All reading is transformative for the reader, even if it’s merely additive or supplemental--a cumulation of more knowledges, the text inscribed on the reading mind, a database point for later quotation at the moment of optimal discharge in witty wordgasm. The rare reading, by contrast, is more significantly transformative, not merely supplemental or simply inscriptive, but re-inscriptive, altering the reader beyond routine stockpiling, and rather changing Berger‘s “way of seeing,” an althusserian interpellative event, a decentering and recentering, a getting lost at sea and finding one‘s way back to shore though the stars be strange. (In dialectical terms, the former is merely quantitative change, whereas the latter is qualitative, arising from the text's inscriptive interpenetrating opposition, negating the negation, pushing the reader to the point of crisis, or so.) Blood Meridian
is this latter type of transformative.
No need to get into how the text may be transformative for me personally; sufficient to note instead a few kickass bits--
We get the conjunction of pagan priapic fertility astrotheologism with scenic description: “They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them” (46-47). (The paratactic rhetoric piles property upon property, and it’s easy to get lost in there. There’s a nice dissertation on the parataxis, and another in the sunset metaphors here.) At the very least, whenever there’s a sunrise description, we should read that as an erect cock somehow.
After the manifest destiny filibuster of Captain White is destroyed by a “legion of horribles” (54)--“riding down the unhorsed Saxons and spearing and clubbing them,” “ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries” (56)--we hear of principle protagonist: “with darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the moonlight” (58), ambiguous enough to suggest a resurrection from the general slaughter. I don’t have a supernatural reading of this, or suggest it’s a fantasy, but there’s enough weirdnesses and ambiguities to make it happen.
The passage through scoria and other nasty places is noted as “terra damnata” (64), a “purgatorial waste” (66). (RSB’s topoi
, no doubt.)
When companion is bitten by vampiric bat, he “was clawing his neck and he was gibbering hysterically and when he saw the kid standing there looking down at him he held out to him his bloodied hands as if an accusation and then clapped them to his ears and cried out what it seemed he himself would not hear, a howl of such outrage as to stitch a caesura in the pulse beat of the world” (69). The text is full of passages like this, nearly as many as it has baleful yet pregnant sunset descriptions. The former type of rhetoric is the 20th century’s answer to the epic simile.
More mccarthian post-epic simile, oft combined with priapic astrotheology: “The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they opposed to each other the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning” (90).
Melvillian exegises: “They were men of another time for all that they bore christian names and they had lived all their lives in a wilderness as had their fathers before them. They’d learnt war by warring, from the ashes at Gnadenhutten onto the prairies and across the outlet to the bloodlands of the west. If much in the world were mystery the limits of that world were not, for it was without measure or bound and there were contained within it creatures more horrible yet and men of other colors and beings which no man has looked upon and yet not alien none of it more than were their own hearts alien in them, whatever wilderness contained there and whatever beasts” (144).
I can’t stop with the awesome post-epic similes: “They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote. For although each man among them was discrete unto himself, conjoined they made a thing that had not been before and in that communal soul were wastes hardly reckonable more than those whited regions on old maps were monsters do live and where these is nothing other of the known world save conjectural winds” (158).
Okay--one more epic simile and then I stop: “They wandered the borderland for weeks seeking some sign of the Apache. Deployed upon that plain they moved in a constant elision, ordained agents of the actual dividing out the world which they encountered and leaving what had been and what would never be alike extinguished on the ground behind them. Spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenellated heat. Above all else they appeared wholly at venture, primal, provisional, devoid of order. Like beings provoked out of the absolute rock and set nameless and at no remove from their own loomings to wander ravenous and doomed and mute as gorgons shambling the brutal wastes of Gondwanaland in a time before nomenclature was and each was all” (180).
Bloom’s introduction designates text as apocalyptic (vii), which makes a perverse sense when compared with the much lesser achievement in [b:The Road|6288|The Road|Cormac McCarthy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320606344s/6288.jpg|3355573], which shares the same imaginary. The vast majority of scenes in Blood Meridian
involve abandoned chattels, fields of past slaughter, destroyed structures, evidences of dead civilization, a hitlerian law of ruins set to prose, all in 1850s North America at the intersection of two republics and numerous aboriginal states. The post-nuclear setting is indistinguishable from the western. As with any cultural treasure, the pristine John-Wayne-Western and frontier mythology of US patriotism has an origin which persons such as Benjamin (and apparently McCarthy) cannot contemplate without horror. Bloom is certainly on the right track in placing it in a lineage with [b:Moby Dick|153747|Moby-Dick; or, The Whale|Herman Melville|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327940656s/153747.jpg|2409320]. The Judge’s lectures fit right in to Bloom’s apocalyptic reading, as the Judge reverts to a base neo-hobbesianism but is simultaneously the law and the ledger of human knowledge, recording items and then destroying them, whatever exists without his awareness exists without his consent, &c.
Title is a bit of a mystery. Text helps by deploying meridian
at several points, such as describing noon (131) but also in a neo-spenglerian sense (153), and further as something else altogether in “some ruined army retreating across the meridians of chaos and old night“ (169). I recall taking a flight one time, though, which descended rapidly for landing--prior to descent, the plane was in daylight, but as we dropped we passed out of day into civil twilight at landing. Seen from a vantage just before hitting the ground, the western horizon was a deep soviet hemophagic crimson. It was gorgeous. It was horrible.