Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Or the evening redness
See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves.
This may sound contradictory; I would heartily recommend this book, I have no idea what it is all about. I can tell you a basic outline of the plot, our main protagonist, who is known only as the kid, leaves home at fourteen and travels the American West, encountering violent deed after violent deed, ending up riding with the Glanton gang as they set out to “protect” people from the savage Indians.
That is the storyline, but that isn’t what this book is about, as I said, I have no idea what it is about. Violence is obviously a central theme, but whether McCarthy means that such violence is a part of all humanity and impossible to ignore, or whether he means it as a warning, or indeed something completely different I couldn’t say. So why would I recommend it?
Quite simply the prose is just beautiful. It may be describing horrible acts of death and destruction, but it reads wonderfully.
Everywhere there were horses down and men scrambling and he saw a man who sat charging his rifle while blood ran from his ears and he saw men with their revolvers disassembled trying to fit the spare loaded cylinders they carried and he saw men kneeling who tilted and clasped their shadows on the ground and he saw men lanced and caught up by the hair and scalped standing and he saw the horses of war trample down the fallen and a little whitefaced pony with one clouded eye leaned out of the murk and snapped at him like a dog and was gone.
Apart from our hero for lack of a better word we have our villain, the judge, who seems almost superhuman in his abilities, and evil in his intent. He is a child molester and murderer, a man who seems to be able to speak any language, yet delights in causing trouble. He is constantly to be found making notes, as he desires to know everything and so exert his control over it.
The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only be taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate. [...] The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos.
I think I’ll probably have to read it again at some point, maybe with some thought thrown in, but for now I’m happy to have read it.