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351 pages, Paperback
First published April 28, 1985
See the child… He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.After engaging in a number of notably violent occupations (including bison hunter/skinner and as a soldier in an “irregular” army borderland goon squad), the kid eventually hooks up with a group of scalphunters led by John Glanton (historically known as the Glanton Gang). The rest of the story follows the kid and his exploits with the Glanton Gang as they cut a swatch of violence across the borderlands that is unlike anything you are likely to have read about before.
If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? … This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.The Judge is described as huge, completely hairless and very pale. He speaks multiple languages, is well-versed in classic literature and has extensive knowledge of many of the natural sciences. Throughout the story, the Judge is shown as almost “otherworldly.” He is depicted accomplishing seemingly miraculous deeds and having “special” insight into events. He appears not to age despite being seen over a span of 30+ years. In addition, everyone who rides with him recalls “seeing the Judge” earlier in their life (and always at a time of great violence).
A great shambling mutant, silent and serene. Whatever his antecedents, he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin and whatever science he might bring to bear upon the dusty primal matter blowing down out of the millennia will discover no trace of ultimate atavistic egg by which to reckon his commencing.Whatever the Judge’s true nature, he is singularly compelling.
They rode through a region where iron will not rust nor tin varnish. The ribbed frames of dead cattle under their patches of dried hide lay like the ruins of primitive boats upturned upon that shoreless void and they passed lurid and austere the black and desiccated shapes of horses and mules that travelers had stood afoot. These parched beasts had died with their necks stretched in agony in the sand and now upright and blind and lurching askew with scraps of blackened leather from the fretwork of their ribs they leaned with their long mouths howling after the endless tandem suns that passed above them. The riders rode on.I love that last sentence, “The riders road on.” It’s just so Hemingway. Here’s another:
On the day following they crossed the malpais afoot, leading the horses upon a lakebed of lava all cracked and reddish black like a pan of dried blood, threading those badlands of dark amber glass like the remnants of some dim legion scrabbling up out of a land accursed, shouldering the little cart over the rifts and ledges, the idiot clinging to the bars and calling hoarsely after the sun like some queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates.CONCLUSION:
“The colt stood against the horse with its head down and the horse was watching, out there past men’s knowing, where the stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs.
...war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one's will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.
If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of the night.
“Tethered to the polestar they rode the Dipper round while Orion rose in the southwest like a great electric kite. The sand lay blue in the moonlight and the iron tires of the wagons rolled among the shapes of the riders in gleaming hoops that veered and wheeled woundedly and vaguely navigational like slender astrolabes and the polished shoes of the horses kept hasping up like a myriad of eyes winking across the desert floor... All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunder-heads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.”
“With darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the moonlight. The ground where he'd lain was soaked with blood and with urine from the voided bladders of the animals and he went forth stained and stinking like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself... The murdered lay in a great pool of their communal blood. It had set up into a sort of pudding crossed everywhere with the tracks of wolves or dogs and along the edges it had dried and cracked into a burgundy ceramic. Blood lay in dark tongues on the floor and blood grouted the flagstones and ran in the vestibule where the stones were cupped from the feet of the faithful and their fathers before them and it had threaded its way down the steps and dripped from the stones among the dark red tracks of the scavengers.”
“But where does a man come by his notions. What world's he seen that he liked better?... No. It's a mystery. A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to.”
This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.
Whatever exists without my knowledge exists without my consent...Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth.By the way, and watch what happens next:
What's a suzerain?McCarthy does that after many of the Judge's speeches - just poking at them, and poking at his own tendency toward high-falutin' language while he's at it. No one forgets the horror of this book, but almost everyone forgets that it's funny.
A keeper. A keeper or overlord.
Why not say keeper then?
That's so, said the judge. They do not have to have a reason. But order is not set aside because of their indifference.Rugged individualism.
Ye carry war of a madman's making onto a foreign land. Ye'll wake more than the dogs.History, human, homicide. We have a tendency towards pitifully writhing in worship of these contextualized monstrosities, whether as sideshow or self-censorship. God! War! The unfathomable brutality of mechanistic fate!
In the neuter austerity of that terrain all phenomena were bequeathed a strange equality and no one thing nor spider nor stone nor blade of grass could put forth claim to precedence. The very clarity of these articles belied their familiarity, for the eye predicates the whole on some feature or part and here was nothing more luminous than another and nothing more enshadowed and in the optical democracy of such landscapes all preference is made whimsical and a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships.If you set forth onto the borderline of one culture stretching out its self-assured entrails of weaponry and their users into the breaking and bloodying brains of another, yes, you will find a finality. To call it righteous and cloak it in some bandy-legged slogan of manifest destiny, though, is just lazy ableism fearful of its own nihilistic yearnings. Here, in the good ol' U.S.A., that train of genocidal eloquence won and keeps on winning, a canny survivor in the folds of capitalistic corporations decrying the "moochers" and the poor.
Those who travel in desert places do indeed meet with creatures surpassing all description.Indeed.
He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.