Blood Meridian

#29: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Two new episodes have been recorded about Blood Meridian that provide a better discussion and more details:

In this episode, Jason Staples and Erik Rostad discuss book 29 of the 2017 Books of Titans Reading list – Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

Show Notes

  • Suggested by Jocko Willink on page 351 in Tools of Titans.
  • Author: Cormac McCarthy
  • Books of Titans Book Review
  • Yale Lectures
    • – In this first of two lectures on Blood Meridian, Professor Hungerford walks us through some of the novel’s major sources and influences, showing how McCarthy engages both literary tradition and American history, and indeed questions of origins and originality itself. The Bible, Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost, the poetry of William Wordsworth, and the historical narrative of Sam Chamberlain all contribute to the style and themes of this work that remains, in its own right, a provocative meditation on history, one that explores the very limits of narrative and human potential.
    • – In this second lecture on Blood Meridian, Professor Hungerford builds a wide-ranging argument about the status of good and evil in the novel from a small detail, the Bible the protagonist carries with him in spite of his illiteracy. This detail is one of many in the text that continually lure us to see the kid in the light of a traditional hero, superior to his surroundings, developing his responses in a familiar narrative structure of growth. McCarthy’s real talent, and his real challenge, Hungerford argues, is in fact to have invoked the moral weight of his sources–biblical, literary, and historical–while emptying them of moral content. Much as the kid holds the Bible an object and not a spiritual guide, McCarthy seizes the material of language–its sound, its cadences–for ambiguous, if ambitious, ends.
  • Jocko interview on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast
  • History on Fire Conquest of Mexico Series
  • G.K. Chesterton book Tremendous Trifles containing The Red Angel which contains this quote:
    • “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Christopher Yuen
    November 6, 2019 9:55 am

    I really felt Jason and Erik did their Listeners a Disservice with this Podcast. They were extremely dismissive and it was clear they didn’t want to make the effort. Specifically, the derivativeness of restating Prof. Hungerford’s Yale Lectures, was clearly just Phoning it in.

    Blood Meridian is incredibly layered and philosophical. For example, the evil that gets wrought upon children at every stop along The Judge’s path displays how Nihilism devours the Youth. Or the fact that Nihilism views the world as strictly for one’s own pleasures (as evidenced by The Judge’s destruction of artifacts). Furthermore, while McCarthy’s ending is disquieting, I don’t think that his point is “Here’s Violence without Purpose,” but instead “Here’s how Nihilism can consume the World without resistance from Moral people, who are Careful with the way they consider the world. (Think of the moment when The Kid declines to shoot The Judge). It seems that the Podcasters decided that McCarthy’s intended point was in support of the Victor, but instead I saw the opposite, he was offering a Warning.

    This Podcast reminded me of the two Elitists, in the movie “Hitch,” that just keep repeating that everything is “Disgusting” so that they can feel above it all. And I think I put more effort and consideration into this comment than they put into the whole Podcast.

  • Rick Partridge
    July 14, 2020 3:02 am

    This was also my first listen of your podcast. I agree with Christopher. I specifically downloaded this episode hoping I would hear an intelligent and insightful discussion of the book. Both were glaringly absent. Good luck with your podcast. I won’t be listening.

    • Hi Rick – I appreciate your comment and also agree with you. I let my disgust for this book cloud a meaningful discussion. I assure you that other episodes are not like this. I’ve read 170+ books for this project so far and Blood Meridian is my least-favorite book. Worse than that, I despised it and it put things in my head I don’t want there. However, I shouldn’t have let that impact the discussion.

    • Rick Partridge
      July 14, 2020 8:48 pm

      Thank you for your reply Erik. I appreciate it. Good literary podcasts are difficult to find. I suspect I will be eating my words and giving you another listen.


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