Fat Books & Thin Women

30 Day Book Meme, Day 7
August 8, 2011, 6:02 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , , , ,

Most Underrated Book:

You need to read today’s post thinking of Cormac McCarthy’s work in context. Also that I’m kind of fudging on the “most underrated” term and going more for, I don’t know, “deserving of way more attention than certain other books by said author, although a class of people and reviewers recognizes this book is way more incredible than certain others.”

A comparison, then, of Blood Meridian and The Road. Blood Meridian, published in 1985, is no question one of the greatest Westerns ever written. The novel follows “the kid,” a member of a group of scalp hunters, with the Judge filling the role of scariest-antagonist-e.v.e.r. Blood Meridian is steeped in a sort of glorious violence, a headless man sitting before a campfire, a man gazing up at a bear that has him in its arms, and the Judge encompassing the violence of the story. McCarthy’s fifth novel is remarkable largely for the violence of the story, for the beauty of the violence, and for the often pointless nature of characters’ deaths. McCarthy’s violence doesn’t always exist for a reason; it simply exists because it exists, and it serves to obscure the meaning of the text, if there is a meaning. This is a book you can read and reread and fail to understand, but that doesn’t diminish the power of the work.

The Road is a novel about a post-apocalyptic world in which a father and son travel down the road to Florida, struggling to evade cannibals, find food and shelter, and escape memories of the world as it was before the undefined disaster that has led to their trek across a barren landscape. The Road is an adventure story of sorts, but it is more the story of a father and son and their relationship, and unlike Blood Meridian has a clearly discernible moral center. The Road has always seemed, to me, a shadow of Blood Meridian; sure, the books may be set in vastly different worlds, with different goals, but the the prose of The Road seems like a reaching toward the writing of Blood Meridian.

Blood Meridian‘s reputation has grown since its publication, but it’s The Road that tends to get a reader’s attention when they’re looking for a McCarthy book to start with. Why wouldn’t you, when it’s got the Pulitzer and the nod from Oprah and the movie with Viggo Mortenson? It’s never struck me as even approaching the quality of Blood Meridian, though, so consider this my official down-on-my-knees moment: if you haven’t read anything by McCarthy, read The Road, sure, but start with Blood Meridian. It’s one of those rare books that is so singular you can’t help feeling shaken after reading it, as it both expands and redefines our ideas of what fiction can do and what fiction can tell.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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As somebody who’s only read The Road, I’ll have to give this one a try. Your description is so fascinating that even though it seems like it violates many “rules” of literature, I want to know more.

Comment by Jennifer Maurer

I think you’re right that lately The Road has gotten more attention as an example of McCarthy. But before The Road, I think it was widely agreed that Blood Meridian was his most famous, best novel. And of course Blood Meridian is much more representative of McCarthy in total than The Road is.

That said, I hated Blood Meridian. ;) To me, it’s the most overrated novel of all time. But people keep screaming at me to give it another shot – so I may have to.

Comment by Greg Zimmerman

Do it! I had a hard time figuring out what to write on today, actually, because I know that Blood Meridian’s reputation is so high that it verges on ridiculous to choose it as “underrated.” It’s part of the frustration of seeing a work you love ignored in favor of one that has more hype…I hope that a few years from now people stop choosing The Road as their first McCarthy book based on the bestseller lists, Oprah, insane amounts of hype, or at least don’t consider reading The Road as doing their duty by McCarthy. (Sort of like all those people who claim to love Nabokov but don’t realize he’s written anything other than Lolita.)

Comment by Ellen Rhudy

I’m enjoying this meme and every time you post I think about how hard it is to answer these questions. I mean, I don’t know the answers!

I have Blood Meridian but haven’t read it yet. First I read the Border Trilogy and totally loved it. Then The Road. I have a few others, but it looks like Blood Meridian will be my next, whenever, because of your interesting review.


PS. I love that one of your most read books is the BFG. I adore Roald Dahl.

Comment by Steph VanderMeulen (@BellasBookshelf)

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