It was inevitable. We’re halfway through August. Summer is coming to an end. Take a break from the screens in your life. Is there anything better than unwinding on the porch with a book? The answer is no. There is nothing better. And since you’re making all of these definitive life changes, you might as well go big. We’re reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Or, the Evening Redness in the West. And man, if you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s epic.
It all happens on the Texas-Mexico border during the 1840s. An interesting place now, the southern border of the US 200 hundred years ago was intense. It was a time of American expansiveness, lawlessness and violence. The reader tracks a teenage anti-hero, simply known as “the kid,” through the Southwest. He stumbles on a nightmarish world where Native American hunters have been hired to return Apache scalps for $100 apiece and wants in.
McCarthy knows how to craft a western, but Blood Meridian is a defining work of the genre. Harold Bloom, legendary literary critic and scholar, described Blood Meridian as the “ultimate Western.” In Bloom’s words, “It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have. I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it, that it essentially closes out the tradition.”
Traditionally the American West serves as a symbol of achievement through perseverance and conflict. Blood Meridian is a story of survival and darkness. It’s an intense stagger that presents more questions about the nature of humanity than answers. McCarthy handles themes of conflict, expansion and violence of mankind in a lawless with unmistakable clarity:
“The men as they rode turned black in the sun from the blood on their clothes and their faces and then paled slowly in the rising dust until they assumed once more the color of the land through which they passed.”
McCarthy is in command of a controlled and well-crafted style — natural, complex and dense. Blood Meridian is the work of a master storyteller.