Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West

In Chapter Sixteen of Cormac McCarthy's harrowing tale of Apache hunters, the Judge and his band follow the Santa Cruz river through southern Arizona to Tucson. I thought it would be fun to show their path with some quotes from the novel.
"The following day they passed the old mission of San José de Tumacacori and the judge rode off to look at the church which stood about a mile off the track....The old church was in ruins and the door stood open to the high walled enclosure. When Glanton and his men rode through the crumbling portal four horses stood riderless in the empty compound among the dead fruit trees and grapevines."

They leave Tumacacori and pass through the abandoned presidio of Tubac. (Unfortunately, Tubac Presidio, an Arizona State Park, is about to be abandoned again due to the state's inability to manage money...). They continue on to San Xavier Mission.
"They rode that night through the mission of San Xavier del Bac, the church solemn and stark it the twilight. Not a dog barked. The clusters of Papago huts seemed without tenant. The air was cold and clear and the country there and beyond lay in a darkness unclaimed by so much as an owl. A pale green meteor came up the valley floor behind them and passed overhead and vanished silently in the void."

After passing through San Xavier, they encounter a band of Chiricahua and  arrive the presidio of Tucson.  There Glanton and the Judge look for recruits. In the process, Jackson blows the head off of a cantina owner.
Holgaroid Alley BW 66/365
"At dawn on the outskirts of the presidio of Tucson they  passed the ruins of several haciendas and they passed more roadside markers where people had been murdered. Out on the plain stood a small estancia where the buildings were still smoking and along the segments of a fence constructed from the bones of cactus sat vultures shoulder to shoulder facing east to the promised sun, lifting one foot and then the other and holding out their wings like cloaks."

In Blood Meridian, Tucson is primarily a military outpost. McCarthy's juxtaposes a well-researched, realistic portrayal of mid-nineteenth century Arizona against the terrifying, murderous, almost post-apocalyptic descriptions of the violence of the Apache Wars and the other-worldly Judge. If you've never read this book, be forewarned that it's super-violent and not for everyone. That being said, in my opinion, it's McCarthy's strongest work by far.

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