Monday, May 16, 2011

Blood Meridian

Maybe I'm just a sucker. I've tried multiple times to read something that Cormac McCarthy wrote, not just started to read, but to actually read --cover to cover-- one of his books. I tried to read All the Pretty Horses...and failed. No Country For Old Men...failed. The Road...failed.

Now I try Blood Meridian.

My impression in a nutshell is, yes, there is some good writing here.

But there is also a lot of bad writing, too. Who told you that you can eschew quotation marks? Why can't you resist the urge to get flowery for no particular reason?

Here's an example from page 4:
His origins are become remote as his destiny and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.
Look, you can say "not again in all the world's turning" or you can say "never." It's a taste thing, admittedly, but rather than trying to figure out longer, more elaborate ways of saying simple words, writers should concern themselves with translating experiences into words.

It's a shame because the next sequence, with the preacher and the introduction of the Judge character, is actually quite good.

But I don't think I'll finish reading this book. Maybe I'm just a snob, but every time I thumb to a new page, I find a sentence so disagreeable that I'm not sure I'd be able to.

Example from page 185:
They entered the city haggard and filthy and reeking with the blood of the citizenry for whose protection they had contracted.
Sounds like something Lucca Brazzi would say at his most marble-mouthed.

Later in the same paragraph is this bit of writerly indulgence (with no commas even):
"They rode out on the north road as would parties bound for El Paso but before they were even quite out of sight of the city they had turned their tragic mounts to the west and they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun."
I'll admit, "red demise of the day" is beautiful. But "the evening lands" and "pandemonium of the sun?" Don't need it.

Damn you, Ellroy!

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