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Blood Meridian

by Carl Hannigan 12 months ago in review

An Overrated Classic Filled With Unreadable Grammar and Typos

Blood Meridian is considered by many to be a classic. The great "American" novel. The one who revolutionized the way violence and the West is depicted. It's also a book filled written in a weird writing style. It is also filled with a lot of grammar problems and... yes... typos. Oh, wow! It's another Cormac McCarthy rant. Where did I hear of this before?

I do have the right to criticize since I did bought the damn book, yes?

McCarthy is undeniable a good philosophical writer and he wrote books that I personally love like The Road and No Country For Old Men. But the book considered to be his magnum opus is one of the most unreadable novels in history (check its Goodreads page and see just how many also share my opinions).


Let's talk first about the writing, and God do I have to catch my breath after reading a paragraph (or a sentence stretched into a paragraph). I’ve` never been a big fan of the lack of comma-thing and the overuse of the word “and”. I know polysyndeton is a writing style but McCarthy just overdoes it. The Holy Bible also uses polysyndeton but at least it has commas and semi-colons compared to Blood Meridian.

His writing also feels all over the place, just going from one thought to the next. It might sound artsy and poetic, but stuff like "they moved in a constant elision, ordained agents of the actual dividing out the world which they encountered" sounds more like a word salad from a schizophrenic than an actual literary sentence. It's also made worse by the lack of quotation marks which made me mistook some dialogue as narration, and forced me to stop and backtrack. McCarthy tries hard to sound like is a great mystic, a great intellectual, but most of his great thoughts are skin-deep and self-indulgent. War is the greatest good in the world, he suggests. War will overpower all, overrule everything and in the end it will be all that exists. It will dance atop love, atop peace, like a four-hundred pound hairless goliath (his metaphor, not mine). Well, that's fine but not so much true.

Technical Errors

The spelling, grammar, and usage errors were numerous - the most distinguishable was “bowieknives”. Said word is actually spelled as “Bowie knives” or “bowie knives”. One could argue that this was just an accent on a dialogue, but McCarthy used that word in the narration. At first, I thought maybe I was wrong and that was how the word was spelled back then. But I made the effort to research old books dating back to the mid-19th century (the same era where Blood Meridian takes place) and it is spelled as "bowie knife" or "bowies" (I read Brother Jonathan, Volume 5 and excerpts from Harper's New Monthly). Self-published books get a negative rap for bad writing and typos. Yet many of these books were easier to read and looked more polished than Blood Meridian.


The characters are also unlikeable. Almost all of them are a-holes. Maybe that's something that I should have known since this is a violent book. But almost all actions of every character are predictable. They go from one place to another, sowing hell amongst everyone they meet. They do congregate and talk to each other, with some interesting notions about their history and characteristics. But then the new chapter comes along and they go back to murdering. I did applaud them during their last stand, with a few showing off some humanity after all the violence they had wrought.

The protagonist, the one who's called "The Kid", is pretty much a hang-around. He's just there to be a witness to the gang's actions until the last chapters where he actually does something.

Then there's Judge Holden, the enigmatic and most iconic character in this book. I like how mysterious he is and acts like a damn force of nature that cannot be put down. The philosophy he shares too is interesting to read. But at the same time, one cannot be blamed if the Judge tends to be unbelievable and ludicrous. Some might say this book is ingenious because it has a strong philosophy that is delivered within a story and without having the story stop to have the philosophy delivered. I would just say that McCarthy tried really hard to create a character who can spout his deepest beliefs, which are not all that original nor interesting.


Again, I do not mean any disrespect to him. I am still a fan of his novel The Road. Although the Judge was cool, I just thought Blood Meridian is his most overrated book. Maybe it got famous since there has never been a violent book/Western like it? But nowadays though? Go and play Red Dead Redemption 2 instead.

Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5.


About the author

Carl Hannigan

Self-acclaimed connoisseur of the literary arts. Famed warlord in the wars against typos. Lover of the sweet books and magnificent prints. TL;DR I'm a book nerd and editor :D

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