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Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West

McCarthy, Cormac, 1933-

(Book - 1992)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West
Random House, Inc.
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion,Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

Publisher's Note: The 25th Anniversary Edition has been reset, causing the text to reflow. Page references based on earlier editions will no longer apply, so Vintage Books has compiled the following chart as a conversion aid. Download the chart by copying and pasting the following link into your browser:

Baker & Taylor
Based on incidents that took place in the southwestern United States and Mexico around 1850, this novel chronicles the crimes of a band of desperados, with a particular focus on one, "the kid," a boy of fourteen

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1992
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed
ISBN: 0679728759
Branch Call Number: FIC M
Characteristics: 337 p. ; 21 cm.
Alternate Title: Evening redness in the West


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Feb 12, 2014
  • Ryan Akler-Bishop rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A fourteen-year-old boy known only to us as “The Kid” leaves his family in Tennessee one day, with no intentions of ever returning. He arrives in the state of Texas, with the hopes of living a ‘man’s life’. He soon discovers life is a struggle populated by sadists. After drifting from place to place, The Kid finds himself embarking on a treacherous expedition to collect Indian scalps. The expedition is run by a depraved man named Glanton, who soon shows The Kid a new side to the world, filled with acts of gruesome violence - committed without the blink of an eye. The Kid soon learns the most lucrative occupations for a man to settle into require a mind with no aversion to sadism. As Glanton and his men slowly dwindle in numbers, The Kid and the few remaining survivors head across the desert in the hopes of returning home. With that, Cormac McCarthy shatters the conventional stereotypes of cowboy mythology formed by years of John Wayne films and Zane Grey novels. The characters in Blood Meridian are all influenced by a thirst for pure, ruthless violence. McCarthy explores the reasoning for the corruption with a poignant and subtle degree of effectiveness. Their lack of education is embedded into the story with unique literary methods, explains their hopes of survival using violence. The Kid escaped from his home at the age of fourteen, lacking any semblance of education. He was confused as to how to live his life, and ultimately turned to barbarity. McCarthy embodies this idea in his writing style. He writes his dialogue without ‘proper’ punctuation to indicate lack of schooling; “You want me to look at it? What for? You caint do nothing for it. Well. You suit yourself. I aim to, said Sproule.” [65]. This conversation (which occurs between two people) is written without quotation marks or commas, making everything confusing. This is McCarthy’s standard writing style, but it functions best within the parameters of Blood Meridian.
From the other works of Cormac McCarthy that I’ve familiarized myself with, they all possess a very similar underlying message. His novels No Country For Old Men, The Road and his screenplay for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor all surround the idea that the world is a place on the verge of destruction, and that ‘evil’ will always be the victor of any given situation. He uses his cynical vision of the world to support his theory. Blood Meridian shares the same theme as his other works, and establishes it using brutal violence. The idea here, is that evil is inevitable, and it cannot be stopped despite what optimists might believe. In a world where violence is able to persuade anyone, evil is always the winner. As nihilistic as McCarthy’s message may sound, it’s a very important commentary.
McCarthy’s writing style dedicates a large portion of time and effort to detailing the surroundings. The reason for this is because the characters spend a great deal time of the day in silence, riding their horses. All they have around them is the overbearing existence of nature surrounding them. McCarthy then writes about the acts of violence with a casual, matter-of-fact approach and tone. It’s written this way since the characters have become accustomed to the depravity, and it no longer makes an impact on them. This contributes to the overall theme of the narrator being in a similar frame of mind as the character. The narrator discusses the sick murders, but like the characters, does not treat them as if they were something that deserves second glance. McCarthy never wastes a sentence. Every sentence is written to further advance the themes. All of this contributes to making Blood Meridian a novel to be read, and re-read over decades to follow.

Apr 23, 2013
  • JCS3F rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

There's an implausible romanticism that comes standard on most depictions of the untamed American West. Like a Zane Grey novel or a John Wayne western, our collective perception of the Old West is likely to be a kind of moral allegory, reflecting our common values. Independence, industriousness, grit.

McCarthy rightly disabuses the reader of the falsehood quickly, plunging us into savage lawlessness from the opening pages. The fundamental question throughout is, which is man's natural state? The atavistic brutality of a world without borders, without personal consequence? Or do ethics precede governance?

The Judge, with his primal interpretations of war and men, personifies the former view. Espousing his position so eloquently and believing in it so fully, that the reader is tempted to forget the century that followed.

The Kid/Man is a flawed vessel for the latter view. But isn't that how we would want it? Because if morality is innate, then it must be instinctual. And isn't it hard to explain something instinctual? Crimes must be justified. Righteousness speaks for itself.

Jan 07, 2013
  • BertBailey rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A master USAmerican novel by a living writer: jaw-dropping in its intensity, lyricism and originality of voice, and, according to the Preface by the eminent Harold Bloom, one for the ages. Mind you, I'm a believer in the notion of an 'Afterword' to some books, especially if they're like Bloom's: clarifying its thrust and meaning for readers. As it is, those who are tempted to read it before the book, as seems logical, are highly likely to be influenced - and to resent the massive spoilers about McCarthy's plot. Mind you, much of his theorizing was opaque and mystifying to me, and it might take a few reads to fathom just what makes Bloom so impressed. In any case, this is a major work but not for the faint of heart nor for anyone without an appetite for violence or a suspicion that civilization is a veneer holding back much that's undesirable in the heart of our darkness. I'm about to turn to his famed trilogy of novels, but have no doubt I'll return to this at some point.

Aug 16, 2012
  • mmurphy2006 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I found this book to be extraordinarily good. It brought me completely into a different time and place and gave me thought for my own existence. Highly recommended.

Amazing and troubling. I didn't like it at first but the farther away from it the more I'm enthralled by this book. Cormac McCarthy is in serious need of a hug though.

Jun 10, 2011
  • Nords rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An american literary classic. I've read a lot of Cormac McCarthy and in some ways this is his best book but also the hardest to read. The extreme violence didn't bother me so much as it fit the time period and is likely historically accurate anyhow. The language is purposely archaic (sort of like Moby Dick but not olde english obviously). Very gripping (and gritty) story following an outlaw band of indian hunters in the 1800's mexico/texas area. The judge is one of the most interesting characters I've ever seen in a book and I still don't know whether to fear him, loathe him, or in a perverse way, respect him.

Mar 24, 2011
  • jplynch25 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This is genius writing even if you don't agree with his inescapable conclusion about the ultimate amorality of the human animal.

Feb 14, 2011
  • kwsmith rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Blood Meridian is a shocking historical western novel which describes the systematic destruction of America's native people by the bloodthirsty Glanton Gang. As a background to this horror, McCarthy sublimely describes magnificently beautiful landscapes using nearly perfect language. Judge Holden is the perfectly elegant evil sadist, but McCarthy shows us that all men are villains if the reward is high enough.

Aug 14, 2010
  • mattgren06 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A MASTERPIECE. This is on Times 100 best books list, Esquires 75 books every man should read list, along with many other lists.

There is a great 2 hour lecture on the book you can find on youtube from a yale professor who discusses the influence of the bible and moby dick on the novel.

May 24, 2010
  • Pipe rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I didn't think this book was that great. The introduction goes on and on about how remarkable and extraordinary the book is, but I just didn't see it. After hearing so much about the book, I was pretty disappointed. McCarthy's famous long winded descriptions of landscape are a little over the top this time around. I really enjoyed "The Road", but thought this one relied a little on stock character types to pound out the message. Not very interesting as a whole, although there are sections with entertaining events.

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Feb 04, 2010
  • ChaseU rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Violence: Blood Meridian is the most violent book I have ever read written by the bloodiest author I have ever read.

Feb 04, 2010
  • ChaseU rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.


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Feb 04, 2010
  • ChaseU rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

ChaseU thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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McCarthy, Cormac, 1933-
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