The picture that McCarthy paints of the west in the Mid 19th century is almost as savage, brutal, and violent that you will probably ever read. The fact that the narrative revolves around a group of militia scalp hunters only adds to the violence. However, for all the sadistic violence, while reading this novel, you have that feeling that you are reading literature at it’s very best. McCarthy’s writing drips with descriptiveness, the landscape he depicts so bleak and desolate that you as the reader almost feel like escaping, never realising that you can, by simply shutting the book, because McCarthy draws you in and has you hooked by your soul.
Even the protagonist who is simply referred to as “the kid” feels like part of the landscape. McCarthy never lets the reader get close to any character in the whole book. In fact, the characters feel like parts of the landscape, brutal vicious parts of a dead landscape, which to me, while reading, seemed to be like some surrealist Dali painting focussing on death. At most points in this book you feel as if you are in some surreal nightmare.
As this group of hunters make their way through this dead landscape, that is exactly how it feels, a black world devoid of life, and when life is found it is must be savagely destroyed before it savagely destroys you.
Many thoughts ran through my mind while reading this book, and I pondered on what McCarthy was trying to achieve. There is no question that this book is a classic, you realise this even after reading the first chapter, but what is McCarthy’s message? Is he giving the reader a depiction of what life in this era and area was really like? Is this an anti-western to dispel the Hollywood representation, or does this book go much deeper? Is it a look into our primal base level and what we are capable of in the wild with no law or consequences to inhibit our actions and instinct?
Unfortunately, I am simply not intelligent enough to fathom exactly what McCarthy’s message is, but the writing is simply stunning. Devoid of punctuation, at times poetic, but always stunningly descriptive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the descriptive portrayal of this brutal world is what makes this book such a classic. It is the writing, not the characters, not the narrative, but the writing, which is so good, that it rises above the other elements of the book.
I feel that while I enjoyed the writing so much there is just too much of this novel that went over my head with just the one reading. Hopefully with further reading my understanding will improve and I will appreciate it even more, if that is possible.
I know that many people refuse to read this novel because of the violence and there is nothing wrong with that at all. If you do not like violence in your reading that is fine. But the violence is so much a part of this novel, so integral to the picture that McCarthy is painting that it would not be the same book without it.
Wow this book is still resonating within my head. 5 Stars.
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
His earlier Blood Meridian (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1925 and 2005 and he placed joint runner-up for a similar title in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner.
In 2009, Cormac McCarthy won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, a lifetime achievement award given by the PEN American Center.
Cormac McCarthy is renowned for not doing interviews and shying away from the press, but there is an interesting interview with Oprah here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3kpzuk1Y8I