Blood Meridian

August 12, 2010

Cormac McCarthy is a master of cryptic endings. And if ever a novel had a sphinx-like epilogue, it’s Blood Meridian, which, if your ears are attuned to the musicality of McCarthy’s prose, is a kind of inverted Ninth Symphony. An ode to violence, as it were. A parable about existence, about life, about leading and following, about authorship and reading, in a word, about everything, McCarthy’s epilogue surpasses, in my opinion, Plato’s allegory of the cave. Carriers of light, a recurrent theme in his fiction, are solitary beings. They can be “good” people, moral exemplars, or effective leaders. Or they can be literary artists like Homer and Cervantes, or Robinson and McCarthy. What these fire-producers and spark-throwers have in common is the cold unregenerate darkness from which they issue and the wake they leave in their train, as others struggle to comprehend the meaning of their efforts in a silent world. Just as we struggle to comprehend McCarthy’s novel. Which after all is a piece of life, scary, ambiguous, and implacable. In McCarthy’s universe, if ever there’s truth, beauty, and justice — which are hard-won achievements, indeed — they occur on the granite-like surface of selfishness, greed, and violence. Perhaps that’s the import of the epilogue: a solitary man, any man, everyman, struggling in a dry, inhospitable land to forge a path or create a space for others to follow or occupy, if only gropingly.