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Notes on Blood Meridian by John Sepich

December 24, 2017


Many of the academic books and essays about Blood Meridian focus on the internal themes, examine the novel as it relates to the rest of the McCarthy cannon, or place it in a broad literary context. This book has some of that, but it more helpfully examines the historical inspiration. As Sepich notes, most reviewers tend to downplay or misunderstand the degree to which the story of the Glanton Gang is based in historical events, not just inspired by them. Yes, McCarthy did embellish some, but his embellishments were more of language and narrative linking than exaggeration.

Sepich examines Samuel Chamberlain’s My Confession, but he also sifts through primary newspaper sources to uncover the historical events, including a fascinating reconstruction of what actually happened at the Yuma ferry crossing massacre in 1850, the climactic battle of Blood Meridian.

Other essay topics include the meaning of the tarot, the feasibility of Judge Holden’s gunpowder recipe and the role of Jungian archetypes in understanding the characters. These I found less interesting and less insightful than the examination of Blood Meridian through the historical lens. As I’ve come to believe that the central theme of the novel is the theft of history, a working understanding of the history and what parts McCarthy “stole” is critical.

This book “unlocked” Blood Meridian for me in a way that others have not. I’d highly recommend it as the primary companion piece to the novel.

Related Reads: 

Understanding Cormac McCarthy by Stephen Frye


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