A Book That Makes You Sad
This one was actually pretty easy for me to point to. Sad doesn’t really explain how this book makes me feel. Depressed and hopeless and numb is more like the word.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Anyone who has read this book should know why this book makes me depressed. The reason pretty much begins and ends with Judge Holden, possibly the most terrifying character ever written. This guy is a huge, John Goodman-looking hairless albino. Not only that, he’s a rapist, pedophile, murderer, and liar. If this isn’t bad enough, he is the character in the end who is victorious. In the end, he ends up killing (at best) the kid, who is pretty much the least evil character in the book and the hope for any kind of compassion.
The Judge isn’t the only thing making this book intensely depressing though. Another reason is that the book gives us the bloody history of how the West was truly won. This, I think, for any American is cause for concern. It’s ironic that I’m writing this post about a book retelling the bloody history of America on the 4th of July. But in the book we hear tales of women and children being killed and then sodomized. We hear of Native Americans being scalped and tortured. Almost everything about this book is amazingly bleak and depressing.
Lastly, the book advances the idea (mostly espoused by the Judge) that War is God and that violence is the foundation of human nature. Now the idea about violence being the foundation of human nature may be true and I may even be willing to believe that. Maybe not the core, but the foundation, sure. We are animals, after all. But the fact that the Judge seems untouchable and he is the one espousing this belief leaves me very sickened. The character Toadvine puts a gun to the Judge’s head, but decides not to kill him. In what kind of a world would this be allowed to continue? A rapist, liar, murderer is left alive while people are massacred in their homes and the characters with consciences are killed. Fucking hell that’s depressing.
I think the end is why the whole thing sticks in my craw so much. Just after the Judge kills the kid, we get this last passage: “Towering over them all is the judge and he is naked dancing, his small feet lively and quick and now in doubletime and bowing to the ladies, huge and pale and hairless, like an enormous infant. He never sleeps, he says. He says he’ll never die. He bows to the fiddlers and sashays backwards and throws back his head and laughs deep in his throat and he is a great favorite, the judge. He wafts his hat and the lunar dome of his skull passes palely under the lamps and he swings about and takes possession of one of the fiddles and he pirouettes and makes a pass, two passes, dancing and fiddling at once. His feet are light and nimble. He never sleeps. He says that he will never die. He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing. He says that he will never die. THE END.”
What the hell kind of a way is that to leave the guy who is the cause of the suffering we see in the novel? Fuck. Yeah, the writing is beautiful. Haunting. Very memorable. The last two lines echo through my head every time I think of the book, but it’s depressing beyond belief when you get through the whole book hoping this guy is going to die and he ends up dancing, saying he will never die. I both hate and admire this book more than I can say. I really like McCarthy’s writing. “Suttree” is one of my favorite books, but some of McCarthy’s ideas in “Blood Meridian” depress me to no end. And usually I’m the person defending books like this that make people uncomfortable. But I guess there must be some sort of truth to it if it has such an effect on me. Anyway, that’s the book that makes me sad.