It's the Monthly MeTa Book Club Announcement! July 7, 2011 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Cormac McCarthy may not have been widely known until All the Pretty Horses, but he is very widely admired. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, to name a few, and no one will be surprised if he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

MeTa Book Club, having now polished off Housekeeping, is moving on to discuss McCarthy's Blood Meridian, along with the two accompanying Prof. Amy Hungerford lectures from the Open Yale course on the American Novel since 1945. Please come join us on Meta Chat on August 16 to share your thoughts on this book and these lectures. Send me your email if you want additional reminders before then. And for all you may want to know about the MeTa Book Club, check out this wiki.
posted by bearwife to MetaFilter-Related at 1:28 PM (60 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

To be honest, these book club posts always confuse me when they don't mention the book club until the more inside. A bit mystery meat.
posted by smackfu at 1:31 PM on July 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah I thought he was dead or something and somebody had done a crappy post and it got deleted.

But rock on. I'd participate but what with the Mefi writing group and my own crap, have no time.
posted by angrycat at 1:34 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank goodness. I just read that novel a couple of months ago and can't make head nor tails of it. I will definitely be in the chat if I can.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2011


Nobel-Schmobel, but I think Housekeeping -----> Blood Meridian could easily win Most Whiplash-Inducing Book-to-Book Segue Ever.

In a good way!
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2011


I would be shocked if that hack won the Nobel Prize.
posted by OmieWise at 1:42 PM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


YES YES YES YES YES
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2011


Yeah I thought he was dead or something and somebody had done a crappy post and it got deleted.

I was similarly confused! But my god, I sure do love Blood Meridian.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:54 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glad to see my tricksy posting got you all checking this out. Please memail me emails if you want reminders on the upcoming MeCha discussion.
posted by bearwife at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I much prefer Cormac Mac Art.

But please don't do the mystery meat thing. I knew what it was because I read MetaChat. You're not clever by being "tricksy."
posted by Eideteker at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Didn't we agree that Americans can't win Nobel Prizes?
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:10 PM on July 7, 2011


MeTa has seemed awfully fight prone this week.


... That may explain why I've been hanging out here so much this week.
posted by Think_Long at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2011


Thank goodness. I just read that novel a couple of months ago and can't make head nor tails of it.

Blood Meridian's a standard story of the old west. Gang of desperadoes wreaks havoc, yadda-yadda-yadda ... except unlike all the other versions we've read (and seen), this one tells the tale from inside the gang, inside the evil, which makes all the difference
posted by philip-random at 2:19 PM on July 7, 2011


Well, everyone knows Judge Holden died at Nacogdoches. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't?
posted by Greg Nog at 2:22 PM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, how I hated The Road. Not so much the entire narrative itself, but how he pulled his punches at the ending. Most ridiculous failure of literary nerve I've ever seen, I think.
posted by jokeefe at 2:26 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ah, jokeefe, remember the last paragraph about the trout in the stream? Something something and this will never be again?

I think it was a cheat, yes, but underneath the cheat is the truth.
posted by angrycat at 2:45 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I somewhat agree, jokeefe, but how was he supposed to end it? [SPOILER] Assuming the first 200 pages of The Road, how does one write the final 50 without either falling further into despair of human misery or inducing toothaches with a sugary hope for mankind's rebirth? I think if there's a problem with that book, it's that it's far too cynical (or realistic?) of humanity for so long, that the only way to end the narrative was the balancing act that McCarthy tried to pull off. [/SPOILER]

Anyway, this book club sound like a great idea that I simply don't have time for.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2011


Amazing timing, as I just finished reading the transcripts of the two Hungerford lectures, and really enjoyed Blood Meridian last autumn when I read it. I will be there!
posted by annathea at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2011


You say "falling further into despair of human misery" as if that were a bad thing.
posted by Trurl at 2:56 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, yes. Definitely will be there. Sorry I missed the last one. :(
posted by zarq at 3:03 PM on July 7, 2011


I would be shocked if that hack won the Nobel Prize.

I have said this before and I will say it again ... it ought to be MetaFilter law that any time someone pronounces that a certain work of art or an artist sucks, they must list a few artists working in the medium that they find awesome, just so we can see the deck they're playing from.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2011 [26 favorites]


just so we can see the deck they're playing from.

2nded.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had one of the original copies of Notes on Blood Meridian, but it got lost. I highly suggest the linked reissue to anyone wanting to read Blood Meridian (again or for the first time). Blood Meridian is one of the books I used to read annually.

I am a bloody dark pastry man.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been meaning to read this. I'm filled with constant despair and an addiction to Red Dead Redemption. Sign me up.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:18 PM on July 7, 2011


it ought to be MetaFilter law that any time someone pronounces that a certain work of art or an artist sucks, they must list a few artists working in the medium that they find awesome, just so we can see the deck they're playing from.

Thirded. I summon OmieWise to stand up and contextualize so we can tell if their comment is shorthand or shite.
posted by chimaera at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would be shocked if that hack won the Nobel Prize.

the longer i stick around on metafilter, the more tolerant i become of people's "faults" -- my own, and others'.

except the drive-by, one-liner, jag, condescending dismissal. man, that shit just gets more and more irritating every time. it's destructive to whatever discussion it happens in because it raises the emotional temperature without advancing the debate at all. all heat, no light, as they say.

if you like something, there's no harm in a me-too. but if you don't like something, have enough class to make a counterargument, or a point, anything at all.
posted by facetious at 4:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


I would be shocked if that hack won the Nobel Prize.

Me too.

Seems like OmieWise thinks McCarthy's a hack. That's a pretty clear opinion.

Me, I'd be shocked because I don't think McCarthy's critical enough of American foreign policy to be an Amrican Nobel Prize winner.

Now if you don't like Alexandre Dumas, I think you're probably a callow dogfucker. But getting upset over someone's opinion of Cormac McCarthy?

Sets my teeth on teeth on edge. Feelings in everything, hurt in all I read. Behind your words a steelcolored rectangle glows bleakly through panes of browser on a dim monitor and without feature. My patience is failing. I halt and make a quick click without care or comfort and the wretched comments huddle and whimper like dogs.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Given the last few days, if I hadn't seen it was bearwife who posted, I would have fully expected the [more inside] to be:

SO FUCK YOU FOR DELETING MY POST ABOUT HIM.
posted by SpiffyRob at 5:11 PM on July 7, 2011


Heh.

Yeah, that's not really bearwife's style. This is a good thing, and bearwife is awesome.
posted by zarq at 6:50 PM on July 7, 2011


I'm tempted to threadshit about Cormac McCarthy but as I want to read these books, I'll hold back my critiques until I actually know what I'm talking about. Plus, bearwife is awesome and I want to respect her efforts here. But yes, Cormac McCarthy is an overrated hack as my reading of these books will surely prove*. Sorry I missed Housekeeping.
* or disprove
posted by salvia at 7:42 PM on July 7, 2011


MeTa has seemed awfully fight prone this week.

Say it to my face, jerk!
posted by hal_c_on at 9:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loved the literary interpretation of The Road in the movie; as they used the abandoned Volvo as a sleep place. The dichotomy between the timelessness of the Volvo wagon and the haste in which they had to escape was the true realization of the scene. For me. Classe'.
posted by buzzman at 10:11 PM on July 7, 2011


:))

I must admit that my reaction to my own deleted pots had been ruefulness that I screwed up and increased admiration for the mods' graceful yet direct style.
posted by bearwife at 10:35 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was supposed to read "deleted posts.". Though pots I've made have definitely deserved speedy deletion too.
posted by bearwife at 10:37 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


NON-SPOILER ALERT BECAUSE I HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK AND ONLY WATCHED THE FIRST TEN MINUTES OF THE MOVIE ...

My issue with The Road is that it had to end with the little kid getting eaten by cannibals while his dad watched. Anything else would be selling out the horror that the premise demanded. But who could watch or read such a thing?

SPOILER ALERT.

At least with Blood Meridian you never get attached to the children involved. But they do keep disappearing, showing up dead. Wherever the Judge goes, small children cease to exist. A real heartwarmer that Blood Meridian.
posted by philip-random at 12:12 AM on July 8, 2011


Glad to see my tricksy posting got you all checking this out.

Surely this...
posted by DU at 2:47 AM on July 8, 2011


i don't like cormac mccarthy, i don't like his ideas and i think his writing is hackish, but i sort of enjoyed blood meridian. it's written in a faux wild west dialect which is cheesy, but i don't mind cheesy and i want to learn more about the apache wars now. on the other hand, he still sucks. in a sentence: 19th century rationalism ultimately leads to moral depravity and/or falls flat in the face existentialism while staging a shoot 'em up among manly men and women who are cardboard cutouts.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:57 AM on July 8, 2011


My friend's review of Blood Meridian, after I told him I read The Road and enjoyed it: "Did you find it too cheerful? Too much happy pap, the ending was too saccharine sweet, the world unbelievably nice? You should read Blood Meridian."
posted by Plutor at 5:41 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I'll be able to participate in the chat, but thankyou so much anyway for those lectures.
posted by Ted Maul at 5:51 AM on July 8, 2011


except the drive-by, one-liner, jag, condescending dismissal. man, that shit just gets more and more irritating every time. it's destructive to whatever discussion it happens in because it raises the emotional temperature without advancing the debate at all. all heat, no light, as they say.

if you like something, there's no harm in a me-too. but if you don't like something, have enough class to make a counterargument, or a point, anything at all.


You know, I kind of agree with you. And if this post was just kind of about Cormac McCarthy, and was inviting everyone to the book club, I wouldn't have made a peep. I'm all for people having their fun where they can get it.

But that wasn't how the post was framed, and in the post, bearwife claimed, "no one will be surprised if he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature." That isn't true. I, for one, will be shocked if that guy wins the Nobel Prize. I don't think I need to provide a justification for that, I don't think I need to say more about that, and I don't think it counts as drive by snark. That I think the guy's a hack* is ancillary to my point, but makes it no less valid. I regularly participate in literature threads around MetaFilter, and it should be fairly easy to figure out which deck I'm playing from, if that's a requirement for offering my opinion.

* I think his story lines are trite, his prose is macho but uninteresting, his subject matter is forced, and his moral compass is fucked. I think he's the worst sort of pastiche of Hemingway and Faulkner, and not the good parts. I'm continually shocked that people hold him in any kind of critical esteem. Which is not to say that people shouldn't enjoy his books. Hell, I'm reading George Martin right now, and many of the same criticism apply (although in a sort of inverse way), but I'm enjoying the hell out of it. I just don't think anyone with sense thinks he should be a contender for the Nobel.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on July 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've only read The Road-- and that standing up in the bookstore in a quick hour-- so I can't have an opinion on McCarthy's body of work, but I certainly recognize OmieWise's reservations. (My feelings about The Road are kind of rolled up into my feelings about the entire "dystopian" genre at the moment, as well, which are not kind.) But I enjoy a conversation, so I could give Blood Meridian a try.
posted by jokeefe at 7:03 AM on July 8, 2011


"pastiche of Faulkner and Hemingway"

Yes. Which appears to be intended. And they are arguably the two greatest American novelists ever. (Certainly two of.)

To my reading that is an extremely high level of skill. I do not enjoy his books very much, and the last time I picked up Blood Meridian I could not get through it. One of the central plot points, if not the central plot point, is Euros-on-Natives genocide in Texas. You can make great art out of anything, but it is hard to see the motive in making art out of that.
posted by bukvich at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2011


Meh, not everyone has to like Cormac McCarthy, but to use the fact that someone thinks he might get the Nobel as the basis for your outrage? The prize that missed James, Proust, Joyce, Nabokov, Borges, Updike, and pre-Macmillan Reader Fitzgerald? At some point it's pretty much a compliment to not be given the prize.

Also "No one will be surprised if he wins the Nobel" is actually a fairly objective reading of what those putting money on it think.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2011


Hack ought to mean something other than "I don't like it" or "bad" or "artless". It means problematically commercial. Cliche or shopworn. Reassuringly familiar. Pandering. If Cormac McCarthy is a hack writer who isn't?
posted by I Foody at 9:46 AM on July 8, 2011


From wikipedia:

Hack writer is a colloquial and usually pejorative term used to refer to a writer who is paid to write low-quality, rushed articles or books "to order", often with a short deadline. In a fiction-writing context, the term is used to describe writers who are paid to churn out sensational, lower-quality "pulp" fiction such as "true crime" novels or "bodice ripping" paperbacks. In journalism, the term is used to describe a writer who is deemed to operate as a "mercenary" or "pen for hire", expressing their client's political opinions in pamphlets or newspaper articles. So-called "hack writers" are usually paid by the number of words in their book or article; as a result, hack writing has a reputation for quantity taking precedence over quality.

I can live with that. Which makes McCarthy not a hack; certainly not when he wrote the likes of Blood Meridian or All The Pretty Horses. Don't know what his deal is now with his publisher.

* I think his story lines are trite, his prose is macho but uninteresting, his subject matter is forced, and his moral compass is fucked.

This does not dismiss McCarthy as a hack, but it does dismiss him rather effectively. Not that I agree necessarily. My issue with him is more along the lines of "familiarity breeds contempt". At first, I quite dug his stuff. It was fresh, virulent, hard to ignore. But over time, what once was so fresh has now turned a bit, like milk left on the counter. It's gone sour. The man should write rom-com.

I keed.
posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on July 8, 2011


Mystery meat? I am not familiar with this term (I can ask here, because it's metatalk, yeah?) It's not in the wiki ;) /noob
posted by zomg at 10:05 AM on July 8, 2011


"Mystery meat" refers to a post that does not tell you what the links contain. Sometimes (like this post), it's contained inside the post, once you click on it from the front page. Other times, it's just a word or two which are hyperlinked to a URL that's not very meaningful.

(Most youtube links on this site, for example, are just blank to me, since my office blocks youtube. The link text may be very clever, but I have no idea what the punchline is, since I can't see what's on the other side of the link. I've been trying to step up my use of the TITLE attribute because of this.)
posted by Eideteker at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and it comes from "mystery meats" like SPAM, since there's no way to know what's "in" it (or like "fish sandwich"; what KIND of fish?).
posted by Eideteker at 10:20 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's in the wiki now!
posted by smackfu at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


but to use the fact that someone thinks he might get the Nobel as the basis for your outrage?

I don't know what you're talking about. It wasn't the basis for my outrage, indeed, I wasn't (and am not) outraged. It was, however, the prompt for my response.
posted by OmieWise at 12:20 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep, "outrage" was a bit of an exaggeration; I just thought it was an odd thing to be prompted by. I'm more surprised if the Nobel goes to someone good rather than a hack.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:54 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't realize they gave MacArthur genius grant money to hacks. You jelly, OmieWise?
posted by mullingitover at 2:07 PM on July 8, 2011


What a weird thing to ask. I've listed my objections to McCarthy's writing, in brief, and they're good faith objections. I'm honestly befuddled by the critical acclaim McCarthy receives, and I don't understand it at all. I read a lot, and widely, and I just have no idea why the guy is as venerated as he is. I'm not narcissistic enough to think that means that I've got it right, but I'm certainly entitled to my opinion. If you can't imagine any reason other than jealousy to feel the way I do you've got an imagination problem that doesn't recommend you as a very good critic.


I'm more surprised if the Nobel goes to someone good rather than a hack.

This is a very fair point, and I guess that there's a difference between how I feel about the Nobel in the abstract, and how I feel about most of the choices in reality.
posted by OmieWise at 2:28 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


pastiche of Hemingway and Faulkner

I would take this compliment in a heartbeat!

Blood Meridian is one of the best things I have read. I trusted Michael Herr's opinion, and I'm glad I did. (Everyone should read Dispatches once they're done with Blood Meridian.)
posted by spaltavian at 9:48 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, Dispatches! Another book to have a conflicted relationship with. I was really seduced by Herr's prose back when I was 21 or so, even though I struggled with the subject matter. But I can still remember just how affected I was by the opening section (Breathing In, I think it was called).
posted by jokeefe at 10:32 PM on July 8, 2011


I think his story lines are trite, his prose is macho but uninteresting, his subject matter is forced...I think he's the worst sort of pastiche of Hemingway and Faulkner, and not the good parts.

Amen! The problem with being a pastiche of Hemingway and Faulkner is that they are both practically caricatures of themselves anyway... especially Hemingway. The thing that makes Blood Meridian readable for me is that it isn't written in the ultra-hemingway-esque style of the later cowboy books which combines with mccarthy's general macho attitude to create disgust for me...

basically, blood meridian is a much better genre novel than "the road." so, if you read it as 'genre' you can get past the fact that he is a hack writer. the style of the writing in blood meridian is cheesy, but is broadly entertaining. mccarthy is a hack because he neither thinks too hard about what he's saying (and doesn't have much to say) and writes in a thoroughly derivative manner.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:55 AM on July 9, 2011


There's a Metafilter writing group?
posted by codacorolla at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


In heaven, a copy of the Blood Meridian graphic novel illustrated by 1970's DC era Jack Kirby is waiting for me.
posted by Scoo at 9:53 AM on July 9, 2011


I think he should get the Prize. Because I've read books.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:23 PM on July 9, 2011


He's going to have to kill a fuckton of immortals to get it, though.
posted by Eideteker at 10:59 PM on July 9, 2011


McCarthy is the god of kingdom come. Give him the prize.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:10 PM on July 11, 2011


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