Book review (1 of 2): Cormac McCarthy,Blood Meridian

McCarthy is duly famous and you hear his work bandied around by serious readers which I suppose I was once, though I don’t have the patience to plough through heavy philosophy any more. That’s where McCarthy is going, but philosophy steeped in Western ethos and smells – and especially horse-thought. Yes, I said horse-thought. He gets really into horses. I’ve read two of his works in quick succession.

Blood Meridian. I started with as this is McCarthy’s first ‘notable’ work according to Wikipedia. This is a bit tongue in cheek, but really…Blood Meridian can be summarized as tedious and pretentious, if sometimes gorgeous. I usually do not recount plots in my book reviews but this one really begs me to for its ridiculousness. Also, the plot hews to the essence of this review, as it is tedious: A guy (‘kid’ – yes, really, you never get to know his name) hooks up w/ bad people, rides into Mexico. They see Apache slaughter people, so they slaughter people. The gang gets to a town, promise to kill bad guys, go out and kill the people they are meant to protect. Rinse and repeat. At the end the kid runs into someone he rode with who was odd, is still odd, who kills him in an outhouse. Nice. No discernible character development. Super detailed descriptions of the Southwest but brutal run-on sentences for days. Pretentious in concept as well as vocabulary. The author fell into a thesaurus. Should have been a short story! Would have been great.

Some really obscure word choices: pyrolatrous, spanceled, preterite, holothurians. Amazing. He really had me running for the dictionary, and for no really good reason.

I noted that though descriptions are his high point, McCarthy’s descriptions are mostly horrible: “The mummied corpse hung from the crosstree with its mouth gaped in a raw hole, a thing of leather and bone scoured by the pumice winds off the lake and the pale tree of the ribs showing through the scraps of hide that hung from the breast.

Example Run-on: “They saw the governor himself erect and formal within his silkmullioned sulky clatter forth from the double doors of the palace courtyard and they saw one day a pack of vicious looking humans mounted on unshod indian ponies riding half drunk through the streets, bearded, barbarous, clad in the skins of animals stitched up with thews and armed with weapons of every description, revolvers of enormous weight and bowieknives the size of claymores and short twobarreled rifles with bores you could stick your thumbs in and the trappings of their horses fashioned out of human skin and their bridles woven up from human hair and decorated with human teeth and the riders wearing scapulars or necklaces of dried and blackened human ears and the horses raw looking and wild in the eye and their teeth bared like feral dogs and riding also in the company a number of halfnaked savages reeling in the saddle, dangerous, filthy, brutal, the whole like a visitation from some heathen land where they and others like them fed on human flesh.” There were lots of these monstrosities.

Bottom line: Read for the horror and gore. Makes his later works seem more approachable.

Book Review: Frank Sinatra in a Blender

Used under Fair Use doctrine.
Used under Fair Use doctrine.

Yes, I have reblogged myself – centralizing all book reviews here at W&W.

Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: profanity follows. I’m not exactly the epitome of discretion myself when I speak, and I’ve been known to have characters who explode with the occasional socially awkward expression, but usually my expository writing is clean. But there is really no way to write cleanly of this particular novel. Fair warning.

I read a review that said this was a ‘great’ book. Hellfire, Charlie Sheen liked it! (I discovered that after the fact.) I read it. I have read more sensationalist, exploitative works. I am no literary virgin. But this was on the edge of what I’d call entertaining, in a ‘secret sin’ sort of way.

Frank Sinatra in a Blender is an engaging read, and it certainly has character. It also has very little shame or self-consciousness. In fact, if books had a human expression, this would be a brash, loud, tout from a bawdy house in 19th century Barbary Coast San Francisco, capering in a torn frock coat and showing nicotine-stained teeth. Perhaps even opium stained teeth. It is entertaining but being a torrid, roaring send-up of the pulp/noir detective genre, it is a bit limited in scope, as is its target. No big deal there. We’re not reading this for great insights into character development, social commentary or gender roles. Far from it. The characters are men, strippers, more men, a dancer, a pretty receptionist (natch) who immediately falls for the protag, who is battered, bloodstained, and, of course, reeking of vodka at the time. What 21-year-old blonde babe could resist? You get the idea. Not for the Birkenstock crowd, this. I mean, *not at all.* It is pulp fiction, and it revels in the violence, gore and testosterone-oriented bravado of the genre.

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