Et in Arcadia Ego; or, On Reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

… or The Evening Redness in the West

And the answer, said the judge. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? … His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes.

Paradoxically enough, a book like this renews my faith in the possibilities of the world, that there is such a thing to encounter out there as this–that it was even sitting tucked away on my very own bookshelf, waiting, a potentiality waiting to be actualized. I don’t know what rough thing such a book lets loose in the world, something terrible and awesome, in the rooted meaning of those words. It certainly makes the whole mythos of the West tremble and come unmoored, in the looseness of which new histories of life and America become possible.

The judge smiled. Whether in my book or not, every man is tabernacled in every other and he in exchange and so on in an endless complexity of being and witness to the uttermost edge of the world. 

It is interesting, too, at the height of the arms race, in 1985, McCarthy writes a book prohphetic of an already apocalyptic human soul, but in 2006, when violence has come to seem more local and endemic, if no less brutal, McCarthy writes a book about the apocalypse of the world. Like all good authors, his mirrors are slightly awry, and we see our own images askew in history and place–as if the end of history, in ashes, was really about the ultimate destiny of the human soul, what makes it human beyond violence, in violence, enduring, but mayhap not forever.

This you see here, these ruins … do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again.

One wonders if Judge Holden, survives into the desolation after this possibly final war, and if in it he simply see the echoes of other desolations past, dim rumors of the deserts of Texas, Mexico, California, the sutured frontier opened again where some wild chaos spills out to confront the too-easy, too-fragile truth of the present…

Or is the truth of his immortality what he represents from the essence of the human, its mindless, eternal violence.

He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.

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