I first read Blood Meridian 15 or 20 years ago. Prior to picking up Meridian I was introduced to McCarthy in a North American literature class in college where we read All the Pretty Horses. McCarthy is simply an astonishing writer. Some people find his prose and writing style off-putting. I love it -- it's like reading art almost, but in the hands of anyone just slightly less skilled it would be unreadable. Critic Harold Bloom considers McCarthy one of 'the four major living American novelists' and considers, along with other critics, Blood Meridian to be one of the great American novels.
But it is a brutal read. I'd forgotten how deeply dark and disturbing the path of the main characters is, softening some as the Kid parts ways with the gang and becomes the Man, but reaching a final, uninterpretable climax of violence and symbolism that left me sitting silently, book in hand, feeling my heartbeat, trying to sort out what I'd just read and getting lost in thoughts I didn't quite understand. There are layers upon layers of symbolism, philosophy, religion, and violence.
The violence is unquestionably unsettling. It comes in waves, with McCarthy easing you down but then, suddenly, you're caught in a new crescendo, more intense and disturbing than before. It was uncomfortable to read on a couple of levels: the first being the raw human depravity McCarthy depicts, and the second being the complete disregard for political correctness (...proudly un-woke, perhaps?). I believe it could not be read aloud in today's climate and only a brave professor might dare teach it in a college class. It almost feels as if it was an act of courage just to write the tome itself.
But it is in that violence that the story's greatness lies. The vast majority of us live in a highly sheltered, safe world. McCarthy forces the reader to reckon with the reality of humanity -- a reality which we are protected from and which most people wish to believe doesn't exist. McCarthy based the the gang that the Kid takes up with on a real gang of scalp-hunters in the American West who perpetrated unspeakable acts. And in the end of it all, McCarthy leaves the reader with an ending and an epilogue that are both, ultimately, uninterpretable.
If you pick this book up it will be a difficult but rewarding (and disturbing) read. Best for literature fans, western fans, and people interested in reading novels that delve into the human condition...