Category Archives: English

FRED REED: She’s Gonna blow: It’s Weimar, But Where Is Our Adolf?

Constitution, Crime, English, FRED REED, Intelligence, Labor, Military, Multiculturalism, Nationhood, Outsourcing, Race, Racism, Science, Technology, War

“Consider America today. By comparison with Japan, China, Korea, it is a barbarity, a dumpster, an asylum, an abattoir, an astonishment”

BY FRED REED

As the sentient have presumably noticed, the United States is in crisis, the country’s problems are profound, intrinsic, without solution, and worsening. When a population reaches the point of despair, even desperation, when it sees a darkening future for itself and its children, people yearn for a strong man who will forcibly put things right. Yet it is unlikely that helicopters of Marines from Quantico will descend on the White House and announce the dictatorship of some general. Military officers are too well paid and comfortable to worry about the country. It is hard to imagine an American Mussolini. Trump is a caricature and no one else comes to mind. Yet “unrest” –less euphemistically, “chaos” on the order of Mr. Floyd’s massive riots, is possible. We have seen it. We can see it again.

Consider America today. By comparison with Japan, China, Korea, it is a barbarity, a dumpster, an asylum, an abattoir, an astonishment. San Francisco loses conventions because of needles and excrement on the sidewalks. Almost weekly we see multiple shootings in stores, high schools and, now, grade schools. Murders of whites by blacks run at thirty a month, the news being suppressed. In cities across the country crime is out of control, the tax bases moving out, bail abolished so criminals are freed in hours. Stores leave to escape undiscouraged shoplifting and robbery. Seven hundred homicides a year in Chicago, 300 in Baltimore, and at least twice as many shot but survive, similar numbers in a dozen cities. For practical purposes, law does not exists in these ungovernable enclaves. Sexual curiosities, once called perversions, flourish with American embassies hoisting flags in support of transsexualism. Mobs topple historical statues. Many tens of thousands live on sidewalks and a hundred thousand a year die of opioid overdoses. The country drops math requirements and English grammar in schools, AP courses, and SATs as racist. The economy declines, jobs have left for other climes, medical care is beyond most people’s means, government is corrupt and incompetent, and wars are unending. There is actual hatred between racial, political, and regional groups. Ominously, gun sales are up.

How is this going to end well? How did we get here?

America has never been a nation in the correct sense of the word, a people sharing values, language, a culture. Rather it has been, and is, a collection of peoples having little and common and, often disliking each other. West Virginia has nothing in common with Massachusetts which has nothing in common with the Deep South which has nothing in common with coastal California which has nothing in common with Cavalier Virginia which has nothing in common with Latinos who have nothing in common with blacks.

Until perhaps the early Sixties, the regions got along with each other reasonably well because there was little communication between them. Roads were poor, the internet was not even on the horizon. Radio stations and newspapers were local, reflecting the surrounding culture and taste. The central government was remote and had little influence locally. Each region lived as it wished.

Providing a degree of commonalty was that the country was overwhelmingly white, European, Anglophone and, at least nominally, Christian. It was socially conservative, largely consisting of small towns.

The resulting culture was unsophisticated but civilized. In the suburbs of Washington (I was there) you really could leave your bike anywhere and it would be there when you came back. In summer children really could play great sprawling multiblock games of hide-and-seek after dark and no one worried. In high school in rural Virginia (I was there too) the boys had guns for hunting deer and shooting varmints in the bean fields and you could leave your .410 in the back seat of your jalopy in the school’s parking lot. Nobody thought of shooting anyone. It wasn’t in the culture. If a thing isn’t in the culture, it doesn’t happen. You don’t need policemen. The boys didn’t use bad language around the girls or vice versal and nobody even thought of disrespect to teachers. There were class clowns (I may know somewhat of this), but no real misbehavior. It wasn’t in white, technically Christian, semi-rural culture.

Then many things happened. In no particular order:

The reach of the federal government grew and grew. Washington, which had been a distant city concerning itself with foreign policy and the economy, could now impose its values on remote society. It did.

Washington discovered the “separation of church and state,” which had lain unnoticed in the Constitution since 1789. In regions of deep religiousness, it became illegal to recite the Lord’s prayer, to have creches on the town square at Christmas, or two sing carols on the public streets. It had nothing to do with meticulous adherence to the Constitution, but everything to do with the discovery by angry minorities that they could impose on majorities. In short, like many movements to come, it was a revenge operation. It has become a de facto program of de-Cristinization, weakening a source of social cohesion and leading to anger.

The federal government began to dictate what could be taught in local schools. Teachers were forbidden to mention Creationism because a judge in Philadelphia, who appeared to have the scientific grasp of a potato chip, said this transgressed the doctrine of separation. The decision had little practical relevance as there was no likelihood that hearing of Genesis would turn students away from the study of biochemistry. It was, however, an early manifestation of class snobbery against what was seen as primitive Christianity that would later coalesce into hostility toward the Deplorables.

Remote anonymous committees in New York wrote highly ideological textbooks imposed on distant states which did not share those ideologies. The effectiveness of this relied on the principle that outraged parents in Arkansas would have no idea how to oppose distant bureaucracies of whose existence they were unaware and whose phone numbers they could not find. American government is democratic while not allowing the people to exercise power. It is a brilliant system, until it explodes.

Compulsory racial integration, as distinct from desegregation, was an untarnished disaster. Few wanted it, and few want it. The people who imposed it did not, and do not, send their children to black schools. The races transparently do not want to live together. If blacks move into white neighborhoods, “white flight” occurs and if whites move into black neighborhoods, blacks furiously complain of gentrification.

When two cultures have utterly different views of acceptable language, dress, behavior, study, and curricula, mixing them does not work. In the schools, academic standards fell. Discipline became a problem. Across America, cities burned because of conflict between black populations and white police. Eurowhite culture, it turned out, was incompatible with Negro culture. The potential for yet greater disaster seems great, and no one has a solution. There probably isn’t a solution.

The Constitution, which once brought political stability, withered, being ignored or interpreted into unrecognizability by judges or made irrelevant by changes in technology and society. Freedom of speech, which meant that I could say that the President was a fool and should be removed from office, became freedom of expression, meaning that porn sites, accessible to children of nine years, could upload videos of a German Shepherd copulating with a beautiful blonde tied down to a bed. Some doubted that the writers of the Constitution had this in mind when providing the Bill of Rights, but none could gainsay the Supreme Court or the federal power.

The behemoths of the electronic media imposed political censorship. Being private enterprises, they could not be disciplined. They became more and more an arm of the central government, which became more and more the property of the Northeastern coastal elites. Entities with names like Google, Twitter, and Facebook cleansed themselves of content thought inappropriate, websites delisted, credit card accounts closed. People disappeared by the electronic media were almost as disappeared as those disappeared in Latin America, though less bloodily. The intention and effect are the same.

An unexpected effect of censorship was that those doing the censoring also censored themselves. The media, talking to each other, reading each other, having no contact with or interest in the silenced and deplorable, had no idea of the anger out there. This brought us Floyd and Trump as deep wells of undetected anger exploded. The media are doing it again.

The current regime in Washington appears deliberately and intensely divisive. Biden has attacked the South, supporting renaming of military bases in deliberate affront. A thorough racist, he frequently denounces whites. He denounces Trump and his supporters, nearly half of America. He has ostentatiously chosen black women as justice of the Supreme Court, member of Federal Reserve, Vice President, and White House spokeswoman. While these may or may not be competent, he announced them as diversity hires. He is poised to assault owners of guns, sure to provoke fury, has involved America in another war, and wants a federal Ministry of Truth to prohibit ideas he doesn’t like. Profoundly partisan, he makes no attempt to calm things or promote tranquility.

The universality of the internet made difficult or impossible the maintenance of distinct values or mores. It became impossible for the cultivated to inculcate in their children manners, good English, and appreciation of learning when the electronics bathed them in not only the traditionally low culture of America but also the anticivilization of the ghetto. America undergoes both enforced peasantrification and homogenization. Anger grows.

Congress and the Constitution largely ceased to function, leaving Presidents to rule by executive order, this not being entirely distinguishable from dictatorship. This included the making of war, which became both common and beyond public influence. The legislature no longer governed but was the storefront for special interests of immense power. There remained no body interested in the wellbeing of the country. This led to offshoring of jobs, poverty in Appalachia, the Rust Belt and rural Deep South, the impoverishing influx of cheap Mexican labor, Donald Trump, and intense regional hatred. Here we are.

This can’t last. The hatreds are intense, the guns everywhere, anger growing at crime, something akin to economic desperation appearing. Washington will leave nowhere alone, will not address national problems, will always give priority to its military, its wars and its empire over domestic needs. The hostility that fueled the Floyd riots, the burning cities, the looting and vengeful vandalism, are still there. She’s going to blow. Watch.

https://fredoneverything.org/list/

Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.

******************************************

FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

UPDATED V (5/2) Message From Fred (4/8/022): Mercer And Reed: The Two Best Columns Now Under One Roof

Aesthetics, Argument, Conservatism, Culture, English, FRED REED, Ilana Mercer, Logic, Republicans, The Zeitgeist

It’s good to see Fred Reed’s many fans begin to flock to—and comment about–his column, “Fred On Everything,” on Barely A Blog, where it now lives.

Fred’s column is the only opinion column I read and eagerly await. (Oops: And Jack Kerwick, too, on things not martial arts, Boyd Cathey, the great Sean Gabb, Pepe Escobar, of late and Paul Craig Roberts.) Good enough an endorsement for those who know my intolerance for what passes for writing these days—the cliches, the banalities, the incontinent redundancies, and lack of originality; the meandering, solipsistic self-indulgence, the logic as lax as the grammar, the non-sequiturs in such abundance; not to mention those undisciplined flights into conspiracy. Perhaps not woke, but still without wit or character—put out these days by our side is prose so singularly gutless, charmless, mirthless and prissy that it assaults the senses.

And I have not even touched on the futile, partisan talking points: “The left this, abortion that; socialism/communism, socialism/communism (the pickle we’re in goes so far beyond that); “Iran, Iran, China, China.” In short, the pointless, talking-points theater that is the Republican Racket.

Fred assaults sensibilities alright, but never in the ways I disgorged above (in an intentionally flood-like manner). And he can conjugate the verb “to spit.”

As for the Mercer Column: By way of an example, “On Sexual Bombast And Bliss” was written in 2000 for a then-edgy, interesting Calgary Herald. The paper went woke and invalidated itself. The column did not and is ever valid. You can read tracts like “Sexual Bombast,” on this site here. Try “Harvey Sweinstein And Hollywood’s Hos,” for example.

When you Subscribe to this newsletter, you get Mercer and “Fred on Everything.” The two best columns under one roof.

Fred’s latest: Everything You Wanted To Know About Mexico But Were Too Nativist To Ask

Fred’s Archive

Mercer Columns

Fred on Ukraine

Mercer on Ukraine:

1. Neocons, Neolibs And NATO Inch Us Closer To Nuclear War With Russia (01/29/2022): https://www.ilanamercer.com/2022/01/neocons-neolibs-nato-inch-us-closer-nuclear-war-russia/
2. Uncle Sam Still King Of All Invaders: Ukraine, Realpolitik And The West’s Failure: https://www.ilanamercer.com/2022/03/uncle-sam-still-king-invaders-ukraine-realpolitik-wests-failure/
3. True Story: Russia Finds WMD In Ukraine! https://www.ilanamercer.com/2022/03/true-story-russia-finds-wmd-ukraine/
4. It’s Biblical, Zelensky: A Leader Who Fails To Haggle For The Lives Of His People Has Failed https://www.ilanamercer.com/2022/03/biblical-zelensky-leader-fails-haggle-lives-people-failed/

 

Mercer “Hard Truth” Video Podcasts on Ukraine. Please Subscribe (David Vance and I are working on having Fred on Hard Truth, which is on a short hiatus):

https://rumble.com/c/HardTruthPodcast
https://rumble.com/vx058f-true-story-russia-finds-wmd-in-ukrainehtml
https://rumble.com/vw897h-russia-to-us-on-ukraine-pot.-kettle.-black..html
https://rumble.com/vtea18-neocons-neolibs-and-nato-inch-us-closer-to-nuclear-war-with-russia.html

Talk us up.

UPDATE (4/4/022): Very important in the age of sniveling sanctimony on the Left and Right: The Mercer and Reed columns are adult tracts. The humor is adult humor. The authors are not coy—and there is no cloying, puritanical shying away from adult topics.

UPDATE II: Message From Fred (4/6/022):

“Fred will be on travel until April 20, but shortly thereafter will resume his lies, distortions, and scurrility  if he has not been tracked down by the CIA and shot.”

Gotta love him.

Satire In The Big Easy: ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ By John Kennedy Toole

BAB's A List, Barely A Blog, Comedy & Humor, Culture, English, Juvenal Early's Archive, Literature

The plot concerns Ignatius’s long war of attrition against the 20th Century ~ Juvenal Early

By Juvenal Early

New Orleans (N’awlins, as they say in the South) has always been a city full of characters.  Port cities are like that, and, as the Mississippi River’s window on the world, New Orleans has been the ne plus ultra of character cities, throughout its colorful history. It’s a veritable bouillabaisse of Acadians, swarthy Mediterranean types, rednecks, Cajuns, Creoles, Africans, Arabs, and anyone else who ever went down to the sea in ships. The most Catholic of cities, New Orleans did Carnival so well, its Mardi Gras became a major industry. Throw in jazz, politics, the Mafia, the flesh trade, and several quirky genius chefs, and you’ve got an unusually high quotient of characters.

Set in The Big Easy, John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces (© 1976), gave the world Ignatius J. Reilly, a latter-day Thomist, a Medievalist, a Grand Inquisitor, a man for whom the standard New Orleans character was degeneracy incarnate. Given his druthers, Ignatius would’ve chosen to live in a world purged of said characters. Fictional though he was, Ignatius has ended up becoming perhaps the grandest New Orleans character of them all. In homage, the real people of New Orleans erected a statue to Ignatius, and right on Canal Street.

Ignatius is fat, unkempt, lives with his mother, is a perpetual student of Medieval philosophy, and critic pop culture. He complains constantly about the misery visited upon him by his faulty pyloric valve (abused as it is, by Ignatius’s diet). As described in the book’s first paragraph, he is distinguished by his odd dress: baggy pleated trousers, oversized flannel shirt, a scarf, and topped off by a green hunting cap with earflaps—all this, mind you, in one of the capitals of The Long Hot Summer.

The plot concerns Ignatius’s long war of attrition against the 20th Century. The elevated language he spouts in defense of his worldview—and the way people react to it—makes for non-stop Rabelaisian pageantry.

A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel, lurching hilariously from one episode to the next, from one lively conversation to another. Ignatius is a man who can attract the wrong kind of attention just by waiting for his mother in front of a store. Whenever he speaks to people—which is often—he gets deeper into trouble. Completely without self-awareness, he insults virtually everyone whose path he crosses, assuming they’ll take it as constructive criticism from someone who obviously knows better. By the end of the book, he’s pissed off everyone to high heaven, and they all want a piece of him. The clashes and conflicts, conflated into his conversation, makes for some of the best social satire of the Sixties.

Irene Reilly wants her son to get a job. Setbacks old and new have depleted the family nest egg, and they need a new revenue source. As man of the house, Ignatius must sally forth and be the breadwinner, but his long college training in Boethius and the Middle Ages have fitted him for nothing outside of academics, and he burned his bridges there long ago. What to do? Reluctantly, Ignatius, age 30, begins his search.

He quickly lucks into a job with Levy Pants, a moribund sweatshop. The loyal but dull-witted office manager, impressed by Ignatius’s pompous language, hires him as a file clerk. Whereupon Ignatius dumps the company records in the garbage, fills the file cabinets with plants, and writes insulting letters to the company’s biggest customers. For good measure, he organizes the labor force—mostly black—and impels them to attack the company office, the vanguard holding a banner—made from one of Ignatius’s crusted sheets—proclaiming a “Crusade for Moorish Dignity.” He is, of course, summarily fired.

Next, Ignatius finds work pushing a hotdog cart for Paradise Vendors, Inc., and, of course, he ends up eating much more than he sells. His pyloric valve, as he tells everyone, completely shuts down. Dressed up as a pirate—head bandanna, sash, plastic cutlass, and earring—he roams the French Quarter, looking to cash in on the tourist trade (ironic, of course, since most tourists come to the French Quarter specifically for the great variety of Creole, Cajun, and Southern cooking). He catches the eye of a prominent member of the gay community—a sodomite, as Ignatius would say. Initially appalled, Ignatius hits on a brainstorm. If gays can be organized politically, they will eventually take over. Taking power, they will also control the military, rendering it effeminate, ineffective, and fabulous! A non-aggressive US Army means World Peace. It all fits into Ignatius’s master plan. (Hey! It’s not all that farfetched.) Ignatius sets to work with predictable results.

There is much more: the conflict at home with his mother; forays to the local movie palace, where he declaims loudly about the degradation of cinematic art; a couple visits to The Night of Joy, a Bourbon Street skin joint, where Ignatius hopes Boethius will save the world from its worst appetites. The plot builds and builds to the inevitable denouement and the unlikely Deus Ex Machina.

Most scenes are replete with wonderfully lively dialogue, at once zany and…well, altogether real. Toole knew his hometown and he captures the peculiar Brooklynese patois heard among certain of its down-market denizens (think Stanley Kowalski). Wondrous too is the elevated pomposity of Ignatius, truculence as poetry. As a special bonus, Toole throws in Mr Burma Jones, doubtless the greatest black character ever created by a white writer.

But why take my word for it. Let the book speak for itself.

There is conflict:

“You got any identification, mister?” the policeman asked…

“What?” Ignatius looked down upon the badge on the blue cap. “Who are you?

“Let me see your driver’s license.”

“I don’ t drive. Will you kindly go away? I am waiting for my mother.”

“What’s this hanging out your bag?”

“What do you think it is, stupid?  It’s a string for my lute.”

“What’s that?” The policeman drew back a little. “Are you local?”

“Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world?” Ignatius bellowed over the crowd in front of the store. “This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problem with you, but don’t make the mistake of bothering me.”

Movie commentary (during a public screening):

Popcorn spilled down his shirt and gathered in the folds of his trousers. “What degenerate produced this abortion?”

“Shut up,” someone said behind him.

“Just look at those smiling morons!” …

When a love scene appeared to be developing, he bounded up out of his seat and stomped up the aisle to the candy counter for more popcorn, but as he returned to his seat, the two big pink figures were just preparing to kiss.

“They probably have halitosis,” Ignatius announced over the heads of children. “I hate to think of the obscene places that those mouths have doubtlessly been before.”

Criticism of the Ladies Art Club:

“Oh, my God!” Ignatius bellowed…” How dare you present such abortions to the public!”

“Please move along, sir,” a bold lady said…

“You ladies need a course in botany. And perhaps geometry, too.”

“You don’t have to look at our work,” an offended voice said…

“Yes, I do!” Ignatius screamed. “You ladies need a critic with some taste and decency…The water in this bowl looks like motor oil.”

Helpful Race Relations:

“Shit! You think I like the Night of Joy? Ooo-wee. I wanna get someplace. I want to get someplace good, be gainfully employ, make me a livin wage.”

“Just as I suspected,” Ignatius said angrily. “In other words, you want to become totally bourgeois. You people have all been brainwashed. I imagine you’d like to become a success or something equally vile.”

“Hey, now you gettin me. Whoa!”

“I really don’t have the time to discuss the errors of your value judgements.”

Don’t forget LGBT:

“Please be serious for a moment. Stop fluttering around here.”

“Moi? Fluttering? What do you want, Gypsy Woman?”

“Have you people thought of forming a political party and running a candidate?”

“Politics? Oh, Maid of Orleans. How dreary.”

“This is very important!” Ignatius shouted …”you may hold the key to the future.”

“Well, what do you want to do about it, Eleanor Roosevelt?”

“You must start a party organization. Plans must be made.”

“Oh, please,” the young man sighed…

“You may be able to save the world!” Ignatius bellowed in an orator’s voice….

“This kind of conversation depresses me more than you could ever imagine,” the young man told him.

And the aforementioned Burma Jones at the Night of Joy:

“You oughta tell your customer use they ashtray, tell them peoples you workin a man in here below the minimal wage. Maybe they be a little considerate.’

“Listen here, Jones” Lana Lee (said)…” All I gotta do is phone the police and report you’re out of work. You understand me?”

“And I tell the po-lice the Night of Joy a glorify cathouse. I fall in a trap when I come to work in this place. Whoa! Now I jus waitin to get some kind of evidence. When I do, I really gonna flap my mouth at the precinct.”

“Watch your tongue.”

“Times changin,” Jones said, adjusting his sunglasses. “You cain scare color peoples no more. I got me some peoples form a human chain in front of your door, drive away your business, get you on TV news.”

When Ignatius is home alone, he fills Big Chief writing tablets with his unique invective, gems of nihilism, as his half-foe/half-ally Myrna Minkoff describes it:

I can at last describe to you our factory…The scene which met my eyes was at once compelling and repelling. The original sweatshop has been preserved for posterity at Levy Pants. If only the Smithsonian Institution, that grab-bag of our nation’s refuse, could somehow vacuum-seal the Levy Pants factory and transport it to the capital of the United States of America, each worker frozen in an attitude of labor, the visitors to that questionable museum would defecate into their garish tourist outfits. It is a scene which combines the worst of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis; it is mechanized Negro slavery; it represents the progress which the Negro has made from picking cotton to tailoring it.

You won’t want to put this novel down. But you also won’t want to rush through it.  You’ll want to savor every dialogue. There’s nothing else like it. Sadly.

Everyone loves this novel. Everyone I know who’s read it is also saddened, disappointed, and angered to know that it’s all we’ve got. John Kennedy Toole spent most of the 60s writing A Confederacy of Dunces and trying to get it published. Failing in the latter, he took his own life in 1969. His mother, believing ardently in her son’s genius, shopped the manuscript around, until she was finally able to press it into the hands of another Louisiana novelist, Walker Percy. In the novel’s preface, Percy describes how he reluctantly took up the dog-eared pages and was dismayed, after reading the first few pages, to find that it wasn’t bad enough to dismiss. He read on and gradually came to relish its genius. He managed to find a publisher for it, and a year later it won the Pulitzer Prize.  See if you don’t think it’s not the funniest novel you’ve ever read.

I could say a lot more about the book. Subplots involving a half-dozen of the novel’s eccentrics; Toole’s not-so-hidden messages; the sexual tension between Ignatius and Myrna Minkoff; strippers and cockatoos; theology, geometry, and the consolation of philosophy. But in the end, it’s just a great book to read. What’s it all mean? Who knows? Just read it.

With apologies to Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (which is the great Mardi Gras novel), A Confederacy of Dunces is the great New Orleans novel.

*******

“Juvenal Early” is a contributor to Barely A Blog. His first essay was “The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem.” It made waves! He has a BAB archive.

Must-Read AMERICAN Novel: Blood Meridian, Or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy

America, Art, English, Juvenal Early's Archive, Literature, Morality

“This is prose that is akin to a neo-archaic channeling of the King James Old Testament by way of Herman Melville”

By Juvenal Early

Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian is, in the estimation of many critics, among the finest half dozen American novels of the 20th Century. The late Harold Bloom thought it the greatest novel since As I Lay Dying. Unlike no other novel in contemporary letters, the book has been called an American Iliad, also compared to The Anabasis of Xenophon. Published in 1985, Blood Meridian is a revisionist, maybe even a nihilistic, Western. It’s also an epic. If you want a sense of how the West was won, you will find no finer fictional work.

The Plot: A character known only as the Kid, born in Tennessee with a predilection for “mindless violence, in 1833, runs away from home at 14, and by 1850 finds himself in Texas. He takes up with filibusters—mercenaries—hired to solve the new state’s Indian problem. The Comanches and Apache had dominated the plains for three centuries. Texans demanded eradication.

The fictional Kid eventually joins the historical Glanton Gang, and falls sway to the gang’s philosophical leader, Judge Holden. McCarthy learned from his sources that the Judge was an uncommonly tall man, a completely hairless albino. In Blood Meridian, he turns the bare facts into the mythical. The Judge is perhaps the most nightmarish monster in all of fiction. Not Ahab but Moby Dick himself.

The Glanton Gang murders its way across Texas, Northern Mexico, Arizona, eventually to the sea. They take many Indian scalps (proof for the money men). They take non-Indian scalps too. Who can tell the difference? It all pays the same. In time, these bounty hunters will have a bounty on their own heads. Few are left by the end of the narrative.

Blood Meridian may be the most appallingly violent great novel ever written. Be prepared for several particularly graphic scenes but do stick with it. As Shelby Foote said, the book’s hero is the American Language, and here it is presented in prose that is akin to a neo-archaic channeling of the King James Old Testament by way of Herman Melville.

There is movement, always movement, mixed with a sense of place in Blood Meridian. Few have ever combined the two better than McCarthy. To take a random sample:

On the day that followed they crossed a lake of gypsum so fine the ponies left no track upon it. The riders wore masks of boneblack smeared about their eyes and some had blacked the eyes of their horses. The sun reflected off the pan burned the undersides of their faces and shadow of horse and rider alike were painted upon the fine white powder in purest indigo. Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they’d heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang.

How do McCarthy’s mercenaries talk? Aside from the Judge, they are as terse as a John Ford Western. But, oh!, when the Judge does speak, you hang on every word. Here’s a short speech he delivers about halfway through the novel. He expounds on the nature of God’s cruel universe and man’s place in it. It explains the book’s cryptic title:

If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

Notice that the passage quoted contains no punctuation, save for periods and question marks. Commas appear infrequently in McCarthy, but little else. There are no quotation marks. Even James Joyce set his dialogue off with dashes. McCarthy assumes you’ll figure it out. You will. McCarthy’s oeuvre is all this way. He used 42 semicolons in his first novel and only one in the nine that followed. Most writers need a more formalistic approach. But I wouldn’t try to enforce Strunk and White on Homer—and not the modern Homer either. Art has no rigid rules, and Blood Meridian is high art. But don’t be intimidated by art. Blood Meridian is not particularly arcane. After four readings, I think it’s lucid—and exhilarating.

Does McCarthy take sides, Cowboys or Indians? We never really get to know the Indians. From the viewpoint of the settlers who hired the filibusters, they’re a problem to be solved. As for the Glanton Gang, it takes a tough bunch to solve a tough problem. I doubt McCarthy was concerned with questions of right or wrong—only about getting the story right. In that, he succeeds triumphantly. The reader—grateful for such poetic prose—can make of the ethical lessons what he will.

Cowboys and Indians alike, they are forces of nature, compelled to do what they have always done. The novel’s 3rd epigraph is your first clue.[i] Scalping didn’t originate in the Wild West of the 19th Century. The culmination of Blood Meridian could not be otherwise than what it is.

We would do well to keep this in mind as we go about assigning blame among our own ancestors.

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[i]
“Clark, who led last year’s exhibition to the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, and UC colleague Tim D. White, also said that a re-examination of a 300,000-year-old fossil skull found in the same region earlier showed evidence of having been scalped.
THE YUMA DAILY SUN
June 13, 1982”

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“Juvenal Early” is a contributor to Barely A Blog. His first essay was “The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem.” It made waves! He has a BAB archive.