Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Book description

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Although this was not my first reading, I was happy that I decided to re-read Blood Meridian as the intensely graphic violence of the novel ruined my first read. Fortunately, I enjoy McCarthy’s prose and mythic writing so much that I decided to give Blood Meridian a second chance. 

This second time around, McCarthy’s artistry and wisdom overshadowed the violence and redeemed the novel for me.

While more manageable in size, this novel hits on every cylinder.

Spectacular insights into the Old West and the New are told with language that somehow manages to be both elegant and gritty at the same time. 

Sometimes the scene descriptions are rendered sparely, other times with a nearly poetic hand, but at all times create a durable and memorable backdrop for the drama.

If you are a writer, this is a book you’ll want to read more than once or twice, just as you will likely find yourself re-reading entire paragraphs just to experience the language for a second…

In my opinion, the best novel written in the last fifty years. The violence would be too much in the hands of a lesser writer and there is no greater living writer in English than McCarthy. McCarthy perfectly captures the nihilism of war, and how that nihilism later comes back to haunt war’s survivors.

From Kevin's list on surviving war (or not).

If you’ve never read this book, fair warning, you’ll want to throw it across the room in the first five pages. It notoriously eschews all punctuation and most established narrative rules in its telling of a nameless Kid falling in with a vicious band of Indian scalp hunters (by that I mean they hunt Native Americans for a bounty laid on their scalps by the Mexican government). I laid it aside for months before I returned to it. Somewhere around page thirty or so though, I believe the book truly hypnotizes you. Reading it becomes a mystical experience, and you…

I love Blood Meridian because if there ever is a good movie based on it, that movie will be an impossible tour de forceLike many of America’s great literary novels, it is at once broad, articulate, complex, and stylistically excessive, falling in places almost into trancelike madness. Like Moby Dick, Absolam, Absolam, and Gravity’s Rainbow, it also concerns a key theme in American history, in this case the unrelenting and shared violence of the “settlement” of the West. Blood Meridian makes no effort to arouse empathy and is unapologetically baroque, even florid in style. There…

From Speer's list on back country crime fiction.

Blood Meridian is a searing account of the ruthless violence of a gang of indiscriminate killers in the Southwest in the mid-nineteenth century. The violence is graphic, surreal at times, as the principal characters scalp Native Americans for money. But the gang murders many others as well, brutalizing the innocent and non-innocent alike. McCarthy’s Faulknerian skills are on full display, striking poetic if nerve-rattling notes. While his characters share wantonly in the bloodshed, they rise distinctly from the page, perhaps none more memorably than The Judge, aptly named for his considerations of the violence he both engenders and willfully embraces.…

Cormac McCarthy is mostly famous for his All the Pretty Horses and The Road, the latter a novel that became a big-budget film and landed him on Oprah’s couch. But this earlier book, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, is what many fans consider the “real” McCarthy. It’s a western, but not like any you’ve ever read. Most westerns feature the good guys and the bad guys, the white hats and the black hats. Here, everyone involved is the blackest of black hats. It’s a horror story, an epic, a picaresque. The Judge is one…

From Brad's list on for a melancholy day.

This book is only loosely based on the events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, but through the Miltonic grandeur of the language, and the deeply unsettling violence of the world McCarthy builds, this vision of Hell on Earth has rarely been matched. Despite the blood and guts, the prose is starkly beautiful.

From Michael's list on dark historical fiction.

The ultimate GOAT western. A blistering account of a hardscrabble gang of scalp-hunters roaming the American southwest and northern Mexico in the late 19th century, willing to kill anyone for any price and provide the fresh scalp of the victim as proof of a completed job. Original in scope and construction, the book’s hypnotic prose is an unholy amalgam of the King James Version of the Bible, Herman Melville, and Sam Peckinpah. As is standard operating procedure with McCarthy his characters are denied any conventional interior monologue and can tend to appear as flat as figures of fable and legend,…

The back cover of the edition I own states, "Through the hostile landscape of the Texas-Mexico border wanders the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who is quickly swept up in the relentless tide of blood." The story is set in the mid-19th Century, and it is a Western, albeit one that makes almost any other Western seem as amiable as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This is a very violent book, but also a very sensual one. You are always right there. I could quote almost any sentence from the book to prove this, but here’s one: "They set…

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