I read Blood Meridian in September and October 2008 and I just hated it, probably more so in retrospect. What a frustrating way to have spent my downtime through an election campaign.
I would go back into Cormac McCarthy – we have all of The Orchard Keeper, All the Pretty Horses, and No Country for Old Men in the house – but the odds of reading any of those when there are so many other wonderful things in the world to read are slight.
Here I was all ready to say that I didn’t read another solid novel until Afterlands by Steven Heighton but I’ve checked my fall 2008 list and that isn’t true. In between I read What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn which was nice but not as good as Afterlands turned out to be. And, wonderfully, the real-life arctic expedition in Afterlands came up again in Elizabeth Hay’s The Only Snow In Havana which was one of my favourite books of 2009. The quote on Afterlands, from The Globe or something: “A magnificent novel about the wreckage of history – both the history that happens to us and the versions of it we create.” Yes and it had so much more to say about history and exploration and memory and the day to day and even more to say about the American Southwest than bloody Blood Meridian. Maybe I was the wrong audience (not an issue – good books should transcend etc etc) but the point of Blood Meridian was entirely lost on me. I don’t need 400 macho pages telling me how the west was really won – I don’t need your inside-joke cowboy subversion. The structure beat me into submission and I was left with how many hundreds of pages left to go where nothing really happened. Blood and guts and long sentences but nothing. Whose fault: the reader or the writer? It’s fair to split the difference.
I read The Road too but I read it as genre fiction, not as a novel, no matter how many awards were splashed on the back cover. My copy has an ‘Oprah’s Book Club’ sticker too. Maybe the genre/novel bit is a quaint distinction, maybe I should have read Blood Meridian in the same style but the fact is that I went through The Road in two days and fought with Blood Meridian for a month. The Road sits beside The Chrysalids and Earth Abides and Interface while Blood Meridian sits alone as some horrible totem. How a novel can make you feel so lousy about reading books.
And speaking of totemic novels – Point Omega by Don DeLillo, the 117pg (shorter than The Body Artist for crying out loud) new novel is on my shelf, waiting for the summer.