Tuesday, September 20, 2005

September 20, 2005
Well, the comments are pouring in and it’s about a 50-50 split on those who love or hate the headline and the cover posted yesterday. As for the comments that ran prior to the posting of the cover rough, I got this:

“Now I'd be willing to wager that the fella who had trouble with his gag reflex, if offered a chance to see a movie in which two nice-looking cowgirls helped each other wash off all that trail dust, would feel a mite differently. Why is that?”
—Emma Bull

As you know, I try to steal from the best, and the other night I was thinking about descriptive imagery for my new story and I remembered the vivid word pictures painted by Cormac McCarthy in his cult classic Blood Meridian. Here’s a typical passage:

“They crested the mountain at sunset and they could see for miles. An immense lake lay below them with the distant blue mountains standing in the windless span of water and the shape of a soaring hawk and trees that shimmered in the heat and a distant city very white against the blue and shaded hills. They sat and watched. they saw the sun drop under the jagged rim of the earth to the west and they saw it flare behind the mountains and they saw the face of the lake darken and the shape of the city dissolve upon it. They slept among the rocks face up like dead men and in the morning when they rose there was no city and no trees and no lake only a barren dusty plain.”

Stunningly descriptive, no? And it goes on and on, each description better than the last, soaring words, with very few commas and no quotation marks, “like this,” which drives you crazy at first, he said, but then you get used to it and the Bastard pulls it off. Makes me feel so inferior the author of this blog said in the style of Cormac the Word Magician.

Which brings us diehard fans of this scalp-hunting classic to this piece of great news, forwarded to me from Alan Huffines: “Director Ridley Scott has been talking about adapting the grim, bloody, nihilistic yet lyrical masterpiece, by Cormac McCarthy, for some time now, but he seems closer to calling the shots on it than ever before, as he told us when we caught up with him earlier in the week.

"It's taken me until now to pick off those little icons, like the Knight and the Cowboy," he said. "But I wouldn't want to waste that on a gunslinging character. It has to be about something."

In which case, Blood Meridian is perfect. An unremittingly dark tale of a young kid who enlists in a rogue band of American soldiers with orders to commit genocide on Mexican soil, and the gradual corruption of his soul at the hands of the troupe's mysterious leader, Judge, Blood Meridian could, in the hands of a master visualist like Scott, it could truly redefine the Western.

"It's an amazing book," continued Scott. "One of the difficulties is what do you say about it, because as an author he [McCarthy, who also wrote All The Pretty Horses] doesn't have to give an answer to anything. He writes the book and says if you get it, you get it and if you don't, you don't. And therefore there are no answers at the end of the book."

With central setpieces revolving around bloody, senseless and savage massacres of Apaches by the soldiers (and vice versa), and a violent stalk-and-shoot at the climax, Blood Meridian's unrelenting violence – it's perhaps the most accurate, unflinching portrayal of the Old West around – is presenting Scott with a headache. "That's the problem. I just don't want to make it incredibly violent. There's got to be a philosophical intuition about why he would write this at a particular point. The writing is so spectacularly good and visually epic – how do you give a voice to the two central characters?"

Tommy Lee Jones is supposed to be on board to play the judge, a key character who many think is the devil, or, at the very least, some sort of shirt-tail relative of Beelzebub.

"An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and NOT think of the Lone Ranger."
—Dan Rather

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