Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

McCarthy's novel "Blood Meridian" [1] is one of my all time favorite novels and continues to be a source of inspiration. Its almost biblical in its prose and unrelating in its pace and violence. I even wrote a song based off it (shameless plug) [2]. The villain of the story, Judge Holden is up there with the Joker for me in sheer evil. I would love to see a movie adaptation of it although I doubt it will ever happen. Too bloody. Too violent. I highly recommend it if you aren't easily put off by its dark tone.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Meridian-Evening-Redness-West/d...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45jPip11_j8




I love the snippets of prose I've seen from Blood Meridian and The Road, but I am reluctant to read them, even though they're well on their way to becoming classics of the English language. My impression is that the books are saturated in darkness with very little light shining through. The violence and horror will stick in my thoughts long after I put my books down. There are certainly books and movies I regret ingesting for imagery that they've embedded in the back of my mind.

Did you get that feeling reading these books?


The way I read it, McCarthy makes it painstakingly clear that destruction is a necessary catalyst for creation. He treats violence honestly and respectfully, but he does like to write about some pretty dire scenarios (massacre of Mexicans/Indians, post-apocalyptic scavenging).

McCarthy expands on this theme slightly in a rare interview: McCarthy likes the scientists at the Institute for a simple reason: The stuff they explore, like his writing, cuts to the bone.

“If it doesn’t concern life and death,” he says, “it’s not interesting.” [0]

If you're looking for lighter (but still excellent) storytelling on similar Western/survival themes I'd suggest the Border Trilogy [1] by McCarthy. My high school English teacher had us read these instead of Blood Meridian (his favorite book of all time) because they're much less violent. You won't get the full experience, though, as some of McCarthy's characters are genius because of their depravity, violence, and seemingly chaotic natures.

[0] http://www.davidkushner.com/article/cormac-mccarthys-apocaly...

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Border-Trilogy-Crossing-Everymans-Lib...


+1 for the Border Trilogy; it's very well done, and very... engrossing, I suppose is a good way of putting it.


I'm a huge fan of CM however I found the BT and it's obsession on horses almost indecent. I would recommend BM, The Road and No Country ... in that order.

I really don't see what ppl like about the BT.


Another plus one for the Border Trilogy. The ending knocked the breath out of me.


Your HS English teacher who loved McCarthy was also mine! :)


Have many fond memories from his class, truly a great teacher. Good to see another HW alum on the forums


> Did you get that feeling reading these books?

Not gonna lie: Blood Meridian deals in some very grim and violent subject matter. There are no heroes in that story. Its about a gang of scalp hunters (the Glanton Gang. They actually existed if you can believe it...) so I'll leave you to draw your conclusions about what a story like that would entail. The way McCarthy makes those types of scenes digestible is by almost always describing them in the past tense. You the reader come upon them after they happened. He also writes with a detachment to the event and speaks of some downright unspeakable acts almost matter of factly. I am pretty squeamish and I could handle it so you'll probably be fine because of that.

The Road I found harder to read than BM. Its less violent (although there are a couple spots that get pretty gruesome) but just unrelentingly bleak and grim. I needed to lie down after reading it. Again his detachment from the events happening make it bearable. Worth it IMO.

Assuming you haven't read them, I'd recommend digging into All The Pretty Horses or No Country For Old Men. Both are incredible stories that have the same scenes of elemental good vs evil that crops up in McCarthys work over and over again but are less... intense.


If you read Blood Meridian backwards, it's about a band of merry fellows travelling east, towards the sunrise, delivering toupees as they make their way.


This is one of my favorite comments on HN.


For me, the violence is made palatable - even interesting - by the sheer beauty of McCarthy's language. It's earthy and archaic, and yet strangely phantasmagoric. It's a bit trite to say, but McCarthy talks a bit like William Faulkner on acid, exploring a hardscrabble alien planet.

> . . . and he saw men lanced and caught up by the hair and scalped standing and he saw the horses of war trample down the fallen and a little whitefaced pony with one clouded eye leaned out of the murk and snapped at him like a dog and was gone. . . And now the horses of the dead came pounding out of the smoke and dust and circled with flapping leather and wild manes and eyes whited with fear like the eyes of the blind and some were feathered with arrows and some lanced through and stumbling and vomiting blood as they wheeled across the killing ground and clattered from sight again. Dust stanched the wet and naked heads of the scalped who with the fringe of hair below their wounds and tonsured to the bone now lay like maimed and naked monks in the bloodslaked dust and everywhere the dying groaned and gibbered and horses lay screaming.


I have read The Road; I have not read Blood Meridian (yet - not sure if I will or not).

I read The Road when I was probably 22 or 23. I now have a son who is six (I'm a man, for context), and I suspect that if I were to re-read it, I would likely weep uncontrollably for an hour or two, and then spend the next several months sporadically crying and clutching my son. It is a hard, hard read, and even harder (I assume) if you're a parent.

That being said, it's also a masterpiece of a book. Ultimately it does have a glimmer of optimism, it's just a really rough time getting to that optimism. I don't regret reading it, but once is enough, for now.


I've read The Road twice. First as a son, then as a father. My dad and I went though some crap I couldn't grasp when I was young. The book made me feel like I could finally understand what he was going through. Why he did what he did. I've never had a book change me like the road had.

I read it again when my son was 4 months old. That's when I finally understood, at a visceral level, what it means to carry the fire. I think we're both going to be better because of it.

I will read the book one more time after my dad passes.


Perhaps it is good to put yourself in that mindset semi-regularly?

That's what life really is, when you strip away the conveniences. The real horror is to realize that for many people in history (and even now) reality has been worse.


I know a lot of people who found The Road incredibly depressing. But I thought it was optimistic and the most moving thing I've ever read.

I haven't read Blood Meridian yet, but Child of God (another McCarthy novel) definitely lacks the optimism of The Road.

As for this article, I think that the subconscious fascinates almost everyone. The reason we have psychology (in my opinion, of course) is that it's apparent to almost all of us that there's something going on under there.

Everyone has anecdotes like the one mentioned in this article, where a solution to a problem appears in a dream or pops into someone's head immediately after waking.


"Child of God" was pretty tough to get through. There were moments of such absurdity that I had to laugh despite some of the grossness (you probably can guess what I am talking about).


I had to put Child of God down for two years and come back to it. I was surprised to see how disturbed I was at Lester's depravity, especially since I enjoy stories that examine the darker side of human nature. I was glad to have gone back and finished it though.


I tore through The Road a few years ago and consider its prose some of the finest I've ever read. It's grey-ness stuck with me and I still think about it now and then (combined with the dialogue in No Country for Old Men, which I've only seen, not read).

I think you should read one of them. If you want, I'll read The Road (or any other one) while you do and we can talk about it. Someone has to carry the fire.


No Country is worth reading. I loved the film but didn't make time to read the book for a while. Really enjoyed it when I did.


I read The Road and I can empathize. There's a few awful scenes, including one that really hits you after you think you've been desensitized to the horrors. However, I'm really glad I read that book because it's incredibly profound. Certainly, it's deeply unsettling to the reader, who is forced to imagine living through every cherished thing in your world destroyed and defiled. Yet, it also imagines what is the core of humanity when it exists in a vacuum without any obfuscation (my rationalization of the child, to those who have read it). Plus, this is all written in really beautiful prose- I found myself re-reading many lines to appreciate the creative use of language. I hope this convinces you to stomach the ugliness and give it a read :-)


I would certainly recommend Blood Meridian in spite of the nastiness (and I like the Border Trilogy well enough for their extremely sparse prose), but I found The Road a little underwhelming. His post-apocalypse vision seemed surprisingly less terrible than I was expecting, frankly. People all over the world are doing worse to each other right now... so unless you avoid the news, I doubt you'll be haunted.


If horrific violence / imagery affects you long after putting a book down, then I would say definitely don't read Blood Meridian - and I say this as someone who counts it as one of his 3 favorite novels.

It presents man's intellect as the apotheosis of 4 billion years of pain, suffering, death, and destruction. Man as the ultimate practitioner of the ordering principle of the universe: War


And the other 2?


Pale Fire by Nabokov and American Tabloid by Ellroy


The Road was one of the most devastating novels I've ever read. A part of me wishes I'd never read it. But it was also one of the most stunning pieces of writing I've ever consumed. It's worth it for that.

But it is truly horrific.


Depriving oneself the full range of humanity sounds more disturbing than any single book.


Humans are gross though.


Yes. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to better understand ourselves as individuals, and as the human race as a whole. We will never improve if we just ignore the shit bits of ourselves.


Cormac McCarthy is possibly my favorite writer and I would not recommend the border trilogy. I only read one and a half of those because I found them to be the most painful things I'd ever read.

I would say Suttree is a lighter (relatively speaking) read.


Suttree has some funny bits and some great bleak bits too, I love this part where he's looking through is aunt's old photo album:

The old musty album with its foxed and crumbling paper seemed to breathe a reek of the vault, turning up one by one these dead faces with their wan and loveless gaze out toward the spinning world, masks of incertitude before the cold glass eye of the camera or recoiling before this celluloid immortality or faces simply staggered into gaga by the sheer velocity of time. Old distaff kin coughed up out of the vortex, thin and cracked and macled and a bit redundant. The landscapes, old backdrops, redundant too, recurring unchanged as if they inhabited another medium than the dry pilgrims shored up on them. Blind moil in the earth's nap cast up in an eyeblink between becoming and done. I am, I am. An artifact of prior races. [...] What deity in the realms of dementia, what rabid god decocted out of the smoking lobes of hydrophobia could have devised a keeping place for souls so poor as is this flesh. This mawky worm-bent tabernacle.


McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men" is one of the only books I've ever read, as an adult, that actually made me jump in my chair because a scene was so tense:

>He was half way back up the caldera to his truck when something made him stop. He crouched, holding the cocked pistol across his knee. He could see the truck in the moonlight at the top of the rise. He looked off to one side of it to see it the better. There was someone standing beside it. Then they were gone. There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy. Now you're goin to die.


Not to divert too much, but what is it about this moment that strikes you so? While I love the prose, reading carries no sense of tension in my mind.


He's returning to the truck in the middle of the night to give the guy water and had just found out he'd been shot in the head (meaning someone else had been there). This is where he turns around to see someone standing next to his truck he parked up the hill and is coming to the realization that things are about to get really bad.


jotux would probably need to paste in a few pages from before and after to give the tension context.

The pistol mentioned was taken from a dead drug dealer. The someone next to the truck would drive most of the rest of the story.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: