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April 20th, 2014

The all-devouring darkness.

I've been picking my way through Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian; or The Evening Redness in the West (1985), a much-ballyhooed (though after the fact) western or revisionist western based on the exploits of the Glanton Gang of scalphunters in Mexico (and in what would later become Arizona). Unfortunately, I've been picking through it on my Kindle Fire.

I say "unfortunately" because a distressing flaw with my Kindle, first evinced during my reading of the second book of David Wingrove's revised Chung Kuo series, Daylight on Iron Mountain, has been making itself manifest, to wit: my notes and highlights of Blood Meridian disappear. While I'm apparently able to switch from Blood Meridian to the Kindle's browser and then back to the book once, if I do it a second time, the notes and highlights that I made in my last reading session vanish. I've had to redo my notes and highlights roughly half a dozen times.

This phenomenon is not exactly improving my opinion of Blood Meridian. As it is....

I'm not immune to the charms (such as they are) of postmodernism or textual experimentation. (If I were, I'd have to forswear my intention to someday read Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.) However, McCarthy's arbitrary adherence to the rules of English punctuation, specifically of the capitalization of proper nouns, is driving me absolutely doolalley. Within a sentence, or even within the same sentence, one finds "indian," with a lower-case "i," and "Mexican," with an upper-case "m." Other times, one sees "mexican," with a lower-case "m," or "apache," with a lower-case "a" (and this does not refer to Caucasian street urchins in London or Paris, as one might find in stories written or set in the 19th century). If McCarthy had a rationale for his use of capitalization, I'm afraid I'm too dim to discern it.

McCarthy's prose in Blood Meridian has some bravura flourishes, as one might expect from his reputation; however, said flourishes are beginning to pall, as they become ever more self-conscious, to say nothing of pretentious and ostentatious. (If I never read another passage alluding to the primordial darkness through which an ape-like man must make his way, I'll not be sorry; unfortunately, I'm only in the midst of Chapter XII, so I fear I've at least another couple hundred pages of such codswallop to bear.)

McCarthy does have a facility for describing horrific violence; however, constant repetition diminishes the effect, and, with almost no characterization, it's demmed difficult to give a toss about the victims (or the perpetrators). And with characterization all but wholly absent, and with McCarthy's "more Leonard than Elmore Leonard" penchant for minimal identification of speakers (to say nothing of McCarthy's eschewing of quotation marks; at least Leonard didn't go that far), it's also demmed difficult to figure out who's talking at any given point, or, more importantly, to care.

Also not looking forward to encountering, in print (as opposed to, say, in the film adaptation of No Country For Old Men or in McCarthy's first produced screenplay, The Counselor), McCarthy's penchant for ending things in media res. But I suppose I'll soldier on, as long as my Kindle lets me.


The supreme space lord who will now DEST
The Feckless Wonder

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