Best Not to Look in There

My reading for the second half of our Morocco trip was Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which seemed like a fairly appropriate pairing. The book is a sort of thinking-man’s Western and parts of Morocco resemble the American Southwest, particularly Arizona and New Mexico. I am less familiar with the even more arid Texas/Mexico region in which Blood Meridian is set, but surely it is not too dissimilar to parts of the Sahara.

McCarthy’s is a much-revered name among modern writers; Harold Bloom, defender of the Western canon, blurbed Blood Meridian as “the major esthetic achievement of any living American writer,” while heavy hitter John Banville said that it “reads like a conflation of the Inferno, the Iliad, and Moby-Dick.”

And yes, the man can write. The following passage on page 20 made me sit up straight in my chair:

God made this world, but he didn’t make it to suit everybody, did he?

I don’t believe he had me much in mind.

Aye, said the old man. But where does a man come by his notions. What world’s he seen that he liked better?

I can think of better places and better ways.

Can ye make it be?

No.

No. It’s a mystery. A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there.

That last bit is the kind of thing that makes me want to write a book so I can use it as the epigraph. The problem is that McCarthy swings for the fences too much. He seems to be constantly trying to prove that he is a Big Writer with Big Thoughts, and ends up producing gibberish like this:

Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke. For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies.

Now what the flying f%*k, I ask you, is that supposed to mean? I placed pretty high in reading comprehension and I can’t make head nor tail of it. And big sections of the book are like that, making the 156 pages that I have waded through so far seem very long indeed.

The lack of a discernible plot and believable characters doesn’t help any. The theoretical protagonist is “the kid,” who so far appears to be a cipher with little internal life to speak of. Slightly more interesting is “the judge,” a hulking, hairless polymath who may yet turn out to be some kind of god and/or devil. I’m not sure whether I’m curious enough to slog through the remaining … let’s see … 193 pages. The book is sitting here about three inches from my mouse hand, and perhaps that will be enough to compel me to continue.

2 Responses to “Best Not to Look in There”

  1. The Old Man in KS Says:

    I feel your indecision because I’ve been there countless times too! Reading a book, or watching a movie, or listening to a piece of music are analogous to a financial investment, only you’re investing your time rather than resources. The further you get into something that is not “paying off” with satisfaction, the more you feel you have to keep going in the hope that things will turn around and that payoff will come. It almost never does. With reference to books, I try to use a rule of thumb that if I get 100 pages in & it’s a struggle to pick it up & continue, I bail & go on to the next one in the stack. But I don’t always remember my own rule since, as we humans like to say, “Hope springs eternal….”

  2. Knox Bronson Says:

    What the old man in KS said.

    Also, can you please add a email alert plugin so we can sign up to get notifications for new posts here on The Philter?

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