- Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
Page count: 500.
I discovered Cormac McCarthy a little over a year ago with The Road, followed closely by No Country for Old Men. Both completely blew me away, so I was eagerly looking forward to Blood Meridian.
The story follows the life of the Kid, who strikes out from what barely qualifies as his home in Tennessee to make a life for himself out west. In Texas he begins to meet quite a cast of characters and eventually joins up with a group of mercenaries in Mexico hired to hunt down Apache. The kid ends up working his way across the continent to San Diego by the time his adventures are done.
The most memorable figure in the book is that of the Judge (who isn't really a judge). If the characters were reduced to archetypes, the Judge would be the god figure to the kid's hero (or anti-hero — by the novel's end, one begins to understand the kid, but I don't know if I could sympathize with him). The Judge is a giant of a man, probably close to 7 feet and all muscle, with not a hair on his body, not even eyelashes. He seems to be a Renaissance man in his knowledge of music (he loves to dance and play the fiddle), chemistry (he knows how to make gunpowder from what he can find in nature), geology, anthropology, astronomy, history, languages, and who knows what else. He keeps a sketchbook where he catalogs every new thing he encounters. His answers, when asked about it, reinforce his role as deific figure. I really wanted to like the Judge, I really did, but he's more the sort of character you wish you could wipe from your memory lest he haunt your dreams.
In the end, Blood Meridian didn't do it for me. I feel McCarthy was still finding himself in this novel. There are moments of sheer genius, such as the encounter with the Mennonite. But the middle half of the novel was hard going. I felt it fell into a cycle: go out into the wilderness, hunt or be hunted, come into a town, raise holy hell; and it did get tiresome at times. I wouldn't say this is a bad book. There is a lot of stuff that makes you stop and think or awes you with the power of McCarthy's prose, but it just doesn't hold together for its entire length.