Blood Meridian: Your First Experience with the Book

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  • 09 Jun 2017 at 9:29 am #9535

    sjreents
    Member

    Hi everyone,

    I posted this earlier, but it got deleted. I’m working on a very short quirky book about Blood Meridian, and I was interested in hearing people’s memories of their first encounter with the novel. I’d also like to know what you found so compelling/obsessive inducing about it.

    I’ve been reading the novel for 25 years. I just got back from retracing the route of the Glanton Gang and the kid through New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Stephanie Reents


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    09 Jun 2017 at 11:57 am #9536

    Mike
    Member

    Stephanie,

    When reading Blood Meridian for the first time it seemed as if I was reading mythology or an epic tale of some sort. Death, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and other important question that the great myths and epics address were covered in Blood Meridian. No other 20th Century novel that I’ve read encompasses the mythic form, narrative, and universal human topics as Blood Meridian. Finally, Blood Meridian and Cormac’s other works don’t operate in the same sphere as every other novel I’ve read that has been published in the English language.


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    10 Jun 2017 at 12:11 am #9537

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    This is a pretty old story, Stephanie – it’s ackcherley been written up in Newsweek, among other places (check out http://www.newsweek.com/cormac-mccarthy-new-book-363027) but here we go again. Fortunately, by now I can tell this one in my sleep – and my wife is getting tired of hearing it.

    Anyway, I was in Australia doing research on the Ozzian Nobel laureate Patrick White back in early 1992 when a colleague of mine in Melbourne mentioned someone named McCarthy. I told him she was okay but getting through Ship of Fools had been a struggle even though I loved the Grateful Dead song by the same name derived from the book. He looked at me with surprise and said “no, no, Cormac Mccarthy.” I’d never heard of him – he was totally out of print in the USA (though not in the Commonwealth where Picador had kept him on the shelves).

    A few days later I was in the Adelaide railroad terminal waiting to catch the Ghan train to Alice Springs and like an idiot had checked all my bags with my books in them. I wandered into the chemists (that’s Commonwealthese for drug store) and checked out the rotating wire rack for something not utterly swinish to read on the impending overnight ride. I found the Picador edition of Blood Meridian. “Oh this is the guy that John recommended,” I thought. I bought the book.

    After dinner my wife and daughter conked out in their berths and I went a car ahead to the parlor car to settle in and read the novel. I got hooked about as quickly as Judge Holden uttered the magic incantation “congress with a goat.” I finished the novel as a blood red sun was rising over the simpson desert, shaken and exhilarated. My first thought on closing the book was “how the fuck did I miss this guy???”


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    10 Jun 2017 at 4:22 pm #9547

    JVH5
    Member

    For me, it was in the summer of 93. My parents invited me along with them to my cousin’s wedding in Toronto Canada. That was where my favourite living poet lived, Christopher Dewdney. He wrote a lot of experimental poetry, including a long prose (nonsense) poem called Permugenesis, which I read obsessively. I decided to phone him to see if he’d be willing to meet. I tracked his number down calling a Toronto directory from the desk job I worked at a truck rental agency in Calgary (also in Canada, but a few thousand kilometres west). He was gracious and accepted. Once in Toronto, I had to tear myself away from my mother, who was worried I was going to my death meeting this strange man. We sat at a high-stooled table at The Victory Cafe (now closed) talking about industrial music and acid trips: me with my notebook writing down his reading suggestions. “There’s this novel by Cormac McCarthy I’m reading,” he told me. “It’s got a tree of dead babies in it.” “Tree of dead babies,” I remember thinking. “I would love that!” So I guess for me it was a case of one literary obsession leading to another.

    I think from the first I loved the novel for both its poetry and its erudition: the way it stimulated both imagination and thought. The seamless fusion of these elements bespeaks buckets of blood, sweat and tears–“You’re shitting bricks, but I’m sweating blood” is a sentence in one of Christopher Dewdney’s poems–so it’s hard for me to separate my admiration for McCarthy’s inspired industry from my love of the erudite poetry of the novel. By “erudition” I mean erudition and by “poetry” I mean both the audiolizable rhythmic and harmonic qualities of the writing and all the visualizable or otherwise sensuous imagery the writing evokes.

    “The night sky lies so sprent with stars that there is scarcely space of black at all and they fall all night in bitter arcs and it is so that their numbers are no less.”

    Sound, vision and thought exceeding conceptualization.


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    10 Jun 2017 at 8:58 pm #9550

    Glass
    Member

    The Rolling Stone interview got me interested in McCarthy and I read Blood Meridian first, which had an effect on me like nothing else I’d ever experienced, except maybe seeing the Grateful Dead live in concert in the 1980s and early ’90s. Changed my life. Good times ensued. Got to meet Rick Wallach, Mike F., John V. and a host of other McCarthy scholars and enthusiasts over the years all over the country.


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    13 Jun 2017 at 10:46 am #9604

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    And we, in turn, got to meet and came to love you and your indefatigable sunrise yellow pickup (RIP) in which, I was to learn years later from an unimpeachable source, you and your wife used to go tornado chasing out on the limitless flatlands of the wheat belt. Whereas most storm chasers’ vehicles are festooned with sensors, antennae and sponsorship decals it was just you and the blonde and a basic little truck against the elements. Downright artisinal, that.

    After years of being charmed by your eloquence and impressed by your critical imagination, who could have guessed you were such a fucking lunatic?


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    14 Jun 2017 at 10:03 pm #9625

    Glass
    Member

    The tornado chasing is a distant memory, much like old yeller. Thanks for the kind words. We hope to be in Austin for the conference.


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    14 Jun 2017 at 11:44 pm #9628

    cantona
    Member

    My first encounter ended in terror, shock, and a long estrangement. Almost Bloomian (Harold, not Leopold) in its visceral reaction to the horror contained. It was, I dunno, around Christmas 1996 or thereabouts. I somehow managed to catch a particularly virulent strain of flu that was going around. So in the first throes of the illness, I – sweaty, weak, pathetic, – began to read Blood Meridiam, eagerly bought after falling in love with the McCarthy of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. I remember thinking, while reading the first fifty pages or so, that this is quite possibly the best opening to a book I’ve ever read, and the most psychologically unsettling. I fell asleep soon after the famed Commanche raid passage. For almost two days and nights, I wrestled (manfully, of course) with the elephant-downing bug that was attacking my body and what seemed an endless series of fever-book-induced nightmares and hallucinations. I cannot tell you how many times I was tortured, disemboweled, decapitated, etc. I will save the recounting of the numerous sexual violations for a long-deferred, but very much needed, session with a psychoanalyst.

    Lion-hearted geezer that I am, it took me years to go back to the book proper, and finish it. Since then, I’ve read it numerous times. I would say that I prefer other books by McCarthy – the Border Trilogy in particular– but I have little doubt about Blood Meridian’s greatness. As someone who, from time to time, writes articles on McCarthy, I would say that my main interest is in his evisceration (because out of this comes a strange reconfiguration) of form and genre – for instance, the bildungsroman, the quest novel, and so on. In my opinion, the literary-critical riches that Blood Meridian yields up are inexhaustible. And that goes for the oeuvre entire.


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    15 Jun 2017 at 12:13 pm #9629

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    That’s funny you should invoke Harold “Thank Freud for all the Good Things in my Life” Bloom. His experience with the novel was pretty much the same: originally repelled by all the goodies in it, then lurching back like Quasimodo years later (and he does resemble Charles Laughton, after all) to speculate upon its genius.

    Peter: thrilled you guys are coming to Austin. How’s the girl child doing these days, speaking of unimpeachable sources?


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    15 Jun 2017 at 7:16 pm #9631

    cantona
    Member

    And as I dreamed, a figure in white came forth and said these words: “The American Sublime. Use it!” Nah, that never happened.

    On the issue of Violence. I’m currently reading Svetlana Alexievich’s astonishing ‘Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets,” a real-life polyphony of different opinions, anecdotes and traumatized reminiscences of what life was like under Stalin, Perestroika and its grab-anything-you-can aftermath. The violence in BM is sadly all too human.


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