Many have said that Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN is the most violent book written in western literature. Having such a limited knowledge of western literature my opinion probably doesn't count, but of the books I have read in my lifetime, this may very well be the most violent.
However, along with the violence comes some of the must sublime prose that I have ever read. The picture that McCarthy is able to paint in the reader's mind of this group of horseman riding along on what seems an interminable quest for violence and death, is one straight from surrealism.
I have tried to find some of the best passages that describe this group on their travels, to give the reader who declines to read this novel because of the violence, some idea of the brilliance of McCarthy's prose.
"When they rode out in the morning it was still dark. Lightening stood in ragged chains far to the south, silent, the staccato mountains bespoken blue and barren out of the void. Day broke upon a smoking reach of desert darkly clouded where the riders could count five separate storms spaced upon the shores of the round earth. They were riding in pure sand and the horses laboured so hugely that the men were obliged to dismount and lead them, toiling up steep eskers where the wind blew the white pumice from the crests like the spume from sea swells and the sand was scalloped and fraily shaped and nothing else was there save random polished bones."
"They rode out on the north road as would parties bound for El Paso but before they were even quite out of sight of the city they had turned their tragic mounts to the west and they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, towards the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun."
"This town had fallen almost to ruin. Many of the houses stood empty and the presidio was collapsing back into the earth into which it had been raised and the inhabitants seemed themselves made vacant by old terrors. They watched the passing of that bloodstained argosy through their streets with dark and solemn eyes. Those riders seemed journeyed from a legendary world and they left behind a strange tainture like and afterimage on the eye and the air they disturbed was altered and electric. They passed along the ruinous walls of the cemetery where the dead were trestled up in niches and the grounds strewn with bones and skulls and broken pots like some more ancient ossuary."
These are just three brilliant passage. To be honest the whole novel is bursting with the same sublime, surreal prose. I hope that somebody who has passed on this book because of the violence, reads these passages changes their mind and decides to give it a try. Reading this novel is such a rewarding experience.