This episode we take on Cormac McCarthy’s dark and brutal Western, Blood Meridian. A nameless Kid galivants across the Mexico-Texas border in the late 19th century with a gang of scalp hunting desperadoes – killing first for necessity, then business, then pleasure, and finally habit. A novel both beautiful and disturbing, a nihilistic journey and a moral fable, vast and claustrophobic.
The mix is waiting in the jakes. It is waiting to gather you in its arms against its immense and terrible flesh. You don’t want to go in there.
“See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. ”: The Man with the Harmonica – Ennio Morricone
The Kid: Nomadic Revery (All Around) – Bonnie Prince Billy
You kind of think that just maybe the kid has some sort of dormant morality and is going to make a positive life change at some point in the story. Play ball with an orphan. Donate to the March of Dimes. Not complacently and mercilessly kill whatever crossed his path. Well, don’t hold your breath.
The Judge: Black Wings – Tom Waits
Giant, hairless, and usually naked is horrible enough. Acting as the otherworldly embodiment of humanity’s passion for war is just the icing on the doom cake. I’m talking evil….This guy slightly edges Khan, Goldfinger, and Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard as most dastardly pop culture icon.
Massacred: Indian War Whoop – Hoyt “Floyd” Ming
C Mac’s vivid description of the Apaches clad in blood drenched clothes of various and sundry recently-massacred folks (soldiers, conquistadors, brides, grooms, etc.) is enough to make me never ever go camping again.
Glanton: Murderer – Low
Not a good guy. And in a book full of not good guys…he still looks pretty bad.
The Scalp Hunt: Tyed – The Tindersticks
Worst scavenger hunt ever. When I was in boy scouts, I was sent on what I misunderstood to be a scalp hunt. When I was released, I heard we were supposed to be hunting snipe. Sorry, guys. On the plus side, I finally scored that sweet “Most Dangerous Game Hunter” badge.
The Fortune Tellers: Gypsy’s Curse – Calexico
“What luck! We’ve run across a lovely magician family. We should totally get a Tarot reading! Oh, what fun! They would a lot of laughs…and we could all use a good chuckle, am I right, friends? I know what I am asking. When am I going to meet Mrs. Right?”
Tobin: God Out West – Link Wray
“Men of God and men of war have strange affinities.” How about men who are a little bit of both?
Toadvine: Branded Man – Merle Haggard
A tattooed forehead says a lot about a guy. They’re tough. They’re mean. Maybe I ought to consider getting one. I mean think of all the famous face-tattooed folk like Lil’ Wayne, Mike Tyson, Charles Manson. Okay, well, maybe not such a great career move.
David Brown: Lonesome Hunter – Timber Timbre
I love how this is the second character (of three!) to wear severed human ears as jewelry in BM. Flesh bling was already passé by the time DB got to it.
The Jacksons: Jackson – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
A black Jackson and a white Jackson. And they aren’t too fond of each other. Think Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy. Just significantly more racist and gruesome.
The Ferry: Black River Song – Angels of Light
So, the boys forcefully take over a ferry operation. First they increase the price from $1 to $4. Then, inflate it to whatever they think people can pay. Finally, they just decide it’d be easier to outright rob the folks. Its like the 1840s version of a cable company. Here’s hoping that DirectTV won’t eventually just decide it’d be better and faster to simply murder its customers.
Survival: Desert – Other Lives
“Even though I got this arrow in my leg, we’re dying of thirst, living in some bison’s bones, and got a crazed judge hunting us down, I must say, the stars look beautiful tonight, dude.”
“It makes no difference what men think of war, War endures…War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him.”: There is a War – Leonard Cohen
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Well, and maybe some blind dudes in Switzerland.
Toadvine and Brown Hanged: Gallis Pole – Leadbelly
The Kid and The Judge Meet Again: Red Right Hand – Nick Cave
The first time, I finished reading the final chapter of this book, I immediately reread the chapter right away. And then once more. And haven’t trusted humanity quite the same since. Its telling that in a book that revels in the minute detailings of horrifying genocide, disappearing children, and brutal senseless violence, the moment that is left ambiguous and undescribed is perhaps the most frightening of all.
The Outhouse and The Last Dance: The Electrician – The Walker Brothers
Okay, if you take away the name of the song, I think this one carries a disconcerting enough vibe for the final moments of the book. And Scott Walker wasn’t even using meat as a percussion instrument yet.
“He says that he will never die. He dances in light and shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.”: I Knew It Would Come To This – Dirty Three