Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Literary Journey

I Meant to Kill Ye: Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (...Afterwords)
I Meant to Kill Ye: 
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian 

"If only I could discover some crucial piece of information about the kid, my thinking went, then maybe I could finally figure out Blood Meridian and its disturbing grip on me." - Stephanie Reents

This little book of only 159 pages is literally small, measuring only four by six inches. Within this small container is a work of literary criticism that is different from any other that I have ever studied. The author, a college English teacher, decided to delve into Cormac McCarthy's most heralded work, Blood Meridian, by journeying into the sources of the novel.

When I say journeying, again literally, she went to the archives of McCarthy's papers at Texas State University-San Marcos, where in her pursuit of information about the background of "the Kid", one of the main characters in the novel, she perused the papers for some of the drafts of the novel that McCarthy rejected or heavily edited. She continued on her journey to follow the trail of the Glanton Gang from the novel through the southwest. In addition to this tour of some of the actual sources for the novel she also commented on the narrative voice with particular reference to the ideas of James Wood in his book, How Fiction Works.

With a journey bracketed by questions about who "the Kid" from the novel may have really been, this work of criticism works on two primary levels: that of traditional literary criticism and that of the critic as literary detective on a road trip. Sometimes personal reminiscences interrupted the criticism, but on the whole the journey of reading the book was one that provided both some interesting ideas about McCarthy's literary style and a bit of enjoyment from the journey to the archives and beyond.


Kathy's Corner said...

Hi James, This is as you say a unique book of literary criticism in that Stephanie Reents was so affected by Blood Meridian that she went on a road trip and a research journey to figure out why. More writers should do this.

James said...

The road trip and research was interesting, but she had a bit too much personal information for my taste. If you are really interested in the background of Blood Meridian this is one of a short list of books worth consulting.

Brian Joseph said...

Sounds fascinating and original as a piece of literary criticism. Blood Meridian was an amazing book that would lend itself to such analysis.

I am always torn with such analysis whether to read it or to read original works.

James said...

I believe that one should read the book first, but when you are reading or, in this instance, rereading a great work of literature investigating critical reactions is welcome, if for no other reason than to challenge your own interpretation of the book.