No! say it ain’t so.
Sure, I find great pleasure galore in the poetic prose of its pages, a textural, substantive satisfaction like A Clockwork Orange or Trainspotting… but it’s ultimately a superficial immersion. The sights and sounds and smells and kills of the era convey swimmingly, and in the language the storytelling reflects the story being told, all the simple savagery and remoteness of land and isolation of character. But what doesn’t come across is humanity, any internal story, so much as a whiff of a glimpse behind the eyes into the complex soul of emotion and intention.
For sure it is a triumph in many other ways, but really isn’t it also a copout? A shortcut, a cheat, in that it does not delve beyond narrative into true character? We get to know the characters, such as they are, well enough through remote observation, but since we always remain above and outside there’s no real distinct people here, just hazy wraiths of myth. We know the Judge as well as we do the Man, nee the Kid, which is not very much… but then one thinks of the story about simple, savage, unaware men, all urge and action, no self-reflection, and I concede that again in that way the storytelling reflects the story.
Pretty clever, reflecting the story in two dimensions like that. And I suppose reflecting the inner worlds of characters with limited to no inner world would be artificial, if not disingenuous, he said before realizing how patronizing he was being to his own self as he was writing that this right now that there.
So, as is my prerogative, I change my mind : turns out Blood Meridian’s OK after all. I just finished it so don’t yet really know what it’s about, other than Man Violent, but I hope it’s more. Otherwise it’s just a stylistic triumph — which it most certainly is, magnificently so. Yet by remaining forever an outside observer, does it not subtly feed the modern isolationist malaise of crumbling society by reinforcing the dehumanizing notion that other people don’t have feelings and inner lives of their own? You laugh, but there is in all things a psychological influence commensurate with social impact, and this book has most certainly pervaded. For sure it has inspired similarly (though amateurishly) emotionally detached fiction, and probably other stuff too. And fiction, being a glimpse into the private existences of others, is where we’re supposed to learn empathy,
It is unfortunately the kind of thing that happens, and is why this great book I love sucks.