Cormac McCarthy | Critical Review by Tom Nolan

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Cormac McCarthy.
This section contains 646 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Tom Nolan

Critical Review by Tom Nolan

SOURCE: A review of Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 9, 1985, p. 2.

In the following review Nolan discusses the "gruesome pilgrimage" undertaken by the protagonist and the writing style of the author.

The apocalyptic landscape of Cormac McCarthy's harrowing and remarkable fifth novel is a blasted purgatorial heath, a hellish waste of thorns and buzzards where a malevolent sun squats and pulses like some great fire at earth's end. Across this tortured region of death and fear moves a crew of loathsome brigands as foul and evil as the arid waste they seem condemned to roam.

Blood Meridian is a fiction purportedly based on historical events that took place in the Southwestern United States and in Mexico in 1849–1850. Its central antihero is "the kid," a nameless lad still in his teens when first he demonstrates his "taste for mindless violence."

Coming out of Tennessee, the kid makes his way to East Texas, casting his lot there with an ill-fated outfit of renegade U.S troops determined to annex part of Mexico despite conclusion of the war with that country. Once on the merciless plain, these adventurers are set upon and mostly destroyed by a party of Comanches, "a legion of horribles, hundreds in number … wardrobed out of a fevered dream." The kid escapes, is jailed in Chihuahua, then recruited into the ranks of American mercenaries commissioned by Mexico to take a quantity of Apache scalps.

Theirs is a gruesome pilgrimage into the howling wilderness where coyotes dig up the dead and scatter their bones. Nameless dread is followed by ritual slaughter. Bodies are hacked and splattered, corpses are defiled. Vivid and terrible visions tumble upon one another with biblical fury as the dreadful caravan bleeds across this terra damnata "like some heliotropic plague" out of a "heathen land where they and others like them fed on human flesh."

These cursed degenerates have names like Batchat and Toadvine, and their leader is one John Glanton. Most insidious is the hairless giant called Judge Holden, an ominous tempter and figure of depravity given to the telling of wicked parables and the quoting of legal Latin. The air around these men is rosy with doom, and in their wake can be heard "the cries of souls broke through some misweave in the weft of things into the world below." In this place of crimson light and nameless rage, where "all covenants are brittle," a man dare not seek to know his own heart, for it is not the heart of a creature "that is bound in the way that God has set for it."

The prose of the book is stripped of quotation marks and filled with locutions suitable to an antique text. Morbid and droll mottoes head each chapter, sardonic glosses on the actions to come. Gustave Dore's illustrations would be a fitting complement to this frightful phantasmagoria. One can imagine its original discovered in some old pioneer's attic trunk, its yellowed pages flecked with gore. One pictures its author as some unrelenting recording angel who has stared hard and long into the pit and whose face wears a curious expression.

Blood Meridian stands the world of Louis L'Amour on its head (indeed, heaps hot coals upon it), but it is not merely a perverse burlesque of the traditional Old West romance. There is a great deal of action in Blood Meridian, but to seek in it the pleasures of a hard-riding adventure novel would be like looking for belly laughs in the Divine Comedy. McCarthy's screed is a theological purgative, an allegory on the nature of evil as timeless as Goya's hallucinations on war, monomaniacal in its conception and execution, it seeks and achieves the vertigo of insanity, the mad internal logic of a noon-time nightmare that refuses to end. Abandon hope, all ye who open this one.

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This section contains 646 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Tom Nolan
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