by Dr. Girlfriend
I cannot help but see a lot of parallels between Roberto Bolano’s 2666 and Blood Meridian: an abyssmal (couldn’t resist) desert chock-full of bodies, a detached detailing of violence, and a wholeheartedly negative view of humanity. For those of you who have not read 2666 (or did not vote for it, ehem), one interpretation I dug out of that graveyard of a book was that the purpose of the artist (or the author) is to present a mirror to the world and accurately reflect the atrocities occurring therein. I applied this notion to my reading of Blood Meridian after An American Patriot referred us to a review with Cormac McCarthy, where he considered good literature to be that which “deal[s] with issues of life and death”.
If the mission of the author is to reflect truth, how does he go about obtaining this truth? The judge speaks of the “true dancer,” someone “who has been to the floor of the pit and seen horror in the round”. Bolano argues one must descend into a metaphorical abyss and confront what resides there to accurately portray the nature of the world (pretty terrible!) in art. But, as we all know, if you stare long enough into an abyss, “the abyss stares back into you”. What are the moral implications for the author? Must they merely be exposed to the horror, or, in this investigation, can they not escape becoming that which they seek to explicate? Is Cormac McCarthy a blood-thirsty serial killer IRL?!
Does anyone disagree with any of this? The judge declares, “Books lie.” As Hotspur pointed out, we create entire mythologies based on the lie of a good-evil dichotomy. Or maybe they are “rough likenesses thrown up at hearsay after the things themselves had faded in men’s minds.” Maybe it’s the best approximation we can get to “the bones of things”? The novel as autonomous shadow? “No man can put all the world in a book.”
In 2666, as a reader, I kept waiting for an explanation to make sense out of the senseless murders. With this book, I was prepared for the let-down: “The mystery is there is no mystery.” And yet, McCarthy leaves the kid with an ambiguous fate. For me, this lent more credibility to the idea that McCarthy is living up to his own bloody standards. Perhaps there are some depths in the abyss even he has not reached, that most men will never know or conceive of? Do you think McCarthy was successful as an artist, a truth-teller? I think he would acknowledge that he is trying, but perhaps literature can never live up to “the sun whitehot”. The novel is “a pale replica” connected to reality, but ultimately there are “worlds past all reckoning”.
Even if the judge’s death were a plot point, I can see some other manifestation of violence rising to take his place. “He says he’ll never die.” Well shit, now what are we going to do? The only thing we can: witness and acknowledge and never portray the violent nature of this world as less horrible, and thus, less valid. Denial and ignorance are what allow this carnage to perpetuate.
- Have I told you about my Kindle yet? I own a Kindle. It was quite useful for looking up definitions.
- Favorite use of the English language to describe scalping: “All about her the dead lay with their peeled skulls like polyps bluely wet or luminescent melons cooling on some mesa of the moon.” F-ing gorgeous.
- McCarthy admits other authors’ influence on his writing. There is a scene where the judge copies stone etchings and then erases them. The judge could be seen as a would-be author with intentions of skewing the narrative.
- What affected you most in the book? The dancing bear finally got me. And how it kept dancing…oh!
- The phrase, “gathered him up in his arms against his immense and terrible flesh” prompted flashbacks of a horror story I read in 4th grade. I can only recall the image of an obese man waiting in the apartment above you, waiting for you, with his miniscule Crunchy Cheeto member. Your fate was inevitable. I restricted myself to Cheetos Puffs for years.
- “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster.” I’ve had loads of fun battling with you monsters for this first round of Bookgum. Shout out to all those who participated and, especially, An American Patriot , for creating this niche on the interwebs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I have been a loyal Videogum reader since Day One and received my
B.A. in English, so Bookgum is the perfect combination of personal
interests and minimal expertise.
I am the worst and a grad student in psychology. My other passions
include college football and eating.
I tumbl about cheap/free Austin events at
- Tomorrow, I’ll (this is AN AMERICAN PATRIOT now, by the WAY) wrap THINGS up with SOME FINAL thoughts and AN OPEN forum FOR FURTHER discussion SO BE SURE to keep F5ING.
- AS ALWAYS, those interested in WRITING FOR Bookgum should email ME AT AnAmPatriot@gmail.com