BLOOD MERIDIAN, Final Thoughts AND OPEN Forum

WOW, WELL that happened! A week ago, I was MAKING THE BACKGROUND border for this site and wondering to myself EXACTLY HOW many people I THOUGHT actually were going TO MAKE it through the book LET ALONE wax poetically about IT ON A website THAT’S I’VE twittered a FEW TIMES. MORE SO, I was worried THAT I HAD bothered our four WRITERS with SEVERAL emails, and they’d PUT SO MUCH hard work INTO it only to HAVE no one show up and LISTEN (and then IT’D BE basically a Glee episode, what WITH THE continual “let’s PUT ON THIS really expensive show for only OUR CREEPY ASS teacher in the lone AUDITORIUM” and even Ryan MURPHY IS growing tired OF THAT shit). So you CAN ALL imagine my delight TO FIND quite a few MONSTERS coming to the SITE AND commenting. Great COMMENTS, TOO!

So far this WEEK, WE’VE had over 2200 VISITS to Bookgum which to SOME INTERNET masters out there MIGHT not sound like A LOT. THAT ISN’T even viral! Then when YOU STOP and think that it’s a WEBSITE specifically for talking ABOUT BOOKS that’s an (unofficial) offshoot of A LABYRINTHIAN website with nary A SINGLE video of someone falling down OR STREAMING porn to be FOUND, IT KINDA seems like a lot! When it comes DOWN TO it, I’d just really LIKE TO say a giant THANK you out there TO EVERYONE who has commented, read, written, or voted and HELPED MADE this first Bookgum reading such a BLAST.

I REALLY wanted to refrain from MAKING this post about anything TO INVOLVED with the book AND USE IT more as a wrap-up for the week. HOWEVER, in the past WEEK, the ramifications OF THE larger themes in this book (AGAIN, illuminated by OUR FANTASTIC writers) have shaken ME A BIT. Discussing mindless violence AND THE great JOKE that is Blood Meridian has underscored DISTURBING events LIKE the infamous “head stomp” at the Kentucky Senate DEBATE with even more vitriol THAN they eventually HAD (which was a lot). It’s ONE THING to read a novel about mankind’s KINSHIP with violence and it’s EVEN one thing TO HEAR about violence in an ONGOING war, but it’s ANOTHER to witness IT HAPPEN at what should BE THE SCENE of one of OUR most civilized events: the ability TO DEBATE BELIEFS AND views in a moderated, relaxed FASHION sans of all, you know, FUCKING HEAD STOMPING. Yet this happens ALL THE time to the point where everyday VIOLENCE IS toss offed as SIMPLY an inevitability, and WE CEASE to notice the ludicrous behavior THAT SURROUNDS us.

I don’t WANT TO piss people OFF for referencing the Dark Knight (and SERIOUSLY, IF YOU didn’t enjoy that movie YOUR AWESOMEASFUCK-OMOETER is probably broken AND YOU should get that LOOKED at), but I think THE ONE MOMENT of the film Nolan really STRUCK at something was Ledger’s line about it “all [being] part of the plan.” IT WAS quite right. We’re revolted BY DEAD babies hanging FROM A TREE–as we should BE–but it really ISN’T ANY worse or unlikely than ALL THE teenagers who ARE shot, the WOMEN WHO are raped, and the drug addicts WHO fall into VIOLENT lives of DESPAIR that permeate THE underbelly OF OUR culture. Sure, they MIGHT WARRANT a government-funded “War On…” or two AND MAYBE a nightly news special, but at the END OF THE day, everyone WOULD rather go back TO WHATEVER rerun of “Keeping up with SprayTanMonsters” IS PLAYING. I THINK the closest THING to a point, McCarthy might BE MAKING is that man needs TO UNDERSTAND his capacity for VIOLENCE and face it, RATHER THAN simply setting IT ASIDE, STICKING fingers in OUR EARS and hoping it WILL ALL go away. Granted, I don’t THINK MCCARTHY is saying WE CAN make violence go AWAY, rather that is IS ENGRAVED in us and we MUST understand that, not GLOSS over it. At the VERY LEAST, I think McCarthy is AWARE OF THE absurd disconnect in SOCIETY BETWEEN the “I don’t WANNA THINK about it” and “Saw 3d? FUCK YEAH/24 hour doomnews cycle” attitudes that WE see day TO DAY.

With that SERMONIZING behind us, I’d like to again give a BIG THANK you to Shellbomber, Hotspur, Mans, and Dr Girlfriend, THEY BROUGHT THE thunder each day, AND MADE i fucking e-rain UP IN here. Also, THANK YOU again to everyone else WHO READ, visited, OR COMMENTED. Obviously, we could NOT DO THIS without Y’ALL!

Below, feel FREE TO hash out any REMAINING thoughts, favorite passages, randomness, going-as-the-Judge-for-Halloween-costume-pics ETC. FREE SPEECH, fuckers!

!!!REMINDER!!!
We’re now starting ON our NOVEMBER pick, Kazua Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. IF YOU are interested in DOING a write up FOR THAT novel, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT AnAmPatriot@gmail.com before NOVEMBER 6 as I will BE PICKING the writers that WEEKEND.

I’d also LIKE TO ANNOUNCE that the BOOKGUM BOOKSHELF is now up at
http://books.google.com/books?uid=7631140569680002743&as_coll=1001&source=gbs_lp_bookshelf_list
AFTER the weekend, I’ll try TO GET IT up as a constant LINK OVER on the right. THANKS AGAIN to everyone, and TO GABE, AND to Scott AND TO BIRDIE (for making VIDEOGUM and Stereogum, DUH), and HAVE AN excellent AND SAFE weekend!

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25 Responses to BLOOD MERIDIAN, Final Thoughts AND OPEN Forum

  1. Reeven says:

    I’d like to thank you, AnAmPat, for forming this site. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t read nearly as much as I should have prior to the forming of this site. But I decided to join up, and now I’m reading WAY more than I ever have. I’ve read more books in this past month-or-so stretch than I did the entire year prior. I don’t even know why I never read much beforehand, but I’m glad something finally got me back into it.

    In addition, the discussions have been insightful and rewarding to a degree that has made me appreciate Blood Meridian on an entirely new level. I look forward to future weeks of standing in the corner and nodding silently as everyone else makes really good points that I had never thought of.

  2. bill_the_butcher says:

    I’d like to thank ampat for putting this whole thing together, I have immensely enjoyed it. Thanks for all your efforts.

    I can’t read the November book, too busy with school, but I’ll see you monsters in December! Much love y’all.

  3. Patrick M says:

    2,200 hits isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? 2,300 hits.

  4. shellbomber says:

    A small, silly something that I noticed…

    The gang is always described as “squatting.” What an uncomfortable position to be sitting around the fire in! What, they are afraid to get their blood-soaked, mud-caked, pee-stained clothes dirty by sitting on the ground? I’m a young(ish), able-bodied person, and my knees hurt every time I read a squatting description.

    PS- Big ups (what?) top AnAmPat for putting this together. Well done, sir.

  5. dr. girlfriend says:

    kahdooz to An American Patriot! kahdooz to all, really!
    reading everyone’s thoughts this week made me appreciate blood meridian. otherwise, i would have read the novel, noted some pretty sentences, and avoided any deeper contemplation.
    “There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there’s no God in Mexico. Never will be.”
    let’s all keep up with what’s happening there:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/world/americas/29mexico.html
    let’s go “out there past men’s knowing, where the stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.” shiver.

  6. sinkfloridasink says:

    Thanks, AmPat. I didn’t have time to participate in this round of discussions, due to real life getting in the way as well as my lack of recent Videogum stalking that allowed to me discover that somebody actually was taking the Bookgum idea and running with it. But good news! I just read Never Let Me Go like TWO MONTHS AGO. So I’ll be able to clumsily add my shallow observations to the discussion whether I have time to re-read or not. So I’m excited. Anyways, I’ll see you next month!

  7. T-bag says:

    I’d like to add my thanks for putting this together. I was once in another book club, back in high school, but we read Gulliver’s Travels and gave up because it was so dumb.

    I’m also already through Part One of Never Let Me Go and CAN WE TALK ABOUT IT YET? WHAT is going on with these KIDS and this SCHOOL?????

    I’ll try to restrain myself, I guess.

  8. Mans says:

    First: An American Patriot is the best.

    Second: Shellbomber, Hotspur and Dr. Girlfriend are the best.

    Third: Everyone who comments is also the best.

    Fourth: Everyone who read the posts and comments, but didn’t comment, is also still pretty great.

    Fifth: I definitely came to the novel with an ax to grind and did not enjoy the first hundred pages. My book has many notes scribbled in it along the lines of “Oh come on!” and “This is bullshit.” And while I may still have some reservations about the stylistic choices that McCarthy makes, I came to like the book. I had to get away from what my presumptions about the novel and McCarthy were (I generally dislike macho, manly man stuff, which I assumed this was, and is to a degree) and get a hold on the novel itself.

    I am still not sure how I really feel about it, or about McCarthy as a writer, but I am interested now and look forward to reading not only “The Road” but also some of his other books.

    I think the issues that AnAmPat brings up here and that Shell, Hot and Dr. G brought up in their posts really get at the heart of the book: there are terrible things in life, how are you going to react or engage with them? I understand McCarthy’s desire to deal with death and life in struggle. I guess, though, I would have liked the life side of it to be a little more present so as to put the death side in more stark relief.

    That said, this is has been a very fun week and I am looking forward to the next book. I’ve read Never Let Me Go already, and didn’t think it was great, but I am looking forward to re-reading it and seeing if my opinion changes.

  9. Grinth says:

    I, myself, only commented a couple times but I absolutely loved reading all of your thoughts and the ensuing comments.

    A giant thank you to AmPat, Mans, Shellbomber, Hotspur and Dr. Girlfriend. I eagerly await round two and Never Let Me Go.

  10. hotspur says:

    2,200 hits is awesome. I had no idea what Bookgum would manage — I mean, asking monsters to read a whole novel is a lot more up-front commitment than asking them to watch a 40-second video, so I was wary. But 2,200 hits (or 2,300 today?) makes a certified successful launch! I am pretty darn enthused about that.

    I want to thank AnAmPat for envisioning it and putting it together so thoughtfully, ably, and patriotically. And I want to thank and doff my imaginary hat to Shellbomber, Mans, and Dr Girlfriend, who all wrote great essays that had me staring at my computer and actually thinking every day this week — as did everyone’s great comments, and as did AnAmPat’s further thoughts on the larger themes today. The discussion has really influenced my understanding and appreciation of this book — I saw all kinds of things in it thanks to you guys. So thanks for making me like Blood Meridian even more!

    I have really enjoyed this expansion of the monster world. And I am pleased that just 2 hours ago my copy of Never Let Me Go arrived from amazon, so BAM. I am ready for more Bookgum!

  11. natatattat says:

    Seriously AnAmPat, thank you for actually getting this thing going and not having it be this thing that we just kept talking about on VG forevs. It’s always so amazing when someone has the ambition to pick up a good idea and run with it. Especially since you did such an amazing job with everything. The concept you came up with is so well thought out, having variety of reviewers, how they are spread out during the week so the discussion can continue, and how you’ve worked out a compromise for Infinite Jest. I mean even the little details like the borders are great.

    Also, a personal thanks because I’ve always wanted to join a book club but could never find one that had a reading list with books I’d actually want to read. This has been really exciting :).

  12. stu says:

    Oh man, guys. I almost forgot to bring up the Cormac McCarthy parody in Royal Tenenbaums. Not so much the Eli Cash character himself, but definitely the writing excerpt in the first 15 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeKjKWXWZOE&feature=related

  13. Ashley says:

    Hello website!

    Thank you to everyone who wrote and commented on Blood Meridian! I was only able to lurk and read in spare moments this week, but I really appreciated the whole shared reading of the book, though I didn’t get time to share myself.

    Bring on November!

  14. caringiscool says:

    (I wrote most of this a couple of weeks ago, but then never posted it because I felt shy, since everyone was so smart and stuff. Still, they’re not doing my Notes program any good, and I really did want to participate, so I’m just going to post it, even though probably no one will ever read it. That’s okay. Next time!)

    Oh my goodness, so many things to notice about the book!

    First, really excited about Bookgum, about the level of discourse, and the insightfulness of the entries so far. Kahdooz all around.

    Second, disclaimer: I didn’t finish this sun blasted, salt caked, thirst crazed death march of a book. I’m a Care Bear and I just couldn’t handle it.

    I am a very fast, voracious, ravenous reader, who usually just chomps through books, barely chews them and swallows them without tasting them, so the experience of having this book stick firmly and painfully in my craw, and refuse to be swallowed, gave me a lot to think about. Obviously the violence kept it from being a fluffy beach read. The people who told me this was “The Nanny Diaries meets Deadwood” were totally lying! The violence, relentless, like Shellbomber said, mixed with the white powdery desert dust into a barfy yuck mud, coating everything. I found it impossible to look forward to reentering this world. I hate this world. My mind recoils from the very possibility of a single person like these characters, much less an entire reality populated by them.

    But Cormie Mac, like a big jerk, writes about easily the worst things I can imagine with a skill and grace and mysterious magic that had me LITERALLY gasping at least once per page. To have images of such horror and misery, even the miserable, hateful landscapes, described with such dizzying beauty was very disorienting. It’s like his writing is a smoothie that is half fresh squeezed apple-ginger-lemon juice and half broken glass and you can’t get the tasty juice stuff without getting a mouth full of blood. Is it worth it? Not for me, but I’m a Care Bear and I mostly read books about dragons. I’m basically the worst judge.

    I think we can all agree that atrocities are committed everyday. Part of modernity is the luxury of a buffer between most people’s daily lives and brutality of the sort described in the book. But then you watch The Wire, which is allegedly a fairly accurate depiction of an area of a modern American city, and it feels like you’re watching a show set in a different kind of frontier, with their own bands of awful thugs who have been so hardened and desensitized to cruelty that it doesn’t seem to even register. Who cares if my livelihood feeds on the destruction of other people’s lives? Who cares if this kid I’m killing has a family that loves him, a grandmother who will wait up for him and then spend years crying herself to sleep over her loss? These tender truths don’t even register in world where there is no tenderness to be had.

    I’m also reminded of a famous ethnography, written about life in the favelas of Brazil, called Death Without Weeping. The author, an anthropologist (ANTHRO MAJORS WHAT WHAT!!), describes the violence, the grinding poverty, the malnutrition, the fear, and the effect that this lifestyle has on the generations of people trying to live their lives there. The title refers to the way mothers don’t even bother to bond with any but the heartiest babies, because the chances of them living are so slim. These mothers foster no emotional connection with their babies, and when the babies die, they aren’t mourned. Most mothers just ignore babies that fail to thrive immediately, allowing them to weaken and die without any concern. This is a culture of people whose emotional bank accounts have balances so low that they can’t afford to invest in anything less than a sure thing.

    While the world of Blood Meridian is basically my nightmare, populated by dead-eyed monsters with no remorse, and it makes me feel better to think about how brutal and lawless the Old West was but how that time has passed, I think about the cycles of violence, poverty and crime in the favelas or the inner cities of the United States, and I have to accept that that’s a lie. I have to accept that, as the saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.

    One of the things that Mans said, about how we weren’t offered the other side of the “All Life Has Brutality, All Life Has Not-Brutality” coin, made me think about those townspeople in Blood Meridian, just raising their goats or taking care of babies, as the guys shoot stuff and cut throats and be disgusting monsters. I kind of felt like Cormie Mac didn’t have to offer the other side of the coin explicitly because our lives are the other side. We live lives that are largely unremarkable on a grand scale, just quietly puttering along, while in the dark corners of our world, there is grand scale horror. Even our normal, non-favela, non-ghettos of Baltimore, non-dust caked Old West hellscape cities and towns have these back corners, neighborhoods or just houses where people are living lives that chew each other up and spit the bloody pulp out. It’s upsetting to think about, but a casual perusal of any local paper proves it. That fucking teenage mom who shook her baby to death for disturbing her game of Farmville? She’s basically a modern day Kid. We are disturbed by stories like that and wonder how that could happen, because things like that are mostly hidden and out of sight for us as we putter along in our sunny, mostly easy lives. But in Blood Meridian’s world, the light of the unforgiving southern sun is being shone on the monsters, while the non-monsters are the ones scuttling around like cockroaches, trying to live peacefully on the shady fringes of the awful world. It’s like Cormie Mac has created a perfect, disgusting inverse of the way we experience the modern world.

    Anyway, again, wanted to say how much I love this whole Bookgum thing and how happy I am that it’s happening. Thanks.

  15. dr. girlfriend says:

    um, i think your writing stands up just fine here.
    thank you so much for sharing and it’s awesome that people are still putting time and effort into thinking about these issues and posting on bookgum.

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