New Orleans in Passing: BLOOD MERIDIAN

Event: Feb 25, 2011

Blood-Meridian

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridianis legendary for its lyricism and violence, and the streets of New Orleans are among the first in the novel to collect a bit of blood. Though his time in New Orleans lasts less than a page, it is transformative for Meridian’s protagonist, The Kid, who becomes fully steeled and prepared in mind and soul for his brutal adventures ahead.

McCarthy has also said that one of his forthcoming novels is set in New Orleans.

From Blood Meridian:

He is taken on for New Orleans aboard a flatboat. Forty-two days on the river. At night the steamboats hoot and trudge past through the black waters all alight like cities adrift. They break up the float and sell the lumber and he walks in the streets and hears tongues he has not heard before. He lives in a room above a courtyard behind a tavern and he comes down at night like some fairybook beast to fight with the sailors. He is not big but he has big wrists, big hands. His shoulders are set close. The child’s face is curiously untouched behind the scars, the eyes oddly innocent. They fight with fists, with feet, with bottles or knives. All races, all breeds. Men whose speech sounds like the grunting of apes. Men from lands so far and queer that standing over them where they lie bleeding in the mud he feels mankind itself vindicated.

On a certain night a Maltese boatswain shoots him in the back with a small pistol. Swinging to deal with the man he is shot again just below the heart. The man flees and he leans against the bar with the blood running out of his shirt. The others look away. After a while he sits in the floor.

He lies in a cot in the room upstairs for two weeks while the tavernkeeper’s wife attends him. She brings his meals, she carries out his slops. A hardlooking woman with a wiry body like a man’s. By the time he is mended he has no money to pay her and he leaves in the night and sleeps on the riverbank until he can find a boat that will take him on. The boat is going to Texas.

Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world’s turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shapes to man’s will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay. The passengers are a diffident lot. They cage their eyes and no man asks another what it is that brings him here. He sleeps on the deck, a pilgrim among others. He watches the dim shore rise and fall. Gray seabirds gawking. Flights of pelicans coastwise above the gray swells.

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