19 April 2009

Blood Meridian

By JAMES B. WYLER


Sorry I'm a day late for this conversation. Actually I'll be honest. I know one person who read the book, but I'll be surprised if many more of you did. But as long as I have a good time that's all that matters (the selfish top in me just typed).

I'll start out with this. I love Ridley Scott, but he needs to leave Blood Meridian alone. There is talk he'll make the film adaption of McCarthy's masterpiece and the book will be destroyed. Ridley himself admits to the problems of transferring the novel to screen.

"If you're going to do Blood Meridian you've got to go the whole nine yards into the blood bath, and there's no answer to the blood bath, that's part of the story, just the way it is and the way it was."

Calling the novel a blood bath is an understatement. Men use the ears of kills as prizes of worth, there isa feverish hunt for scalp and then there are the bodies of the dead. And more dead. And more. This is the western part of America Hollywood never got to telling with its iconic tales . Characters played by John Wayne and Gary Cooper would be jail house bitch meat in the world of the Judge and the Glanton Gang.

It is shaking up a genre that is so worn ready that makes Blood Meridian so essential. And any novel that has this line needs to be on your bookshelf:

Men's memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not."

Yes that line comes from the mouth of the Judge, Satan, or his best representative, on Earth; however, when applied to the western, a mode of story-telling that has been steeped in myth and lore, far removed from the actual West, shouldn't we listen to the devil?

Okay, I'm rambling so let's make this concrete with a few questions: 1) at the end of the novel when the Judge and the Kid go into the room, what happens?, 2) what do you make of the Judge dancing at the end and proclaiming his skills as a performer being matched by none, 3) the Kid and the priest. How to describe their relationship? What draws them to each other, other than daddy drama?, 4) is it wrong to see this as a comic novel? Yes it is seeped in death, yet there are out loud funny moments. My personal favorite is when black Jackson cuts the head off of one of his peers who decides that sitting around the fire is now segregated, 5) do we dismiss the Judge by seeing him as Satan as opposed to a real man who understands better than most the nature of humans? 6) is the Kid responsible for the destruction of the gang as the Judge suggests and if so, how?, and 7) what role does the physical landscape play in the plot the development of characters?

So let's talk. Leave your comments. answer the questions (or not). I'll do my best to respond to what is said. Blah, Blah.

And in case you are wondering, yes I have a book set for next month. The week-end of May 23, we'll talk about Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body. A world away from the Glanton Gang in one sense, but still dealing with those questions of our humanity. And for you queens who think the only thing you can do is read, eat, and live stuff that is gay, Winterson is a lesbian. Although she would remind us that is the least interesting thing about her.

10 comments:

  1. Great questions: can't wait to respond in more detail tonight.
    But to get started...I always saw rape in the jakes between the Judge and the Kid, denial of masculinity which is what his pseudo-father-quest was substituting for.

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  2. Couldn't agree more with you re. Ridley Scott. I like the guy but I think he's too steeped in the Hollywood machine to actually do the book justice. If it's ever going to see the big screen, it needs someone who will take the kind of risks that Hollywood doesn't take anymore. Probably a non-American director, actually!

    I absolutely adored this book choice - thank you so much! It's been a few days now since I finished it and I'm still thinking of it. From the many reviews I've found on the net, I'm tempted to those that think the judge was the devil. I'll work my views on this into the answers to your questions:

    1) at the end of the novel when the Judge and the Kid go into the room, what happens?The judge kills the Kid, though I did try to read between the lines in hope that he'd survived. It's very homoerotic how the judge embraces him naked, inside a bog room(!?), and locks the door behind them. The ultimate and final seduction. It's horrible really how it's left ambiguous - did the judge rip him apart? stuff him down the bog? etc. The judge pissing on the mud just before the Kid's body was discovered made me think of the devil pissing on God's creation (man came from mud...)

    2) what do you make of the Judge dancing at the end and proclaiming his skills as a performer being matched by noneIn old Christian tales, the devil plays the fiddle and is an expert dancer.

    3) the Kid and the priest. How to describe their relationship? What draws them to each other, other than daddy drama?The expriest is a man who once worked for God - a fallen soldier. He's the closest to a representative of good in the gang. He's locked in a struggle with the judge for the Kid's soul. When they run into the judge in the desert, again I was reminded of a biblical scene - the devil appearing to Jesus in the desert to tempt him. The expriest exhalted the Kid's "tiny" propensity for clemency.

    4) is it wrong to see this as a comic novel?Yes it is, you sicko! :-)

    5) do we dismiss the Judge by seeing him as Satan as opposed to a real man who understands better than most the nature of humans?If he is man, then he's gone so far into the dark that he's lost all humanity from his body. At times, his descriptions reminded me of a Buddha - someone who has overcome the physical world and is magical. I don't think he knows the nature of all humans - just those that are murderers and evil. Although he brings destruction and misery to plenty of innocents, he only co-exists with those that are on the road of murder and mayhem. I have no doubt the Kid would have never met him if he'd gone on to find a job somewhere, settle down. The judge is like the person you meet once you have crossed a certain threshold and can't go back...

    6) is the Kid responsible for the destruction of the gang as the Judge suggests and if so, how?Nah... that was the judge just fucking with the Kid's head, trying to catch him off guard. I think it bothered the judge that the Kid wasn't 100% committed to atrocities like the rest of them so it was a matter of honour for him to break the Kid. But all the disasters that befell the rest of the gang were completely of their doing and had nothing to do with the Kid.

    7) what role does the physical landscape play in the plot the development of characters?Again, I think it is reminiscent of the Bible, as well as other books, and it serves to create a connection to those works and strengthen the allegory, the metaphors, the symbols... to me, the setting was one of the highlights - it gave the work its poetic power and a break from the horrors of the characters' actions. It was almost as if we could find some grace in the that inospitable setting so we didn't feel completely hopeless.

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  3. Common,

    You are right about the Hollywood machine destroying BM. They probably would have the kid kill the Judge or some nonsense like that. A non-American director would be perfect because he/she could look at the the mythology with a new eye.

    1. Does the Judge only kill the Kid? What do you make of the guy who opens the door and quickly closes it. If he saw murder, why doesn't he say anything. Is it the perv on me to think the Kid and the Judge are doing "the nasty" and then he kills him. Remember the Judge does have a thing for sleeping with people/children and then killing them.

    2. OMG. I should have known that! That makes the idea of the Judge as Satan even much more persuasive.

    3. I know what the Judge wants with the kid's soul, but what about the priest? He has ears as a necklace. Is he trying to save the kid for a life that isn't as depraved as the Judge's, but it still is wrong?

    4. :-) But there are laugh out loud moments. What about when the Judge comes in and disrupts the minister's sermon? In all the macabre there are moments of humor and I'm wondering if that adds up to something.

    5. Like I said, I can't get a handle on the Judge. Maybe I'm not supposed to, but do you really think it's fair to see him as the spark plug to the Kid's murdering ways?

    6. Is the Kid that innocent and all? I mean he dies participate in ll of the killings. Yes he talks to the dead woman to make amends, but she's dead? I'm not sure I'm ready to see him as the hero yet.

    7. You know it's strange, but I look at the terrain of the novel as unforgiving as the Glanton gang.

    I know more questions than answers (smile), but that is the beauty of the novel.

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  4. Apparently Todd Field is taking the helm for that movie, which will probably make him the rightful heir to Kubrick.

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  5. Well, I absolutely agree that there are no heroes! The Kid, though, joins the gang when he is 14. He's just entering manhood, and this could be the reason why the judge is into him - too young to rape and kill, not old enough to steal the soul. So the Kid is a sort of blank slate that the judge can work his tricks on, or observe. Now that I think of it, I think the Kid stands directly opposite the Imbelice, who if I remember correctly was also quite young when the gang took him. The Imbecile, attached to the judge like his little mascot, is what the Kid should be, but is not.

    Later, when the judge meets the Kid again, he's now older, lost, at a dead end. There really is nothing there, and the time for his death has come. I think that guy who found the Kid screamed something like "Oh My God!" and slammed the door shut - he saw something too terrifying.

    I also just remembered that scene of the Kid being confused with a male prostitute and murdering the john that took him to the alley... yup, I could see how the judge might have fucked him before killing him - again, it's ambiguous and it leaves too many questions and not enough answers!

    It's one of those books that needs to be read a few times. It doesn't give up its treasures on the first read. I not only haven't got the judge figured out, but I also want to think more about the expriest and what he could mean.

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  6. any updates on the contest?

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  7. Common,

    I'm sort of being stubborn about the Kid for some reason but I like the idea of it being his time to die at the end.

    I'm also forgetting the scene where he talks to the dead woman. Tells her his crimes and promises to take her hometown (hard to imagine anyone else in the gang doing that). Of course she is dead so there is something empty about his promise, but there is a humanity that has not been expressed before.

    But it's strange though because that humanity loses and all we have is the Judge dancing.

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  8. Notanotherblog,

    But I'm not sure Field can pull it off. The more I think about it, I'm not sure if the book's majesty can even translate to the screen.

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  9. Rob,

    Where you at brother? Step up the plate with your comments!

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  10. i promice myself i'll read it as a result (of this post lol, and get back to you

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