Blood Meridian: Your First Experience with the Book

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  • 15 Jun 2017 at 7:19 pm #9632

    Glass
    Member

    Rick,

    Really hoping to make it, Renee and I. Mag is great. She has recently taken a cool job in Omaha as artistic director of an old theater built in 1923 they are in the process of raising money for to bring it into the modern era while retaining its 1923 appearance and charm. They hope to be up and running in about a year after the $3 million renovation is complete. Good gig for her.


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    16 Jun 2017 at 9:06 am #9635

    Candy Minx
    Member

    I picked up Blood Meridian because of it’s cover in 1986.

    I liked the cover. So simple a reason to buy it. I liked the description or blurb on the back of it. It took me about a week to read it and I carried it around with me and just kept re-reading certain lines. I was fascinated by the chapter headings that reminded me of some of my favorite Renaissance poems and Victorian novels. I literally kept thinking…”who is this guy?” I finished the novel and I didn’t know what to do. I worked at a nightclub where my co-workers were avid readers. I forced a couple of them to go get copies so I could talk about it with them. I forced my painter friend Mister Anchovy to read my copy and then he passed it on to our sculptor friend Scott. I phoned my sister and begged her to read it. As weird sister things would go she also had bought a copy because of the cover. She read it and freaked out because she had just been traveling in Mexico and Texas and the landscapes spoke to her in reality and in the novel. We both could not believe we had found this weirdo book at almost the same time.

    My sister and I obsessed over the novel for about 10 years ruining parties because all we would do is land up arguing/discussing exploring in a corner with each other and our friends hated us. So we made more of our friends read the novel. My friend Mister Anchovy and I argued about it for years. I eventually had a zine in 1990-1992 called KUNTGEIST and I got Mister Anchovy to write a review of the novel.

    I went to the Reference library in downtown Toronto in 1988 to find literary criticism on the Cormac McCarthy. There was only one pice and it was a huge volume called “The Accomplishment of Cormac McCarthy”. One couldn’t take any books out of the reference library so every day before work I would go read this book by Vereen Bell. Then I ordered up Chamberlain’s book and gave it to my sister.

    I obsessed over Bell’s book and brought his views to my friends to continue our arguments. I was using computers in the 1980’s at Coach House Press. (this is a connection to Christopher Dwdney!!) but domestic internet was not easily available. I was visiting BBS’s….did not find prodigy until later.

    At some point in the 90’s …like 994 or 1996 ish…I searched “Blood Meridian” and I found two links. One was a web site by a goth chick who wrote about Blood Meridian. The other was a rough forum for the Cormac McCarthy Society.

    I was home.

    I followed and lurked for a few days reading the threads and comments and I was so curious…”who are these folks?”

    I remember my very first post. I wrote “The Judge is an asshole and the kid is a loser”

    I look back on the friendly kindness of Rick Wallach and Marty Priola and some of those early years with so much kindness. It was so great to find people to discuss all this shit with. Ibasically blame Rick and Marty because they pretty much created a monster in me. LOL


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    16 Jun 2017 at 7:29 pm #9636

    sjreents
    Member

    Hi to everyone,

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. These are absolutely wonderful — and they mirror my first experience with the book in 1992. I was a senior in college, and I’d just read the interview with McCarthy in the New York Times. Here was a man who had dropped out of college twice, who had turned his back on fame and fortune (and even stability) by refusing to go on book tours, give readings, or take on teaching gigs. And there I was, a super conventional senior at Amherst College, clinging insecurely to the notion that the foundation of all my success was my work ethic, and not any innate talent. McCarthy was a rebel; I was a rule follower. He was a 58-years-old man; I was twenty-two year-old-woman. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating too much to say that I wanted to be Cormac McCarthy, just as when I was a little girl I’d feathered my strawberry blonde hair with a big plastic comb that I carried around in my back pocket and stood in front of the Shaun Cassidy poster that hung in my bedroom and begged my mother to tell me that I looked like Shaun, my girlhood crush, beloved singer of Da Doo Ron Ron, the number one hit single of my seventh year in 1977.

    I was so taken with McCarthy I immediately read everything he’d written, and of course, Blood Meridian freaked me out like no other book ever had. I had to keep closing it, and then, when I got to the end, I felt incredibly sad, though I wasn’t actually sure what had happened in the final pages. I’ve returned to it again and again–and increasingly I’ve found myself obsessed with the kid.

    I’m coming to the McCarthy conference in September. I do hope I get to meet a few of you in person.


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    11 Jul 2017 at 12:22 pm #9693

    Richard L.
    Member

    Some memories are soft like the strumming of a guitar, some are distinct like someone picking a banjo. The opening bars of “Dueling Banjos” in James Dickey’s Deliverance, say.

    The year is vague, but certainly in the seventies. Perhaps about the time Cormac McCarthy was researching The Stonemason in Louisville, Kentucky. Not to be confused with Louisville, Tennessee, where McCarthy and his wife lived for years.

    The place is certain, a banjo picking, Check’s Cafe, a bar and deli, working-class with a smattering of students and bohemians, near Germantown and Old Limerick. It still exists and my wife and I sometimes dance evenings to the karaoke there.

    Anyway, I was single back then. It was the year I took a creative writing class at the University of Louisville and I had my notebook with me, along with a book I was reading. I was in line for the deli, two attractive women in front of me. When I caught their glance, I smiled, and they smiled back. I was flirting; they were just being polite.

    Are you all writers, students, or teachers? I asked, indicating our mutual burdens. No, the prettiest one said, but my husband is an author.

    “Really? What’s his name? I read everything.”

    You may not have heard of him, she said. Did you know the book, The Orchard Keeper? Or Outer Dark?

    I said I did not, but I asked her to repeat the names and to give me her husband’s by-line. The rest of the conversation is a guitar strum. I did a lot of research at the downtown Louisville library and I recall looking up the books there, though not being particularly impressed with them.

    Years rolled by.

    It is the fall of 1993. I am at the Kentucky Book Fair peddling my very modest work on Native American genealogy. Now the chords of memory are not very trustworthy. I’ve told this story several times over the years, and in those retellings I am at the university in Frankfort, Kentucky. Recently, a friend pointed out to me that the first year, in 1993, the Book Fair was held at Bellarmine in Louisville. Only later was it moved to Frankfort.

    That makes more sense to me now, but what the heck.

    Anyway, I distinctly recall sitting there with my wife, selling a lot of books, signing some, answering questions, the whole author ego trip on a very minor scale. A rather distinguished looking gentleman asked me if I had anything on Delawares in the book. Sure, I said, lots of stuff on the Delaware connections. Anything in Texas? he asked.

    Well, I showed him several historical sketches I had of the Delaware free hunters and the men who rode with them, whites and members of other native nations. The man was patient and commenced to tell me about Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN and about the Delawares therein.

    I distinctly recall leaving my wife in charge and following the man to his table, where there were several other well-dressed men and a stack of what I now know to be first editions of John Sepich’s NOTES ON BLOOD MERIDIAN in the distinctive red and white. I chatted with some of them (guitar strum here) and looked over Sepich’s monumental work without buying a copy.

    At the time, I did not connect story A above with story B.

    Sometime about 1996-1998, I became a regular poster at Slate, and when Slate started charging just to access their book community, I moved on with a lot of others to Readerville. I read ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and we discussed and deconstructed it on that forum–Greg Hyduke, Martin Zook, Jack Matthews, and many others were with me there. A guy named Tom came into the forum and started hyping a book called BLOOD MERIDIAN. We all then read it and came up with the typical reactions you might get from any gathering of blue jays on a fence.

    Some liked it, some pecked at it, some flew off in a rage, but as it dawned on me that this was the same book that those distinguished-looking scholars had gone on about back in 1993, the more seriously I began to look into it, and naturally, the more I began to see in it.

    My appreciation for the book did not come all in a rush. It evolved, assisted by a wealth of critical literature, and it is still evolving. New interpretations appear all the time, and I hope they never stop. It keeps me interested, and it will always keep me interested.


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    12 Jul 2017 at 3:03 pm #9695

    wesmorgan
    Participant

    I don’t mean to hijack this thread but something caught my eye in Richard L’s post. It was his mention of “The opening bars of “Dueling Banjos” in James Dickey’s Deliverance….” I think more credit should be given to the original song, “Feudin Banjos,” written by Arthur Smith. [Not to be confused with the Knoxville songwriter Arthur Q. Smith who is famous in his own right.] Smith and Don Reno recorded “Feudin Banjos” in 1955 with with the feud taking place between Smith on tenor banjo and Reno playing his 5-string in bluegrass style. It’s worth a listen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmMk9tsCjsc

    The song received its first major exposure in 1963 in a television episode of The Andy Griffith Show where it was performed by the Dillards. The 1972 film Deliverance and “Dueling Banjos” came later and gave rise to some interesting legal proceedings.

    My first reading of Blood Meridian, or, The Evening Redness in the West took place soon after its publication. I thought BM was very good–maybe great, but by then I was already hooked on Suttree. My appreciation of each book increases with each additional reading. But Suttree remains my favorite.


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    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  wesmorgan.
    13 Jul 2017 at 12:26 am #9697

    Greg S.
    Member

    Great memories. I had a subscription to the New York Times Sunday Book Review in the early Nineties. The subscription was dirt cheap, but the Review was sent wrapped in brown paper by packetboat via Rotterdam and took a couple of weeks to arrive. One fateful day in the summer of 1994, I read Robert Hass’s review of the Crossing (June 12 edition). I bought the book. I was deeply moved. I went back to the Orchard Keeper and proceeded to read McCarthy’s “Appalachian” works chronologically. After Child of God, I skipped Suttree and read Blood Meridian and was floored. It must have been 1996. The Crossing is still my favorite McCarthy novel, followed closely by Suttree, but if McCarthy only has one masterpiece, it is Blood Meridian. I call it a Stone Cold Masterpiece ™. I was dumbfounded by the novel. It is hard to describe the aesthetic experience it produced. Rising out of the apocalyptic destruction described in Blood Meridian was a strange, comforting emotion, almost a sense of positive energy. I could not explain it and did not understand it. I re-read the novel and then began searching the internet. The internet was just getting cranked up back then. I was an addicted surfer despite the expensive dial-up connection. Fortunately, I had just become self-employed in early 1997 and had plenty of freedom to surf while at work. I found the McCarthy forum, lurked, and then started posting and re-reading passages and entire novels just to be able to follow and contribute to the threads and to try to understand McCarthy’s work. I went to the first Berlin conference and met several of the Fighting Cormackians, including Rick. My expatriate existence and workaday world were greatly enriched by discussing McCarthy’s works at the forum. The forum was a wonderful virtual salon, with Marty and Rick, the suzerains, the late 20th Century equivalents of the marquise de Rambouillet or Gertrude Stein, gently insuring a minimum level of civility if things got out of hand. My fascination with Blood Meridian prompted me to get involved at the forum. There were numerous, illustrious contributors who challenged me to think clearly about what I was reading and express myself persuasively. I often failed, but I am grateful for having stumbled on Cormac McCarthy and the forum and doubt that I would have taken the extra step of participating at the forum without the shock of Blood Meridian.


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    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Greg S..
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