Monday, August 27, 2012
We've seen a cannibalistic doctor splay a prison guard across a cell. We've seen the Joker perform his magic trick to a stunned room. We've played witness to Frank Booth's sadism and the airgun wielding Anton Chigurh flipping fate's coin. These are people that are always brought into the conversation when discussing villians. What we haven't seen is the Judge. A hairless, albino-skinned giant from Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The setting is 1846 and the narrative follows the Glanton Gang- a band of bounty hunters who collect scalps. Our narrator is the Kid. But the character everyone comes away from the novel affected by the most is Judge Holden.
McCarthy draws from the well of such classics as Moby Dick and Paradise Lost and serves up evil on a Biblical level. Like Milton did with Satan in Paradise Lost, McCarthy gives the Judge a language steeped in epigraphs, philosophical musings and twisted morality. We are simply compelled by him not only as a character but as a force or almost heroic evil. Yet he draws us out of the dustclouds and into the circle around the campfire. Almost as much as he repels us with his grand tales of of his own. "Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent." I need not to divulge any further. As explaining any more about the Judge or the Kid would ruin the book for the newcomer.
As a novel, Blood Meridian digs up terrain that is replete with enough violence and horror to give any horror fan. The images that are brought forth from the novel's 300+ pages stick to the subconscious like hot tar. This is true horror. An author that weathers real shock and awe and is made all the more prescient when one gets to the final 50 pages. It's a frighteneing vision to be embedded in the American spirit. McCarthy makes it known to the reader that as we witness the slaughtering of countless people to the Glanton Gang does not go by any moral compass. The violence is spectatcular. Keep in mind, this is the same hand that penned The Road & No Country For Old Men.
This writer's whole repertoire is mandatory for any reader, but having read only these three books, it is in my mind (along with many others) that McCarthy is on the level of Faulkner and Melville in terms of prose. It's efortless in its descriptions and poetic in its storytelling.
Before Ed Tom Bell dreamed of carrying the fire, there was the Kid. Before Anton Chigurh pulled over a car and asked a man to kindly step out, there was the Judge. A great, shambling mutant. Silent and serene. He keeps dancing. He says he will never die.