Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 29 (Cormac McCarthy)

Blood Meridian
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
McCarthy, Cormac
Blood Meridian
Or the Evening Redness
In the West

Purchased online. This is not the copy I read. Lori started reading McCarthy a few years ago, so I bought her this once she'd picked the rest of my shelf clean.

This book is conjuring memories of an old friendship, and since I have so many McCarthy books coming up, I think I'll talk about it over several days.

I first learned of Cormac McCarthy from a high school friend, M. He arrived, I believe, at the beginning of my sophomore or junior year in high school. He'd grown up in Queens and then moved to DC when his father took a job there. I don't quite recall what his father did, but he had a lot of money, judging by the huge house they lived in, in Potomac, Md., one of the more exclusive suburbs of DC.

M. and I had in common being part of an exclusive group of students who at that time, unlike the rest of our prep-school classmates, exhibited little ambition beyond having good times with good friends (translation: we liked to party, often and hard). Neither of us did well in school and we were both counseled to nearly to death by the support staff at the school who desperately wanted to help us get through high school and safely into college.

Unlike me, M. actually liked to read. He read tons and tons of books. I always admired his ability to amuse himself by simply picking up a book and reading. I did not develop this skill until much later in life. In high school I could barely sit still long enough to read the menu at McDonald's, and I couldn't stand being alone. M.'s love of reading did not, however, translate into good grades, which was how we ended up in the exclusive club at our high school.

I remember he liked to read a lot of sixties and post-sixties countercultural stuff. He read Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Robbins and John Nichols. I used to make mental notes to myself to remember the names of these authors in case I should ever get around to reading books myself.

Eventually, I did, and to that extent I am indebted to M. for his example. I always aspired to be a reader, but I think I had to let my body settle down a bit before I could actually get around to becoming one.

To be continued...

from Blood Meridian

In two days they began to come upon bones and cast-off apparel. They saw halfburied skeletons of mules with the bones so white and polished they seemed incandescent even in that blazing heat and they saw panniers and packsaddles and the bones of men and they saw a mule entire, the dried and blackened carcass hard as iron. They rode on. The white noon saw them through the waste like a ghost army, so pale they were with dust, like shades of figures erased upon a board. The wolves loped paler yet and grouped and skittered and lifted their lean snouts on the air. At night the horses were fed by hand from sacks of meal and watered from buckets. There was no more sickness. The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night. They moved on and the iron of the wagon-tired grew polished bright as chrome in the pumice. To the south the blue cordilleras stood footed in their paler image on the sand like reflections in a lake and there were no wolves now.

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