McCarthy doesn't seem to know WHERE to draw the line. Seriously, my understanding of Bosch is limited to Art Humanities I: the sinner's are being punished in a variety of appealing ways for transgressions against the revealed word. In BLOOD MERIDIAN, on the other hand, there seems to be neither sin nor sinners; instead there is mere randomness and the viciousness of the human heart which almost seems to create evil out of whole cloth. And yet, there is a recognition of human values somewhere in the weeds, even if these values are neither celebrated nor triumphant in anyway I can see. All in all a very interesting piece of work, and one which I believe will generate a good bit discussion in days to come. On other issues, briefly: of course, this is a "guy" book. Only guys could generate the horrific events described in the book, just as only guys could create Auschwitz. I'm as PC as the next person, but we have to face facts: mass murder and atrocity-wise, those of us in the testosterone challenged half of humanity have ALL the cards. As to whether only guys can enjoy the book, different issue. The real question here is: do women read the book to say "tut- tut", or do they get tight in the throat and sweaty-palmed at the mental image of wading ankle-deep in viscera? Motivation is important here. The phone lines are still open, so let's have your thoughts. The characterizations are too minimal? In point of fact, I thought that was precisely the point. Who would believe these cowboys are supposed to be leading a rich inner life, while they kill every living creature right down to the slime-mold, from Matamoros to San Diego? The first three paragraphs of the book, describing the kid's origins were a brilliant exercise in minimalism, and furthermore, are EXACTLY the right amount of detail to support the "character" of the person whose life we follow for the next 337 pages. Does anyone see parallels with other fiction, wherein human nature is unleashed in a postwar environment of lawlessness and social breakdown? Pynchon's Zone; Ondaatje's Tuscan villa (yeah, I'm all hot and bothered about that ENGLISH PATIENT book) to name two? Finally, McCarthy's laundry list of plants and critters, rendered in 19th century dialects and two languages has defeated me; is there a reader's guide? Like most people living in the ice-zone, I have always assumed the desert was empty (Disney movies nothwithstanding); turns out there's a different tree, grass, shrub or fungoid every six feet all the way across the country's arid regions, and McCarthy mentions every one of them. That's enough for now; I should collect my thoughts for something important like: Tales of Los Angeles. Dick in Alaska, where it is a misdemeanor to hang babies from tree limbs To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:14 AM Dick, The various interpretations of Bosch are too numerous to go into here. Suffice it to say, that you had a handle on one of them. I finished BLOOD MERIDIAN this evening, but want to digest and think about it a little more before I dive into a heavy discussion. Your reaction to McCarthy's use of Spanish and the names of plants, minerals, topographical terminology was interesting though. I loved it. Because the west is my part of the country, I've always felt a little out-of-the-way when it comes to literature. So much of it is set in the East or in Europe. Probably because my first degree was in geology, with a minor in biology, I reveled in the names, many of which I was at least slightly familar with. A word on the Spanish. I do not speak or read French, except for menus and the phrases that every literate person is familiar with, and what I can muddle out from my knowledge of Spanish and Italian. Consequently, I have always resented it and felt a little put down when confronted by untranslated French in a book written in English. In BLOOD MERIDIAN, I was reveling in the Spanish, understanding it and thinking how nice it was that he had simply used it straight, without translation. Then it dawned on me that other readers, like you, might feel excluded. The shoe was on the other foot. Ruth P.S. Huesos are bones. Thereby, huesos rancheros, of which there were a lot in this story, are a great deal different from huevos rancheros, a tasty dish. To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 08/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:35 AM Ruth: Actually, I had five years of Spanish sometime in the last century, and could handle the "Give me some more beans" portion of the story; however, the references (I think) to sucking chest wounds, among others, wasn't in the eighth grade lexicon. Now-a-days, it's undoubtedly a different story. Dick in Alaska, who liked Blood Meridian a lot, despite all the nasty comments To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:10 AM Dick, Only a misdemeanor? Those of us down here in the Bible Belt aren't that progressive with our laws yet. I'm not sure what I think about your assessment of the book as far as the values it represents or extolls or whatever it does to them. I do, however, find it remarkable that these sinners are able to pray for rain and get it--early in the book. But it reminds me of that Bible passage where Christ says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust (I hope that Christ says it--I don't feel like looking it up right now). That's on pages 47-48 if you don't remember it. That business of the Mennonite at the end of chapter three is curious too. Interesting too is Captain White's rationalization of the job these men are about to do--about page 30, if you're curious. Especially the following: Hell, there's no God in Mexico. (34) ...our citizens will be protected at last from the notorious packs of cutthroats presently infesting the routes which they are obliged to travel. (34) (That passage stuck with me largely because there is a pack of cutthroats that roams the hills of eastern Tennessee in an earlier McCarthy book, OUTER DARK. These anonymous men roam the countryside killing folks. And that book is set many years later.) We are to be the instruments of liberation in a dark and troubled land. (34) And this passage, from the Mennonite's speech: The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs. (40) That passage struck me because it seemed to be another Bible reference--so I looked. Under Dog in my NIV Concordance, I found the following: As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. (Proverbs 26:11--NIV).>>> That seems applicable here, sort of. There's another reference too, that I found from the epigraph to Pinckney Benedict's novel DOGS OF GOD: Then the Lord said to me: "Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, `Where shall we go?' tell them, `This is what the Lord says: "`Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.' "I will send four kinds of destroyers against them," declares the Lord, "the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy...." (Jeremiah 15: 1-3) *** No, no real readers' guide as of yet. Except for possibly John Emil Sepich's NOTES ON BLOOD MERIDIAN. (see next note) To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:10 AM (Continued from last note) I've ordered Sepich's book and I'll let you know if it has the information you are looking for as soon as it arrives. But I suspect that the book will deal with the history and such. One point about that: the book is quite heavily based in actual events. I know that much. I know that Glanton (the judge) was a real guy, and McCarthy quotes directly from his sources in some cases. McCarthy learned Spanish to do the research. He also walked the route that these guys followed. So my answer to the "too much bloodletting" comments is that, much like Milton with PARADISE LOST (when I was asked in a class why Milton had Eve eat the fruit first) he had to be true to his sources. Knowing that this book is largely true is really really disturbing. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/1/95 1:49AM CT To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:10 AM Richard, Yes, I'd agree with you about the cinematic quality of this book. My current directorial pick, I think, might be Quentin Tarrantino. Or Scorsese. It requires that kind of movement. McCarthy's work has been compared to that of Bosch and Peckinpah in reviews. So don't feel too bad. Hmmm...what else to say? I love the scene of the men riding through the desert at night in the thunderstorm. I'm not sure why...except that it's beautiful. Just wait until we get to the judge's philosophical rantings and stories.... I'm looking forward to that. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/1/95 1:55AM CT To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:19 AM Ruth, Either you or Dick (or anyone else, for that matter) may feel free to translate the important Spanish sections of the book. I can't read that language yet, but my obsession with McCarthy will probably cause me to learn it before I die. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/1/95 2:16AM CT To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:27 AM I liked your comments on BLOOD MERIDIAN, Dick, and wished to throw in a few random ones of my own in response. Sam Peckinpaw came to mind for me, too. When I first read this book, I couldn't help but be reminded of THE WILD BUNCH, which I happen to think is a great movie. (There is a recently restored version out with some new footage added back in, by the way.) You will perhaps recall that Sam in his day was both reviled and adored for making violence into a kind of ballet. It just so happens that in BLOOD MERIDIAN (let's not shorten it to BM) Judge Holden uses dance as a metaphor in what I think are his most meaningful comments: "What man would not be a dancer if he could, said the judge. It's a great thing, the dance." Or how about this: . . .[even though] the dance. . .contains complete within itself its own arrangement and history and finale there is no necessity that the dancers contain these things within themselves as well." The judge also says that "a ritual includes the letting of blood. Rituals which fail in this requirement are but mock rituals." This was obviously not intended to be an amusing book or an elevating book. This book was written with malice of forethought to be a disturbing one. I find it to be even more so as a result of the beautiful language in which it is rendered. And how can one not be a little troubled by a book the premise of which is "war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence." Your comment about the detailed listing of the species in the desert is also apt. You will recall that the judge himself keeps detailed notes and draws pictures of all he encounters in the desert. He says, "whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent." "Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth." And what is the result of this suzerainty when it is gained? This knowledge allows EVERYTHING to then be exposed to "war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification." He includes things in his notebook "to expunge them from the memory of man." Our self definition is achieved through making war on everything. Judge Holden, one of the most interesting characters in American literature, I think. And what about this Epilogue? Quite a runic thing, huh? I am sure that old Cormac was doing peyote when he wrote this thing, and I intend to confront him with this knowledge when first we meet. @wild man@ To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/01 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:50 PM Marty & Steve: I don't believe prayers get answered in BLOOD MERIDIAN; sometimes there is the illusion of response, just as sometimes there are illusions of causation, but both are equally false. The only control humans exercise in this story is through the infliction of death; all else appears to be random and without apparent significance. When Captain White's company sets out to conquer additional territory in Mexico, they are stricken with an ungodly (literally) plague of ills, randomly applied. Disease appears from nowhere (as it would from the perspective of a 19th century man, ignorant even by the standard of the times), and men die, and are buried without comment or reaction. Incidentally: Jane in Colorado, good tip on reading those chapter notes, for getting information not contained in the prose itself -- that disease had me mildly puzzled, but it's identified as cholera in the notes to Chapter IV. McCarthy maintains his point of view here -- no reason for the men to know what was killing them, just that it was another plague of locusts, or whatever. Later, as the story continues, we have more pure randomness: the kid survives the massacre of White's company; men are killed and men are spared ("When the lamb is lost in the mountain, he [a Mexican bandit leader] said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.") And Tobin's story of the Judge formulating gunpowder from the very stones of the desert, and the men waiting for the paste of urine and chemicals to dry, while the Indians move up the cinder cone to kill them -- all of this turns on the happenstance of a little cloud that is passing: We had I would suppose an hour. We watched the savages and we watched the judge's foul matrix drin on the rocks and we watched a cloud that was making for the sun. One by one we give up watchin the rocks or the savages either one, for the cloud did look to be dead set for the sun and it would took the better part of an hour to have crossed it and that was the last hour we had. Well, the judge was sittin making entries in his little book and he saw the cloud same as every other man ahd he put down the book and watched it and we did all. No one spoke. There was none to curse and none to pray, we just watched. And that cloud just cut the corner from the sun and passed on and there was no shadow fell upon us and the judge took up his ledger and went on with his entries as before. And so, by mere chance, by the margin of a handbreadth of a cloud in the sky, they lived. As the Epilogue points out with respect to the holes: they are a validation of sequence and causation, creating the illusion of relationships that exist quite independently from the holes themselves. To me, the judge is a metaphor both for modern man who controls through destruction and for pure evil in an ancient sense; only he perserveres and triumphs, while all the others fail. Of course the kid MIGHT have triumphed, if he's taken the ex-priest's advice.... But he made a choice of another sort. Why, in the context of the story, do you suppose he did? Finally, a quick comment on the level of violence; I understand McCarthy is writing from a firm historical base and that much of what we read is accurate in that sense. Nevertheless, the novelist chooses that which to emphasize by selecting among all the possible historical information to include in the story, as well as choosing the pace and presentation of such information. To me, McCarthy as an artist has chosen to look very closely and very deeply at violence and death, and is not merely reporting history Dick in Alaska, where McCarthy has gotten his attention To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:56 PM Steve, After reading your note, I'm wondering how much blood Mr. McCarthy might have let (himself) during the writing of this novel. It seems to me a superhuman feat that anyone could revel in that amount of gore and violence for the time necessary to write a book like BLOOD MERIDIAN. What do you make of the judge? One critic says that he contradicts himself, but I haven't gotten to the big speech sections of the book yet (this time through). >>> The epilogue confuses me. The judge's notebook and his comments about it are quite interesting and form some of the backbone of the book, I think. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/1/95 1:41PM CT To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:57 PM Dick, Remind me and I'll respond to this post when I'm further along in the book. However, THE CROSSING and some of the other books--and maybe even BLOOD MERIDIAN--seem to suggest an order to the universe beyond our comprehension. "They rode through regions of particolored stone upthrust in ragged kerfs and shelves of traprock reared in faults and anticlines curved back upon themselves and broken of like stumps of great stone treeboles and stones the lightning had clove open, seeps exploding in steam in some old storm. They rode past trapdykes of brown rock running down the narrow chines of the ridges and onto the plain like the ruins of old walls, such auguries everywhere of the hand of man before man was or any living thing." (50) I'm not denying what you have to say about chance--it plays an important part in BLOOD MERIDIAN. But note the way that chapter 5 begins...it seems to me that McCarthy's language here indicates that the kid was chosen by something or someone to continue living. That's just an instinct, though. Nothing I can prove. I'm taken aback by all of the symbols of fallen Christianity everywhere throughout the book. Even the ex-priest. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/1/95 1:52PM CT To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 9:55 PM Marty: What would be the difference, from a human perspective, between a universe that is morally ordered in a fashion we cannot comprehend, and one that is morally chaotic? Appears to be a distinction without a difference to me. And, as far as BLOOD MERIDIAN is concerned I think the evidence favors randomness and meaninglessness as McCarthy's prevailing themes -- if God is present in THESE details, He/She is at such a distance as to be irrelevant. Dick in Alaska, where he's keeping his theological powder dry, barely To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:55 PM Marty and All, Here are some thoughts that have come to me after reading 140 pages of BLOOD MERIDIAN. 1) The character of the judge is becoming more and more intriguing. Here is a Renaissance man who speaks several languages and who can make gun powder out of the most disgusting things! He seems to care not at all about religion and morals. Look at the way he ruined the poor preacher at the beginning of the book. Even his physical description makes him stand out from the other characters. 2) I have been thinking a lot about the violence in this book. It does seem to fit in with our history as an American people. I would like to hear from Cathy (Encyclopedia) Hill about this point. 3) I had to cite a passage that I found to be particularly beautiful. I have the Vintage paperback edition. p. 109. [The rider s] crossed before the sun a nd vanished one by one and reappeared again and they were blac k in the sun and they rode out of that vanished sea like b urnt phantoms with the legs of the animals kicking up the spu me that was not real and they were lost in the sun and lost in the lake and they shimmered and slurred together and separated again and they augmented by planes in lurid avatars and began to coalesce and there began to appear above them in the dawn-broached sky a hellish likeness of their ranks riding huge and inverted and the horses' legs incredibly elongate trampling down the high thin cirrus and the howling anti- warriors pendant from their mounts immense and chimeric and the high wild cries carrying that flat and barren pan like the cries of souls broke through some misweave in the weft of things into the world below. Considering that most of McCarthy's sentences are short and concise, this one really is distinct. The last part about "the souls" is so remarkable. Marty, ya' done gud (as we used to say in Indiana). Jane who is enjoying the 85 degree day. To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/01 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:12 PM To paraphrase that wry savant Douglas Adams, there is a theory that if anyone ever understands the universe it will be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory that this has already happened. On the matter of ritual demanding blood, that is, of course, the ancient pagan idea. It's found strongly in Strauss's ELEKTRA; any guilt can be expiated if the right blood is made to flow, Clytemnestra tells her daughter. I will take this bloodletting with an hour and a half of superlative music. Cathy To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 08/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:35 PM Cathy: Yes, blood ritual to propitiate the Gods, not to mention mere guilt, is indeed ancient and honorable. However, anybody see any guilt in this book? My reading showed both guilt and God to be invisible, at the wrong end of my literary telescope. Jane: You picked a doozy (another Hoosier expression, by way of Oklahoma, my other antecedent state) of a scene; doesn't it read JUST like an extreme telephoto shot? That's what I mean by the cinematic way McCarthy visualizes for us; it's certainly not bad -- it's part of a new way of writing prose that assumes a familiarity with film on the part of the reader. I like it a lot. And, as for the judge: I'm leaning more and more to the theory he's pure evil; Satan incarnate, the eternal Lier, casting down that poor preacher just for the sport of it, to bask in the laughter of the vicious and ignorant crowd. All that's missing are the pickup trucks in the parking lot. Dick in Alaska, where the judge DRIVES a pickup truck To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/02 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 1:25 AM Precisely, Richard. It is a distinction without a difference. The judge at times seems to suggest that there is some order, but it is an order that is so incomprehensible that it is absurd to speak of transgressing that order. It just doesn't make any difference. At one point he says: "more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man's mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others." He also says: "the history of all is not the history of each nor indeed the sum of those histories and none here can finally comprehend the reason for his presence for he has no way of knowing even in what the event consists. In fact, were he to know he might well absent himself and you can see that that cannot be any part of the plan if plan there be." Now, Marty. What do I make of the judge? There is the sixty-four dollar question. In the end I would still like to know what to make of the judge. Like Dick, this book caught my attention, so much so that I actually looked up some academic articles written about it, principally because I wanted to know what to make of the judge. That is something that I haven't done since college and have never done voluntarily. The ones that I found were not of much help. One set out an interesting comparison of the judge to Ahab and the kid to Ishmael. Another posited that gnostic thought plays a great part in the book, principally in the form of the judge's pronouncements. But as to the question of just exactly who the judge is--what thing he speak for, I don't know. I'm not even close. I chose to think of him as a prophet of nihilism, but beyond that he remains an intriguing mystery to me. The only thing further I know is that he looked like a hairless, pale, enormous infant who never sleeps and says he will never die. Clearly, the kid should have knocked him off, and I can't explain why he did not, other than only hindsight is twenty/twenty. How was the kid to know that he would end up violated and smothered in excrement if he did not? This is not an end that one tends to easily foresee. Steve To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 08/02 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:00 AM Cathy, Not only Electra and Clytremnestra. See also Christ (Christians were accused of being cannibals when the government heard of the early church's drinking the blood and eating the body) and Medea and almost anyone involved in Greek tragedy (my mind isn't working sufficiently tonight, so I can't think of any more bloody rituals). Come to think of it, the whole Old Testament is filled with accounts of Jewish rituals of atonement. Those always involved the letting of blood. But not of people's blood.>>> Now I'm wondering about whose guilt all this bloodletting is for. I don't see much evidence of guilt in the book either, but the kid meets his end (presumably) because of some quality that the judge doesn't like. What do you think that is? The kid has struck me as a sort of innocent in this book. But I don't know why. Because he's clearly not. What do you all think is the answer to McCarthy's question early in the novel? "Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is another kind of clay." (4-5) Dick, I'd agree with you that the judge is sort of evil incarnate, but didn't his sermons and speeches strike you as sort of Nietzchean? They did me, the first time I read the book. One more thing: one critic said that BLOOD MERIDIAN is what he calls a "Gnostic tragedy." He says that the book is the closest thing to a real tragedy we've had in literature since the Greeks, if memory serves. I'm not sure if I agree or even understand his point, but the essay may be found, for those of you who would like to read it, in CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CORMAC MCCARTHY. Any comments? Would you consider the book a tragedy, and if so, who's the tragic hero and what's his flaw? I'd be willing to send copies of it to anyone who wants them. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/2/95 12:22AM CT To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 08/02 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:00 AM Jane, Yes, the judge stands out. Yes, the book does seem to fit with our history of violence. In that respect, BLOOD MERIDIAN, despite its setting, is still a very southern book. Violence and race and war and even (maybe) the search for the father figure are present in this book. All of those are very southern themes. You picked a good passage. McCarthy seems to be concerned somewhat with the whole idea of the doppleganger. There's a passage in SUTTREE where he refers to Suttree and anti-Suttree. I hadn't noticed that he did the same thing with the marauders in BLOOD MERIDIAN. It's almost a manichean idea--the dual existence of good and evil in the form of light and darkness, mind and matter. Forgive me if I just murdeered the proper meaning of "manichean"--it's been a while since I took Ancient Philosophy. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/2/95 12:27AM CT To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/02 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:00 AM Dick, I'm not sure how to answer that question as to the difference between a morally ordered universe we can't undertstand and one without order). I guess that I'd say that a moral order gives implicit validity to logic and reason, whether we understand it (the order) or not. Meaning that if we were created by a Supreme Being of some sort then our ability to reason is no accident. If we are an evolved creature, though, then our existence as well as our ability to reason is purely chance. And our ability to reason is worthless because it proves nothing. I hope that makes sense. I also want to throw out a quote from the most recent McCarthy book, THE CROSSING (I think it relates to this whole discussion somehow): Yet even so there is but one world and everything that is imaginable is necessary to it. For this world also which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thiong at all but is a tale. And all in it is a tale and each tale the sum of all lesser tales and yet these also are the selfsame tale and contain as well all else within them. So everything is necessary. Every least thing. This is the hard lesson. Nothing can be dispensed with. Nothing despised. Because the seams are hid from us, you see. The joinery. The way in which the world is made. We have no way to know what could be taken away. WHat omitted. We have no way to tell what might stand and what might fall. And those seams that are hid from us are of course in the tale itself and that tale has no abode or place of being except in the telling only and there it lives and makes its home and therefore we can never be done with the telling. Of the telling there is no end. And whether in Caborca or in Huisiachepic or in whatever other place by whatever other name or by no name at all I say again all tales are one. Rightly heard all tales are one. (143) And this.... Well, after several minutes of looking I am unable to find the other passage from THE CROSSING. When I do find it, I'll post it here. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/2/95 12:59AM CT To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/02 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:15 PM Marty: I did indeed note the Nietzschen overtone on the judge. I further thought I detected a "progression" of social orders in the story, as the kid developed whatever morality that led him, in the end, to spare the judge and kill that mouthy kid in Texas only when he actually threatened him, instead of because he was annoying (which would have been the case for the first couple of hundred pages, at least). Thus, the kid runs away from his barren home and enters the world basically unformed, except of course for infantile rage and meanness. His morality at this point is that of the two year old who will put the puppy in the fireplace to hear the noises it makes. Later he hooks up with Captain White, and they embark (like 10-year olds on a camping expedition) upon a quixotic quasi-military mission into Mexico, where they are of course, slaughtered like hogs in a Smithfield ham factory. The kid survives (miracle or random chance? Another theory we haven't discussed on that is narrative necessity; if the kid dies, whither the story?) and becomes entangled with Glanton and reentangled with the judge; at first the gang has a certain legitimacy: they are hired genocides, working under the aegis of law and social structure to exterminate the Apaches; they soon note a a wonderful resemblence between Apache and Mexican scalps, and further note that, ounce for ounce, the pay's the same. So they slip over the line into sheer savagery and become a law unto themselves. Here is where I see some of the Nietzschean elements -- and frankly some pretty pure fascism. Glanton and the judge go together like Himmler and Heydrich. And, while I know it is now intellectually disreputable to link the philosophy of Nietzsche to fascism, this portion of the book makes a pretty good argument supporting the existence of an intellectual relationship, if not a causal one. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the introduction to MOTHER NIGHT (and I paraphrase): "Since we tend to become what we pretend to be, it is best to be careful about what we pretend." This cautionary note was sounded in relation to the protagonist of the book, an American spy who had spent WWII pretending to be a Nazi collaborator and radio propagandist, ala Lord Haw-Haw, while in reality transmitting coded messages in his broadcasts. Vonnegut's warning applies here: if we wish to define ourselves in Nietzschean terms, and to elevate ourselves above ordinary or common values, to make our own morality, then we risk becoming the judge. As he himself would probably tell us, his very existence and survival validates his world view -- indeed what else could validate a world view in McCarthy's rubric? The fascistic element was strongest to me in the scenes immediately prior to the massacre by the Yumas; the massacre itself was the destruction of the fascist community created by Glanton and the judge, but of course, didn't destroy the judge: he and his Nietzschean values survived to kill another day. Thus, in terms of this book, Nietzschean values may not have "created" or "caused" Glanton and his gang and their related depredations, but these values certainly constitute a darkened basement of the soul, in which the sick fungus of fascist values can flourish. Anyway, to continue the notion of social development in the story, following the Yuma massacre, the kid basically comes of age: he moves back into the very tough, but human world of his non-psychotic fellow creatures. I think that something inside the kid -- perhaps here is where we find God in this story -- some inchoate force or value led him to become a person who would spare the judge, spare the loudmouth kid until he was actually threatened, and ultimately face death as a lesser evil than living out life in the judge's pattern. Dick in Alaska, who wonders what non-Americans might think of this book To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/02 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:26 PM Marty, I don't agree with your observations that if we are evolved, rather than created by some sort of supreme being, that our existence and ability to reason are worthless. In the first place, as much as I am loathe to argue for the existence of a supreme being, the mere fact of our having been evolved from previous life forms does not preclude there being such a thing. Evolution could be interpreted as the means through which this supernatural force works and it is immeasurably more marvelous than the abracadabra explanation of the creationists. Furthermore, if we consider the means by which evolution itself works, we can hardly consider our ability to reason as worthless. If the development of more and more brainpower were worthless we would have been a mere offshoot, a dead-end, on the tree of biological development, rather like the trilobites, and CR, where we can use said brainpower to argue (politely) about such things, would never have existed. As far as the general discussion of BLOOD MERIDIAN (I agree, let's forgo the acronym), you guys are really going at it. Do I dare jump into the middle of three lawyers arguing? I've just noticed that every selection I marked as being significant is a quote attributable to the judge. So besides his other *raisons d'etre*, he is most certainly there as a voice for the author. He could also be seen as a figure representing a supreme being, a force that knows all (as he certainly seems to) and who seems able to control events and yet allows evil to endlessly occur. If he participates in it, it is because it is a part of the order that he has ordained. "Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner." Hardly a benevolent god, but a reasonable interpretation, I think, in view of the history of man. He is evil more because of his amorality, his allowing this to be, rather than because of his immorality. "Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak," he says. He is called a judge, but he does not judge, at least not by what we recognize as moral law. (A law that only exists for *Homo sapiens*, developed as a result of our ability to reason, but unfortunately honored mostly in the breech.) By moral law here, I am, of course, referring to true morality, the law which tries to curb man's inhumanity to man, not the "family values" kind flaunted by the religious right. Ruth, in Redlands, where the bones of the dead air conditioner on my roof portend a truly McCarthian Meridian day. To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/02 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 10:35 PM Dear wild man, have only peeked into Blood Meridian but really enjoyed your comments. Especially new and exciting spelling of director Peckinpaw's name, another wild man neologism which will be with me always (cf. berzerk.) A lot of McCarthy at one sitting is apt to put me off him, though, much as I admire the grandeur of his language. There is insufficient raillery here for me. I mean, grandeur grandeur and more grandeur, you know, it's really ripe for a bit of skewering. It's a style that could really easily be parodied, too; Cormac McCarthy, Enemy of the Comma: She opened her mind to the flow of words on the screen and they flowed and they flowed and she felt the wind and motion of their thoughts tumble through her like a thousand ivory dice and she thought of the poets of the eighteenth century cutting quills and that now she might lay her head before the swiftness of thought itself the membrane of time growing thinner with each passing day. =============== Reply 25 of Note 4 =================  
To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 08/02 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:56 PM I quite agree with you on the sentences. I think I've found the original model on which Faulkner and now McCarthy have built this form of communication - the letters of the semi-literate. Someday I will have to post G-G-Aunt Mat Kirkpatrick's wonderful observations on the birth of my Cousin Bess. Pure Faulkner and McCarthy, except nobody gets killed. This novel seems a bit bloodier than pure gnosticism, which is the force behind THE RED LION and Durrell's Avignon Quintet. If everything spiritual and unseen is good and everything material and seeable is bad, then this book is obviously dealing with only half the equation. Reading the comments about the judge, I remembered just reading about a similar man in real life, Yevno Azef, the infamous "Comrade Valentine" hunted by both the Secret Police and the early commies. He was a man who played judge, true only to his own private revolution and world view. For each successful bombing or whatever, he evened the score by betraying at least one colleague to the Secret Police, yet he went undetected until nearly WWI. He died, ironically, as a result of the physical rigors of being imprisoned by the Germans as an anti-German activist in WWI, which he was NOT. It's comforting to think that in real life such people inevitably come to an end at some time or another - though not necessarily the end we feel they deserve. I've never really read up too much on the Western Indian Wars, but, from what I have read of American history, I will believe almost any type of violence. In upheavals of that kind, the worst sadists often gravitate to the top and even become semi-heroes. I think of Quantrill in Lawrence, Kansas, for example. Quantrill was a common or garden variety criminal until he seized the chance of war. If you've got a job that borders on using people inhumanly, you'll always find the nasties to flock to it. The mining and frontier communities were refuges for people whose habits would not have been tolerated elsewhere. You even get a little taste of that in ANGLE OF REPOSE, though that's not Stegner's chief point. American historical accounts generally don't go into the infinite gorey detail of this novel, and most fiction that deals with the period doesn't either. Even explicit violence is always balanced by something else. There are some quite horrific passages in FLASHMAN AND THE DRAGON, for example, but the overall impression is much different. Mr. McCarthy seems to have a lot going for him as a writer, but I would honest to goodness be wary of him as a person. Cathy To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 08/03 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:56 AM Okay, smart aleck. Damnitall! I've looked it up. THE NEW YORKER, March 6, 1995, p. 127: "Artist of Death" by Terrence Rafferty. It's PECKINPAH. I've added it to my spell checker, and Dick, you should do the same. However, I must say that I like PECKINPAW a good deal better personally. This spelling stuff just drives me berzerk sometimes! @wild man@ To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/03 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:47 AM Steve: Yeah, I'd noticed we stumbled there on old Sam's name. It does seem just a BIT a**l retentive for CERTAIN PEOPLE to point it out so vigorously, however. We have spell checker on this? I can't find the 'on' button. Dick in Alaska where he was knocked out of the 6th grade spelling bee on the word 'cabinet' To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/03 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 12:47 PM Dick, Your note has made me realize/recall that Glanton and Judge Holden are not the same person. Nobody ever accused McCarthy of being simple to follow. I think I agree with you about finding God in the kid near the end of the book. But the God of this novela and of this nature is definitely an Old Testament God, one of harsh justice and swift vengeance. That's about all I can think of as a response. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/3/95 2:54AM CT To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 08/03 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 12:47 PM Ruth, I should have been clearer: I don't mean to say that in order for our reasoning to be valid, we had to be created POOF! I don't see evolution as necessarily in conflict with the concept of a Supreme Being who created All. But if we weren't created some way, then our thoughts are simply random chemical impulses, and whatever order we impose on them in the name of reason came from the same random system. What I'd say (ultimately) is that Creation ex nihlo (I hope I spelled that right--latin for out of nothing) in whatever form, is an amazing thought, and one that the evolutionists admit is a possibility when they say they can't explain where THE singularity came from. McCarthy is an unusual novelist in that his work seems to be almost wholly UNautobiographical. I'm not inclined to think that the judge is McCarthy or that McCarthy even agrees with what the judge has to say. But since he's such a recluse, I don't have any proof of that. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/3/95 3:02AM CT To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/03 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:49 PM Dear Marty and All, I think that BLOOD MERIDIAN is a wonderful thought-provo- king book, but I am having a difficult time reading more than 20 to 30 pages a day because of the violence. At the beginning there were many scenes of the men riding through Mexico. The violence was somewhat limited (even if it was horrifying). But then I got to Chapter 13 with the massa- cre of the Tiguas, the killing at the cantina, "the village decimated", and the mowing down of the mounted lancers. In addition, we have the debauchery of the banquet in Chihuahua. I know that some of you are Viet Nam vets, and I do not want to offend any of you. Are any of these mass- acres reminiscent of the atrocities in Viet Nam? The ban- quet reminds me in a way of the teenagers that I have in my classes. A great number of them are quite proud of "getting wasted" on the weekends. They, therefore, are not in any way reponsible for their actions, because "I was drunk, man". I have reached p. 188, and to me the most chilling part so far is when the judge picks up the Apache child. Some of us who are naive believe that perhaps he is going to save this baby. But no. Even one of the men is sickened by his actions. I was also a tiny bit pleased that Toadvine dis- agreed with the killing of the Tiguas. He said "Them sons of bitches aint botherin nobody." Of course, it did not stop him from participating in the massacre. I am fascinated with this book even though the horror is ever escalating. How could the judge fall so far - a man with all of his talents? He seems at first the epitome of civilization (Lucifer?) Jane who just came back from seeing the Rockies defeat those pesky Dodgers. Yay!!! =============== Reply 2 of Note 2 =================  
To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 08/04 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 1:18 AM Maria, I agree with you about the parodic potential of McCarthy's writing. But I still love the stuff. I suggest that if you want more "raillery," read SUTTREE. There's more rousing of the rabble in that book than is contained in BLOOD MERIDIAN, and most of the book is written in the darkly comic vein which so ennobled Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/3/95 11:45PM CT =============== Reply 3 of Note 2 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 08/04 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 1:58 AM Jane, As I think I might have said before, recall that the preacher that the judge runs out of town quite early in the book claims that the judge is the devil incarnate. I'm inclined to agree generally with this preacher's statements. I'm wondering still--what McCarthy's trying to prove here. Any thoughts on the epilogue yet? >>> Those who know him say that McCarthy is a genial warm, and outgoing fellow. Highly intelligent but personable. With a small group of close friends. Also, it's reported that at literary gatherings (i.e., the MacArthur Foundation dinners) where other folks are present, McCarthy is apt to ignore the other writers and instead hang out with the scientists, etc. He says in his only published interview that of all the things that are important to him, writing is way down at the bottom of the list. Somehow, I believe that he's being slightly...modest...here, since he's done almost nothing but write and read for his entire adult life. Also, an interesting tidbit: for a long period of time, his books (his library) was stored in rented lockers at a bus station somewhere. And it was apparently a substantial library. The fascination factor you mention is one of the things that has puzzled me about this book. BLOOD MERIDIAN is the most violent book I have ever read, without question. Even so, repulsed as I was, I kept returning to it. I'm not sure why. But when I got to the end and read the judge's comments, I wondered seriously if McCarthy weren't onto something. Because, you see, I had finished the book. Does that imply that I, like the kid, was born with a mindless thirst for violence? A side note: I don't know anyone who has ever begun this book who stopped reading it before they finished. My aunt in particular hated this book and said that it had no point at all--but she finished it. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/4/95 12:51AM CT =============== Reply 4 of Note 2 =================  
To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 08/04 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:33 AM Maria & All: Speaking of styles that ask to be parodied, I was at a used paperback store recently and found a bargain copy of Henry Miller's long-unpublished first (I think) novel, CRAZY COCK, which contains sections such as the following... *** Her perplexity was perplexing. Mask of a mask. Sphinx and Chimera joined in a protean act. The riddle remained a riddle, the riddle became a gladiator massacring the table, a stone-faced automaton with the lungs of a gorilla and bellows in his entrails. "Hildred!" he yelled. "Hildred!" Voice like a lion's yawn, deep, red mouth choked with rhododendrons. "I'll fix him," said Hildred, rising quickly with white-surging anger. *** Say what? >>Dale (perplexed by the perplexity of Hildred's perplexity, though happily not choked with rhododendrons) in Ala., who'll take Cormac any time =============== Reply 5 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 08/04 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 5:21 PM Dear Shaman, hoo, ha! The one thing I could get behind was Hildred's intention to fix him. I'd think the same thing, if I were Hildred. =============== Reply 6 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 08/04 From: SHMF23A THOM HANSER Time: 9:59 PM Dale, Miller started Crazy Cock in 1927, and the original title was Lovely Lesbians. kyb =============== Reply 7 of Note 2 =================  
To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/04 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 10:07 PM Marty Your last paragraph (about finishing BLOOD MERIDIAN) was right on the mark. I'm about 100 pages in, have repeatedly wondered why I'm still reading, and have no intention of putting it down. Actually, I do know why - McCarthy's description is something to behold. Makes me forgive the absense of quotation marks... Peggy, who still hasn't cracked ALL THE PRETTY HORSES =============== Reply 8 of Note 2 =================  
To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 08/05 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 4:34 AM Peggy, You have inadvertently raised a question. Why do you think McCarthy's books are sparse on the punctuation, especially the quotation marks? --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/5/95 3:21AM CT =============== Reply 9 of Note 2 =================  
To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/05 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 10:57 AM Marty Nothing inadvertent about it. I've been pondering the punctuation question since page one... Peggy =============== Reply 10 of Note 2 =================  
To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 08/05 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 12:57 PM I think McCarthy is telling a story where the people, life, society and even the land itself has been stripped down (literally throughout much of the book) to the rawest and barest essentials. In this regard, the lack of punctuation simply reflects the spare, desiccated nature of the story itself. It also seems to me that removing the punctuation flattens and deemphasizes the speech -- in my mind I hear most of the words in the story without inflection (except of course the judge....) or as if from far away, barely reaching me through a wind. Finally, (more movie comparisons), Sergio Leone wouldn't need no stinkin' quotation marks.... Dick in "Alaska" =============== Reply 11 of Note 2 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/05 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 1:43 PM Dick, I hear the language aloud in my head, too. I think you're absolutely right about the flatness and stripped down quality of the writing. The lack of commas, etc., emphasizes the stream of conscious dreamlike feeling one gets reading this. It almost seems like a person half-asleep, half-awake is narrating a trance he is experiencing. Sherry who read the book months ago, but who can still shudder at some of the scenes. =============== Reply 12 of Note 2 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/06 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 12:41 PM Dick, Sergio Leone, indeed, no quotation marks at all, just subtitles-and Clint Eastwood. I finished BLOOD MERIDIAN this morning, and looked up (literally) from the book to see on CBS Sunday Morning pictures of Nagasaki victims. Life punctuates art. I think you are right about the seamless effect of leaving out most punctuation. The book is an effort, I think, to re-create in the reader EVERYTHING the author thought and felt on the subject of human capacity for violence and evil. The much-commented-on accretion of violent incidents and the exhaustive description thereof accomplish this, and the effect would not be the same with quotation marks all over the place. Going back to the parallel between this book and the pictures of atomic war victims, the only moral or ethical lesson I can draw from either is that the capacity for evil in man is limitless and incremental. The kid in the book may have prefigured the man he would become in his taste for mindless violence, but he had to take the first step, then all the others. So again, as in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and THE CROSSING, a journey across illimitable distances and through repeated experiences hammers home a collection of feelings and thoughts which collectively convey the author's feelings and thoughts with a completeness which is the mark of a major artist. Several times I have read or heard that McCarthy's language takes the role of another character in his books; that is certainly the case here. It is the combination of words and their endless (seemingly) variation and permutation that augment the actions and words of the characters. Here is one passage at random: When they rode out in the morning it was still dark. Lightning stood in ragged chains far to the south, silent, the staccato mountains bespoken blue and barren out of the void. [p. 175 Vintage] The landscape itself is a character, described with a high resolution of detail, and always described in words which both in form and substance underscore the immensity of the land and the frail insignificance of the men. With a sense, always, of dark, of brooding, of harshness. Marty has remarked that nobody starts this book without finishing, and I can see why. This book doesn't interrupt your life, it takes it over; like the wedding guest, I could not choose but hear. My comments here are as puny as any of his characters against the scale of McCarthy's prose. Needing a good old Disney movie, Felix Miller To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/06 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:41 PM Dick, About the punctuation (or lack thereof) in BLOOD MERIDIAN: I had an American Lit teacher who I conned into reading ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. She loved the book, and when I asked her why the normal punctuation was lacking, she said that it had to do, she thought, with the look of the books. Physically. Her comment was that "poets have been concerned about the way their work looks on paper for centuries" and that McCarthy's work was in some ways more poem than novel. I think I'd have to agree with her, and state further that McCarthy seems to me to be harkening back to an older epic tradition in the literature of the West. That can be seen not only in the relentless focus on one character, a la Homer, but also in the elevated style of the language. Another question I've been pondering: why pick the American West? One could argue that Faulkner did for the Southern novel all that was possible, and that McCarthy moved (physically and thematically) so that he could do for the West what Faulkner did for the South. That is, give it a mythology all his own. One of the great themes of American Lit has always been the westward journey--you see it everywhere from THE GREAT GATSBY to Cooper's work in THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES and back again to Faulkner's journey motif in AS I LAY DYING. In these works, the East is civilized, but the West is wild, untamed. I'm wondering about McCarthy's place in this regard, and also about his relation to other western writers and filmmakers. I do believe that the comments comparing his work with that of Sergio Leone and Peckinpah are extremely valid, especially since his second wife (I think it was her, but it could have been his first) said that he had always wanted to write the Great American Western. My question is: has he done it (either with BLOOD MERIDIAN or somethinmg since)? My reading of westerns is almost nil, so I'm not sure how he fits in with Cooper and that bunch. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/6/95 2:25PM CT =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/06 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:41 PM Dick, One more thing about the dialogue: it's some of the best I've ever read, particularly in the Border books (I mean to say that I think McCarthy is getting better at it). There were a few sections in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, for example, that baffled me as to who was saying what--until I read them aloud. Then the language and the characters behind it leapt off the pages. I don't recall having that experience much before McCarthy. I'm positing that the lack of quotes, while giving the book a certain spareness, forces you to pay more attention to the dialogue than you otherwise might. We may be coming at the same conclusion from two different perspectives. You say that the lack of punctuation flattens the book, but I'd say that the lack of said markings elevates the dialogue to the same status as the rest of the narrative. And that's another thing: sometimes, it's difficult to tell when the narrator stops talking and a character starts. I think that could very well be intentional. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/6/95 2:30PM CT =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/06 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 3:41 PM Felix, One critic, remarking on the lyrical beauty of ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and its much less violent plot (that book has been dubbed by some as Cormac-Lite), said something to the effect that BLOOD MERIDIAN must have been the book that McCarthy used to purge himself of his demons. Maybe much truth in that comment. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/6/95 2:33PM CT =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/06 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 5:26 PM Marty I think your teacher may have nailed the quotation question - try adding the marks mentally and tell me it doesn't make a big difference in the prose. I have just this afternoon finished BLOOD MERIDIAN, and still can't believe I stayed with it. What struck me most was how the Kid seemed to vanish throughout the novel's midsection, mentioned in only passing, if at all. It was as if he had disappeared into the maw of some death-dealing desert beast, then disgorged on the opposite shore. (Not unlike this reader!) Thanks for the ride, Marty, I'm sure I wouldn't have found this one on my own... Peggy =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/06 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 6:30 PM Felix, I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed your Note on BLOOD MERIDIAN. A really fine little commentary! Thank you. Your pal, Steve =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/06 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:25 PM Felix: A first rate note on Blood Meridian; I think your use of the word "seamless" to describe the way the lack of punctuation melded dialogue into the prose was exactly right. It was what I MEANT to say, but didn't in my note. It's as if the dialogue becomes part of the scenery, folded and flowing like the mineral formations McCarthy is so very fond of describing. Anyway, I really enjoyed your note. Dick in Alaska, where he just did to a golf course what the Glanton and the judge did to those poor Mexicans =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/07 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 8:59 PM Dick, Steve etal. One more comment on McCarthy and completing his books. Somewhere above, in this long and winding thread, Marty commented on the compulsion to finish Blood Meridian, specifically. I believe I may have the world's record on time elapsed in finishing a McCarthy, or perhaps any other, book. In 1969, I bought Outer Dark, on the recommendation of some folks at a cocktail party who raved about their friend from Knoxville who had written a prize-winning book and then followed with another sure-to-be-celebrated second novel. I read about 100 pages, and found the book too weird for me. I put it on the bookshelf, where it stayed (I never dispose of books, even weird ones) for twenty years. (Not the same shelf, actually, since we moved three times) Then, in 1989, I watched an interview with Shelby Foote in which he described McCarthy without hesitation as the greatest living novelist in America. I pulled Outer Dark off the shelf and completed it in a week or so. (I did have to start it over, my memory being unequal to such a caesura) This past Sunday, I completed my personal McCarthy journey (excepting only the play) with Blood Meridian. Foote was right. It just took me somewhat longer than usual to come to the same conclusion. Glacially slow on the Mountain, Felix =============== Reply 8 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/07 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 8:59 PM All, Last Thursday afternoon I spent some time with a former humanities professor of mine, who is elderly and dying of cancer and myestenio gravis (forgive me if I misspelled this disease). She has become incapable of reading due to two strokes, but her mind is still as lucid as ever. I took THE CROSSING with me and read her the rector's story to Billy Parham (137-58). She wrote me a thank-you note, which I got in the mail today. She recommended a book to me--called A VISION OF TRAGEDY by Sewell, she believes. Her comments were in part: McCarthy maybe has never read Sewell, but he certainly understands and embodies one of the principles that I think I remember comes from Sewell--that PAIN rises to the elevated (Aeschylus-like) level of human SUFFERING only when it has been reflected upon, has been made the subject of introspection, in short has been SPIRITUALIZED. Sure fits the fitful agony of that story, doesn't it? *** I thought that some of you might like to comment on her comments, either as they apply to that section of THE CROSSING or as they might relate to BLOOD MERIDIAN. Also, how many of you noticed the Tarot card scene in BLOOD MERIDIAN? I just read an esay in the Sepich book that explains it and the judge's motivation for killing the kid at novel's end. I'll elaborate, but I'd like to hear your comments first. Also, the recurring question: what's the point of the epilogue, and who is the man striking fire from the earth? And what is literally happening? >>> Hopefully I'll add more later this evening, since I'm still stumbling through the book. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/7/95 7:58PM CT =============== Reply 9 of Note 1 =================  
To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/07 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:20 PM Marty, I'll be interested in any light you can bring to the judge's obsession (I think that is not too strong a word) with the kid throughout this book. The judge cannot leave the kid alone, and early on, shortly after their second meeting,(I don't have a hope of finding the passage) comments on his "disappointment" in the kid in the earlier meeting. And then, after many years, in a chance (or is it?) encounter, the judge brings their long duet to a foul and horrible close. Is the kid some sort of unlikely innocent who the judge has to destroy because he has been unable to win him over to some dark side? I don't know. The epilogue threw me into an even more confused state than I was already. Other than the image (once more) of a spanning of a barren plain (with bones-isn't there a passage in some prophet about a valley of bones? Ah, my misspent Sundays) I don't see any connection with the text gone before. Confused on the tame Mountain, Felix =============== Reply 10 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/07 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 11:32 PM Felix, Let me say first that I think that all of us ahve come very close to the point of this book, though none of us may have known it or been able to point it out. Reading the criticism I've been reading, it seems to me that almost all the points being made here are echoed in what the critics have to say, but they generally do a better job of telling us where we ought to have looked to prove our thoughts, as it were. >>> Your assumption that the kid is some innocent who must be destroyed because outside the judge's purview seems right to me. I think the judge demonstrates as much when he draws in his book then destroys that which he's drawn. And Sepich, in his essay on the Tarot makes a point of saying that he believes that the judge does not lie late in the book when he says that the kid has "shown mercy to the heathen." (I think those are the judge's exact words, but I don't feel like looking them up.) He goes on to say that it's strange that the kid is never shown exercising such mercy (but as Steve, I think, pointed out, the kid does refrain, late in the novel, from killing someone until actually threatened--Sepich missed that). Sepich also says that the judge and the kid are inextricably bound by fire--one of the central themes of the novel. Without too much detail, Sepich goes into the kid's association with the Leonids--page 1--and says that the year of the kid's birth was known, due to the Leonids, as the year it rained fire in many of the histories of the period. He also mentions the judge's walking through the fire in the Tarot scene and the fact that the judge sees the kid just after he (the kid) and Toadvine have torched the hotel. Re: the epilogue, see my next note. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/7/95 9:29PM CT =============== Reply 11 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/07 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 11:32 PM Felix, The epilogue threw me for a loop, too. Then I read (and reread and reread--because it was difficult) an essay by Leo Daugherty that appears in PERSPECTIVES ON CORMAC MCCARTHY. Called "Gravers False and True: BLOOD MERIDIAN as Gnostic Tragedy," the essay deals specifically with the epilogue (among other things). Background info on the Gnostics, needed to understand the essay--in the essay but condensed herewith: >>> The Gnostics believed that God did not create the universe. Rather, the universe was created by some evil demi-gods who stole some of the Divine essence from God and imprisoned it in the physical universe. Thus, all matter is evil, the spirit the only good. The only interaction that God has with humans is that from time to time, he sends messengers here who try to help us free our spirits from the evil matter so that we may return to God. When we fight the capriciousness of the demi-gods, then we encounter what the Gnostics would call fate. Now, Daugherty posits that this philosophical thought underlies the whole book. Thus, the man in the epilogue represents one of the messengers sent from God...who is striking fire from the earth, literally freeing the divine spark imprisoned in the matter. The people following him don't look for his message; they just stumble around in darkness. As to the literal events, he says that this guy is a posthole digger, digging holes to help fence in the range. Daugherty also spends considerable time on the scene where the judge encounters the graver (coinmaker) and refuses to let his image be cast into metal (that's a dream of the kid's, I believe). He says this represents the judge's unwillingness to enter any system of commerce. Because commerce, you see, leads to bloodless war, war without sacrifice, war without war. Interesting, I think. Then he goes to the epilogue (and after saying that all of what he says may be BS) proceeds to say that Cormac in this respect is like the judge--he won't enter the stream of commerce--that is he refuses to help publicize his own work. He then posits that the man of the epilogue may be McCarthy some way. To quote: "...The man in the epilogue, as he moves over the landscape digging holes and striking his God's fire in them, is the exact antithesis of the false `graver' of the kid's dream who seeks the judge's favor through a different sort of line drawing. And just as the judge (although unbeknownst to the graver) does not want to `pass' in the civilized world, but wants only war, victory, and then more war in the unending night of fallen matter, so the man of the epilogue cares nothing for playing and winning in the judge's world (for to win is to lose there just as much as to lose is to lose), but wants only the `pursuit of his continuance' in the service of what he takes to be the good and right way to go [because called by the non-creator God to do so--the posthole digger and the novelist, here, says Daugherty elsewhere]. Neither the man nor the judge [nor the author, the critic has implied] will enter the exchange system." One other quote from this essay, just for fun: "In 1604 London, a long forgotten storyteller . . . implied that the secret of HAMLET's fineness is that in Shakespeare, `the comedian rides when the tragedian strands on tiptoe.' (Continued next note).... =============== Reply 12 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/07 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 11:32 PM "There are precious few writers of whom one could say this, but one can say it of the writer of BLOOD MERIDIAN. In major consequence of his mastery of the high tragedian's art, Cormac McCarthy has become the best and most indispensable writer of English-language narrative in the second half of the century." --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/7/95 10:26PM CT =============== Reply 13 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 08/08 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 6:09 AM For what help it may be, Felix, it is in Ezekiel, Chapter 37, Verses 1 et seq. The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, thou knowest." Again he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." Now do you remember, Felix? Does this ring a bell? Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. " " " " " " Now heah de word of de Lawd! See you in church, partner. Your pal, Steve =============== Reply 14 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/08 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:22 PM Steve, Felix, Marty & All: There are many bones in this book. The judge's lecture on the fossil femur (p. 251-252, Vintage); Chapter XXIII, just before the kid meets the young men is rife with bones and bonepickers. And those were just the one's I could find in an instant; I think there's a load more if you look. In terms of the epilogue, take a look at the quotations at the front of the book: Paul Valery, the French symbolist poet (Jim and Maria: help! I just ran out of almost my entire store of information on this subject) -- I think the notions and techniques of the Symbolist movement have some application to what McCarthy was doing and how he did it. Second quote by Jacob Boehm -- had to look this guy up, and here's a short blurb on him: German religious mystic (1575-1624) was a student of the Bible, follower of Paracelsus and believed himself divinely inspired. Describes God as the abyss, the nothing and the all, the primoridal depths from which the creative will struggles forth to find manifestation and self-consciousness. Evil is the result of the sritving of single elements of Deity to become the whole (!); conflict ensues as man and nature strive to achieve God who, in himself, contains all antithetical principles. Any if this ring any bells? According to the encyclopedia, he had much influence on later German philosophers including Schilling, Hegel and Schopenhauer. Finally, we have the quote from the Yuma Sun: more bones, and closing the loop on primitive versus modern violence. This book is so darned INTERESTING to me; I keep putting it down, and you guys post more notes, and I get drawn back into it. My latest mini-revelation came in re-reading the last part of Chapter XXII: first, the kid's delirious dream or vision of the judge: does this sound like the stuff from Boehm I just typed out, or what? Also, we see a mysterious stranger in the shadows who looks alot like that pesky post-hole digger in the epilogue; finally, I was overwhelmed by the closing scenes of the chapter: the penitantes staggering through this God-forsaken wilderness, flagellating themselves, only to be set upon and killed with savagery even they might have found surprising. What point intentional human suffering, when God will provide all the suffering you can stand, gratis? The kid appears moved by this scene (is this the first human gesture we see the kid make in the book?) and approaches what he believes to be an old lady who has survived the attack; he speaks to her, offering to help her escape this desolate country and gets no response. No puede eschucharme? he asks (can't you hear me?, I think) Of course she is long dead; a wizened, dried out husk, mummified by years of exposure to the desert air. In that few pages, we see the fullness of human futility: the futility of the self-inflicted pain in search of a far distant God, who will visit you with pain soon enough in any event; and the futility of the kid's offer of assistance to the dead woman; this last futile because it came too late to help in life, and because, in the end, all such "help" is futile anyway. I think this was the scene in which the judge lost the kid, and where it became necessary for the kid to die. Dick in Alaska, who is beginning to wish this book would leave me ALONE for awhile =============== Reply 15 of Note 1 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/08 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 6:29 PM Dick, Your Spanish is better than mine, I'm sure, since I don't speak the language, but NOTES ON BLOOD MERIDIAN translates that passage thusly: Grandma, he said. Cant you hear me? Now I'll really confuse you...I found this in a footnote in NOTES last evening (the book is as comprehensive an analysis of BLOOD MERIDIAN as any I've yet seen, and it is clearly the work of someone who could not get away from the book): >>> BLOOD MERIDIAN's Paul Valery epigraph is from his essay "The Yalu," "written during the first Sino-Japanese war," and are [sic] among the words spoken to a European Valery persona by a Chinese companion regarding the differences between Eastern and Western concepts of order and disorder. A sense of the range of ideas included in this statement of the Eastern (Chinese) perception of the West, ideas which McCarthy explores in his novel, may be suggested in the following passages excerpted from the long paragraph concluded by the epigraph: "In your land, power can do nothing. Your politics consists in changes of heart; it leads to general revolution, and then to reaction against revolution, which is another revolution." "For you, intelligence is not one thing among many. You neither prepare nor provide for it, nor protect nor repress nor direct it; you worship it as if it were an omnipotent beast. Every day it devours everything. It would like to put an end to a new state of society every evening. A man intoxicated on it believes his own thoughts are legal decisions." "You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time." *** I'll have more to say later about the rest of your note. But it seems to me that this epigraph may in fact refer directly to the judge. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/8/95 5:23PM CT =============== Reply 16 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 08/08 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 7:38 PM Humor me if this idea sounds a bit off-the-wall, OK? Especially in light of the wonderfully substantive discussion y'all are having here about BLOOD MERIDIAN. I'm really enjoying it, though I haven't had time to re-read the book and my memory's way too bad to participate. BUT... It's obvious that the CONTENT of McCarthy's writing (especially the books before the Border trilogy) is the stuff of nightmares, perhaps BLOOD MERIDIAN most of all. But I've long thought that the STYLE of the writing, and the many offbeat technical choices he makes, is so close to the form of a nightmare that the similarity can't be accidental. Even things as simple as the lack of quote marks, and the way dialogue butts up against description just enough to unsettle you. A regular feature of bad dreams (mine, at least) is a nagging confusion about just who's talking or where a voice is coming from, or even whether you're thinking something to yourself or saying it out loud. Likewise the constant air of foreboding and threat, even when there's nothing disturbing in plain view. Also the sense of inevitability, that there's no way out until the conclusion. And the distortion of time, so that some unexceptional events are stretched wa-a-a-y out and momentous ones happen in the blink of an eye. Also the recurring theme of totally bizarre events happening with nobody but the protagonist taking notice, as if they're an everyday thing. I wish I had the academic background to make a better argument of this, but does it ring a bell with anybody here? >>Dale in Ala., who has some humdinger nightmares, the best of which sometimes come with a title and closing credits. (No kidding. An occupational hazard, I guess. I don't want to imagine what Cormac's must be like.) =============== Reply 17 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 08/09 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:30 AM Dale, I find myself REWRITING my dreams, or at least reworking them. I will be actually deciding, no, it would work better this way, or let me try it from this angle. This is all visual, by the way, not words on paper. Your idea of nightmare sequence might well be valid. Kipling certainly wrote them, and very vivid they were. Cathy =============== Reply 18 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 08/09 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:45 AM Cathy: Are you saying you amend your dreams WHILE they're happening, rather than the morning after? This brings to mind a fascinating subject I wish I knew more about, called "lucid dreaming." Supposedly, with enough practice, we can learn to reach a sort of twilight state in which we both observe and guide a dream at the same time. Anybody here had experience with that? >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 19 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 08/09 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:33 AM My wife claims she can direct her dreams in exactly the fashion described by Cathy: I not only cannot do that (I can wake up screaming, if that counts) I never heard of it before the current wife, and now Cathy. Is this yet another thing us guys can't do at all? Dick in Alaska, where he's definitely feeling chromosomally disenfranchised this morning =============== Reply 20 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/09 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 4:55 PM Dick: I think you're onto something, with the gender aspects of "lucid dreaming." All the illustrations in the catalog I have (from The Lucidity Institute in--surprise-- California) show thin, ethereal-looking blonde females floating through the astral realms in their translucent undies. Not a chromosome of my variety in the bunch. The founder of the institute is a male, however, and offers this enlightenment in the foreword: *** Lucid dreaming means dreaming with full awareness that you are dreaming. It most often occurs when you realize in the middle of a dream that you are dreaming. Many people have had this experience at least once, often awakening immediately after the realization. It is possible to remain in a dream for up to an hour while being aware that you are dreaming. This is lucid dreaming. The onset of lucidity usually brings with it some degree of enhanced control over the course of the dream. How much control is possible varies from dream to dream, and from dreamer to dreamer. Through practice, you can develop increased skill at directing your dreams. At the least, in a lucid dream you can choose how you wish to respond to the dream events. Even a small amount of control can transform a dream from an experience of helplessness and frustration into the delight of forgetting the cares and concerns of waking life to enjoy complete freedom. And those who can achieve mastery of lucid dreaming gain the power to create any world, and to live out fantasies, limited only by their imaginations. *** The "Complete Dreamlight Technology Package," by the way, including a high-tech eye mask with REM-detecting computer chip, will run you $1,200. >>Dale in Ala., who responds to intense dreams in the tried-and-true fashion of waking up screaming =============== Reply 21 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 08/09 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 5:14 PM Cathy, Dale and Richard Count me as another "lucid dreamer" - I remember being surprised when I found out it didn't work that way for everyone. I also have very vivid dreams, and am frequently surprised (and relieved) to wake up in my own bed. Just to keep this book related - Dale, I like the notion that BLOOD MERIDIAN reads like a bad dream. I don't see McCarthy actually sitting down and doing it deliberately; but that's sure how it wound up. Peggy, who last night dreamed of breeding Bassett Hounds??? =============== Reply 22 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/09 From: JYLG99A E MARTINI-WIENER Time: 5:37 PM I too can change a dream when it becomes too scary. My husband on the other hand can not even remember his dreams and does not know whether he dreams in color or b/w. Any input? Elisabeth =============== Reply 23 of Note 1 =================  
To: JYLG99A E MARTINI-WIENER Date: 08/09 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 9:46 PM There must be a decent book on dreams since Freud, but I don't know what it is off hand. Actually, I like the "lucid dreaming" format of that guy in California: found an institute, surround yourself with ethereal young things and presto! your dreams are coming true. 'Course the wife would whack me with a solid object until I was dreaming of a chiropractor, but still.... Dick in Alaska, where his dreams are colorized =============== Reply 24 of Note 1 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/09 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:51 PM Well, I finally finished BLOOD MERIDIAN yesterday. I mentioned in another note that I could read only 20-30 pages of this book a day. So I was reading a mystery, THE RED SCREAM, by Mary Willis Walker, at the same time for en- tertainment. You might find it interesting to learn that the mystery novel was about a serial killer, and I found it much less horrifying than BLOOD M. The latter seemed more real. I always knew I was reading a novel while I was reading SCREAM, but not with BLOOD. Dale, you are so right about the nightmarish quality of this book. Here are some questions and random thoughts that I had a- bout BLOOD M. 1) The use of colors is interesting. The colors are sombre and the clothes are dark and tat- tered. This is why the dance scene struck me: "In their stained peignoirs, in their green stockings and melon- colored drawers they drifted through the smoky oil light like makebelieve wantons, at once childlike and lewd." Dale - A true nightmare, n'est-ce pas? 2) Of the 23 chapters in the book, the first 11 seem to build to a crescendo of violence in chapter 12. Then the violence tapers off in the last 11. It is still there but not on every other page as in chapter 12. 3) I don't think anyone has talked about the fool that follows the judge around. This is so reminiscent of the Middle Ages with the king and his fool. Only the judge seems to be a false king and the fool is both a true and a false fool. He is a true fool in that he is mentally han- dicapped, and he is a false fool in that fools in the Middle Ages were really individuals who survived by their wits. 4) What does everyone think about Glanton's dog? If I remember correctly there is a dog that follows the boy in THE CROSSING. Glanton seems fond of the dog and even jeal- ous of his affections. He does not like it when the dog is interested in others. Does this mean that Glanton has one or two good qualities? What a fine and difficult book!!! Jane who went to THE TATTERED COVER today to buy some books that chere gail recommended. (LAST DAY OF FREEDOM) =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 08/10 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:56 PM Jane, Congratulations on making it through the nightmare. Colors are very well used in this book (as is everything else). I'm not sure exactly what to make of them though. They are indeed sombre and bleak, and contrast with the vibrant quality of nature. Remember the St. Elmo's Fire on the beards of the men...luminous. Your comments about the fool are interesting. I'm thinking about them. I do think it's very relevant that the judge offers them no protection; they follow him anyway (I assume that you refer to the clown and his family...there may be another fool later in the book that I don't recall). Glanton's dog does make an interesting contrast with the dog in THE CROSSING...but I've got to finish BLOOD MERIDIAN again before I comment more about that. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 8/10/95 3:14AM CT =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Date: 08/11 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:26 PM Jane: It seemed to me that the fool (I thought of him as the "idiot" in the mental retardation sense) occupied basically the same relationship to the judge as did the dog to Glanton. The judge, however, was a "superior" sort of fascist in that he kept a human as a pet, and not a mere canine. Also you'll note the judge is not sentimental over his pet, as Glanton is over his. For the judge, a drooling idiot on the end of a horse-hair leash is an object of curiousity, as well as something perversely decorative (not to mention cinematic...) with which to march naked through the desert. I think it would also please the judge's sense of irony that he had spared the idiot, even cared for it, when he had also been instrumental in the death and torture of so many "whole" human beings. Yes, I think that would have made the judge smile, maybe even laugh out loud. Is Glanton's affection for the dog a redeeming feature? Since it seems merely sentimental and not compassionate in any deeper sense, I wouldn't give him much credit. Remember Arendt and the banality of evil stuff: even Uncle Adolph liked his dog. And finally, I very much liked the use of colors in the book. I haven't reviewed the book (for the umpteenth time) to check on this, but it seemed to me there was a unitary theme here: virtually all the colors can be derived from the human body in life or death: red, black, yellow, brown, etc. Of course, those are the colors of the desert as well, so maybe I'm reaching here. And maybe McCarthy should drop over to Nordstrom's and have his colors done. Dick in Alaska, where he glanced at the Codescru book yesterday, and is still blushing =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 08/12 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 7:43 PM Dick, I agree with you about the judge and his fool being like Glanton and his dog. I almost got the sense of the fool and the dog being "familiars", or am I reading too much into this? Evil does seem to pervade the judge and Glanton. Jane who just saw the movie KIDS and found it to be very disturbing. =============== Note 7 =================  
To: ALL Date: 08/27 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:57 PM A few more thoughts on BLOOD MERIDIAN: I've only just realized that it was just over one month ago that Marty began the thread on this book -- which is now closed, so I have to post my reactions in a new note. I was two weeks behind the rest of you in reading BLOOD M., and another two weeks late in posting on it. Ah well --the plus side is that I got the benefit of reading a complete discussion immediately after finishing it: an inestimable boon, given that this is easily the most thought-provoking book I've read in recent memory. I would certainly not have read it under any other circumstances, since it's quite outside my normal line. And I think that you will all agree that this is a literary journey that's best taken in good company. One sentiment I saw repeated a few times that I can echo myself is that BLOOD M. (the straight abbreviation is a bit problematical, isn't it?) pulls you in and won't let go in spite of the horrors it depicts, and the agonies (richly deserved though they may be) that McCarthy inflicts upon his characters. (I have to believe that this book must have been something of an agony for its author to produce - more than the "normal" agony involved in novel-writing, at least.) His punctuational eccentricities took me some time to get used to (though the many sentence fragments that occur jarred me a little each time I found one), but as the chapters wore on they did become more natural -- all of a piece with the stark tone of the novel in general. I have to admit that it wasn't until I read the notes in the original thread that I actually realized that commas were so rare (I did find three on one page) and that, as far as I can tell, colons, semicolons and exclamation points are entirely absent. I found this unorthodoxy fairly irritating at first, but I can't escape the con- clusion that it works. Something else that also works is McCarthy's writing. I understand now what people meant when they spoke earlier of his taking risks: this is the sort of prose that has to be done just right. The scenic descriptions, in par- ticular, seemed to just skirt the edge of being overwrought without ever going over. (Astounding, the number of ways he finds to describe mountains.) Likewise, with the similes that are liberally sprinkled throughout the book (the author, it seems, is a man who never metaphor he didn't like. (Sorry.)) The result is writing that is so terrific that by itself it makes the arduous journey worthwhile. I marked a couple instances I was particularly taken with, though I could cite many: All lightly shimmering in the heat, these lifeforms, like wonders much reduced. Rough likenesses thrown up at hearsay after the things themselves had faded in men's minds. (p.75) The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they lay opposed to each other across the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning. (p. 86) That last image is my favorite in the whole book -- small wonder that Ralph Ellison would say that "McCarthy is a writer to be read, admired, and quite honestly -- envied." Out of space and, for now, time. More tomorrow... Allen =============== Reply 1 of Note 7 =================  
To: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Date: 09/04 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 6:23 PM Another thought that just gelled in my mind about BLOOD MERIDIAN. All the while I was reading it, I felt that McCarthy's writing was reminding me of something. I think I've got it now. HENRY MILLER. Before you think I' m nuts, let me elaborate. (I could be wrong bout this. It's been 20 years since I read much MILLER. I was quite taken with him during my midlife crisis, but that's another story.) But from both MILLER and MCCARTHY I get that same sense of dancing with the language, of pushing the hyperbole, getting out on the highwire and courting disaster. What do you think, Marty? Ruth =============== Reply 2 of Note 7 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 09/04 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 7:38 PM Henry Miller??? I'm not sure, since I haven't read him. But I'd lean more towards Faulkner for that business of dancing with the language. Strong influence also from the writing of Hemingway and Twain and Melville, McCarthy's acknowledged favorite writer. The element of language in McCarthy is indeed strong, so much so that the language takes on a force and character all its own. It's as if the language is the point of the story. McCarthy alludes to this pretty explicitly in both THE CROSSING and THE STONEMASON, his play. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 9/4/95 6:37PM CT =============== Reply 3 of Note 7 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 09/05 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:20 PM Richard and Marty: Thanks for the illumination about the German quote. It confirms my suspicion that there's a tre- mendous quantity of subtle meaning McCarthy tucked away in the book for readers to discover, only a tiny bit of which we can hope to uncover here. Dale: It's a great compliment to me that you call my half-formed musings on the judge a "great note." Nice to know that I may be on somewhat the right track, anyway. One more point that occurred to me: near the end of the novel, when the judge is stalking the kid in the bone- filled ravine (another image that will stay with me a long time) he narrowly misses his head with a rifle shot. It seems to me that he must have missed on purpose -- what the judge wants to do, he will, and if he'd wanted to kill the kid, he would have. I think his goal wasn't to kill, but to control -- to extend his "suzerainty" over the one person in the group who he perceived had some bit of sympathy for the Indians. Just thinking out loud.... Allen =============== Reply 4 of Note 7 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/06 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 1:47 AM Allen, Now THAT is a great note. Something I hadn't even thought about, but it rings true. I'm curious as to why this discussion of BLOOD MERIDIAN seems to be ubiquitous and of such substantial duration. I don't recall another book having this much said about it--not on this board, anyway. I apologize for having inflicted McCarthy into the board's collective unconscious, or whatever. But I do think the discussion has been very very good. I promise, however, not to recommend another McCarthy book for the next slo-mo reading group. Unless, of course, I'm forced to by intense pleading from the group. --Marty in Memphis (http://pages.prodigy.com/TN/dctw04a/cormac1.html) 9/6/95 12:34AM CT

 

McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy

 
My initial impression was of an extraordinarily cinematic novel: the sense of space, color and action, the necessity of filling in all internalized or psychological details for yourself, all reminded me strongly of the manner in which a movie imprints itself on the mind.
Dick Haggart
 
This book could be discussed paragraph by paragraph and use up more words than the book itself.
Sherry Keller
 
This book was written with malice of forethought to be a disturbing one. I find it to be even more so as a result of the beautiful language in which it is rendered.
Steve Warbasse

 
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