Friday, June 19, 2009

Harrold Bloom on Blood Meridian

"AVC: So you think that, despite your own initial reaction to it, McCarthy is successful in the way he uses violence in the book?

HB: More than successful. It’s not only the ultimate Western, the book is the ultimate dark dramatization of violence. Again, I don’t see anyone surpassing it in that regard."

"AVC: The violence in Blood Meridian is uncharacteristic. It’s not used as a cheap metaphor or a means of catharsis or transformation.

HB: Oh, no, no. The violence is the book. The Judge is the book, and the Judge is, short of Moby Dick, the most monstrous apparition in all of American literature. The Judge is violence incarnate. The Judge stands for incessant warfare for its own sake."

It was the judge who got me into the book. You meet the kid. You go into the tent with the preacher. The Judge accuses the preacher of molesting little girls. And being run out of "Fort Smith Arkansas for having congress with a goat." General gunfire. Tent destroyed, great violence etc. And then The Kid goes to the bar. The judge is there buying rounds. Someone asks him how he got the goods on the preacher.

"Goods? said the judge.
When was you in Fort Smith?
Fort Smith?
When did you know him to know all that stuff on him?
You mean the Reverend Green?
Yessir. I reckon you was in Fort Smith fore ye come out here.
I was never in Fort Smith in my life. Doubt that he was.
They looked from one to the other
Well where was it you run up on him?
I never laid eyes on the man before today. Never even heard of him.
He raised his glass and drank.

There was a strange silence in the room. The men looked like mud effigies. Finally someone began to laugh. Then another. Soon they were all laughing together. Someone bought the judge a drink."

I also laughed at that point, and started reading with a different kind of attention.

"AVC: When you called it “the ultimate Western”, did you mean merely the paramount example of the genre, or its final expression?

HB: No, I meant the final one. It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have. I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it, that it essentially closes out the tradition."

Well, yes. Consider this snippet:

"...the slant black shapes of the mounted men stenciled across the stone with a definition austere and implacable like shapes capable of violating their covenant with the flesh that authored them and continuing autonomous across the naked rock without reference to sun or man or god."

That's what McCarthy did with the Western. He cut it loose.

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