Optophone I, Francis Picabia

“To be one: Paradise! To be two: Bliss! But to be both and neither is unspeakable.”
      John Barth, Petition

Blood Meridian oozes confusion. Its whole sort of literary being is wrapped up in its wrapped-upness. There have been a handful of compelling arguments aiming to show that it’s some sort of Gnostic tragedy, and that various characters are archons and pneumas and… whatever.1 I think those interpretations are largely valid, but are too much focused on the later realization of a much less nuanced concept. I figure that Blood Meridian is more like an exhibition of some ideas Parmenides had, and so amoral, and that what makes it especially and terrifically interesting is just how McCarthy brings them out, because these ideas are articulated not only explicitly, (e.g., dialogue and blatant, near-excessive Judge waxing), but also performatively (e.g., section headings, prose both by ad- and omission, metatextual nuance, other miscellaneous indicators of excess and masterly talent), and this combination is, I think, what makes the book so spinecurlingly good.

§ 1. Exformative Stuff about Parmenides

1 Parmenides is the “Grandfather of Western Philosophy.”

1.1 Parmenides has one surviving piece of writing, a fragmented poem, which describes his deliverance from the realm of darkness into light2—from “the world of sense (into) the divine world.”3

1.11 He describes being guided by an unnamed goddess through a heavenly somewhere, and tells us that she gave him divine knowledge of the reality of what-is (e.g., Being, One, Truth).

1.12 He comes back to us with this knowledge and uses it to further reinforce a previously disclosed distrust of the senses, rounding out his personal philosophy and ontology.4

1.2 Parmenides uses this narrative to build a real compelling argument.

1.21 He starts from the premise “that a thing is, and that it is not for not being,”5 and he deduces what truths must be of Being. (Coxon translates this path of enquiry as the “Way of Persuasion,” so I will too.)

1.22 From the premise, “that a thing is not, and that it must needs not be,” he reasons there is a path “wholly without report,” owing to its inconsistent, and thereby paradoxical, nature.

1.221 This path Parmenides conflates with the phenomenal world and all realities of perception, and this I call the Way of Seeming (WoS).

1.23 Parmenides’ argument follows: (1) What-is exists; (2) What-is-not cannot exist; (3) There is no such thing as empty space; (4) What-is is full (it contains no empty space); (5) Motion and, by extension, change and time, are impossible.6

1.231 (1) and (2) are premises; they are both tautological and self-contained.

1.232 It follows from (1) and (2) that empty space (what-is-not) cannot exist (3).

1.233 As such, what-is must be full, or, what-is must contain only filled space to the extent that there is no room for what-is-not (4).

1.234 These various deductions amount to the conclusion that motion, and consequently that which is dependent on motion (time and change), are impossible (5).7

1.3 So really what you’ve got here is a double-bind where either everything is inconsistent and illogical and awfully frightening for your metaphysically-thoughtful types, or, at best, there’s a perfect realm adjacent to and mostly separate from this hollow reality in which we strive and titivate and c., and which with enough hard work or, in Parmenides’ case, divine intervention, can be ascended into.8

1.4 But how?

1.41 It might seem hopeless if you take Parmenides literally, since no amount of work really seems able to counter the argument he laid out, e.g., even if I somehow made everything in my dark reality definite and unchanging, it still would have had to become this, something that contradicts (5).

1.42 Since Parmenides tells us that he’s been to this light realm and seen it and all, we have to assume that there’s some accessibility to it that is thusly his reason for telling us, otherwise he’s just sort of maliciously bragging and what for?

1.421 So we can read him less directly and surmise, as one of many choices and my personal favorite (for which there are reasons forthcoming), that what really the Way of Persuasion represents is the conceptual world.

1.422 It’s what Plato bases his formal reality off of—the perfect realm of concepts that we can reach through logic, argument, and categorization (things unspeakably dull, usually).9

1.5 What’s the implication of this?

1.51 Firstly, that anything indefinite (i.e., everything sensuous) does not exist (for the mind) and is imperfect.

1.52 More importantly, perfection is a prerequisite for proper understanding, since the thing isn’t a real concept until it’s stopped developing.10

1.53 So anything that we interact with on an experiential basis is something we can only know indirectly or provisionally.11

1.531 We only understand it as something that seems to be what it is.

1.54 So if you relate this to the individual, you might say that as long as someone is alive, they’re a mystery.

1.541 As long as someone, including yourself, keeps living, they’re self-complicating and developing and performing and impossible to pin down in terms of this- or thatness.

1.6 So really for someone to exist in the purest sense, they have to be dead—historical; “In order to cease being a doubtful case, one must cease being at all.”12

§ 2. How does Blood Meridian Explicitly Contain This Argument?

Blood Meridian follows the kid, who by and by becomes the man, on his journey through the mid-19th century southwest. The kid joins up with some scalp hunters who more or less mirror the Argonauts and the wild hunt and various biblical parables and I think Paradise Lost and a history written by a particularly obscure guy called Chamberlain and honestly about a million other things, I’d wager, and they sort of rouse about the desert and mountains and c. killing literally every fucking thing they come across until they are, in turn, killed. Along the way the kid meets the judge, and it’s through the latter that this preterite human tension is voiced.

He, the judge, appears on first reading enigmatic to the extent that he both firmly believes in an inviolable order to reality, (e.g.: “They do not have to have a reason. But order is not set aside because of their indifference… if (they) have no reason and yet are indeed here must they not be here by reason of some other;” “Any man who could discover his own fate and elect therefore some opposite course could only come at last to that selfsame reckoning at the same appointed time, for each man’s destiny is as large as the world;” “All others are destined for a night that is eternal and without name;” “It is not necessary that the principals here be in possession of the facts concerning their case, for their acts will ultimately accommodate history with or without their understanding… any slight to his office is but a secondary consideration (to the) larger protocol exacted by the formal agenda of an absolute destiny,”)13 but also an inhering chaos and malleability of circumstance through which the individual can, to use McCarthy’s terminology, augur and -ment his own destiny, (e.g., “… it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision (of life and death) without agency or significance or either one;” “But who builds in stones seeks to alter the structure of the universe;” “But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate;” “The truth about the world is that anything is possible.”)14 So, two things: (1) I included so many quotes above to give you a sense of the densely confusticatory nature of BM and, (2) everything is both rigidly and inescapably ordered while being thoroughly flux and open to change? What gives?

I think you can understand the judge as delineating three distinct modes of being. There’s the overarching sort of nomological reality, where he says, “existence has its own order that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others… the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there.” You could conflate this with Kant’s noumena if you wanted, but I think really what the judge is getting at is the simple vastness of things. It seems at first like he’s saying there is something unknowable in its foreignness, but he doesn’t say that it’s fundamentally different, only that it can’t be “compassed,” (i.e., mapped, ordered, rationalized) absolutely. He actually says later that, “your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery,” which, as an aside, is pretty neat insofar as it kind of turns on its head most the existentialist sentiment of the late 19th and early-mid-20th century, i.e., the larger point there was that life was/is meaningless, and here we’re being told that life is in fact just too meaningful.15 It should be noted that there’s a lot of will-to-power16 and BG&E17 and eternal recurrence18 stuff throughout—and since the judge is the one who says all those things, it’s safe to consider him an at least vaguely Nietzschean figure.19 So the judge has this sort of macro understanding of reality as a very definite and infinite thing that extends in all directions forever. That, to me, sounds a lot like the Parmenidean One.

Subsumed under this eternal, overwhelming reality is the formal or conceptual reality of man. That is, the sense man is able to make of life. The categories into which life can be successfully divided. Using the Parmenidean model, this is the stuff that has ceased to develop and is installed firmly in the Path of Persuasion. We are able to create this world of understanding, and thereby dominate the forthcoming WoS reality, only through imposing cessation. The judge says, “War is god… (that) the selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable…” and , later on, “Men’s memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not.”20 We are told that war is that machination through which history is made, and history here not in the sense of men’s memories that the judge belittles, but the absolute and irrevocable history of the X-killed-Y variety—“the absolute authority of the extant,”21 or, “the chambers of historical absolute.”22 War gives us the only possible thing that can be relied on in a universe that otherwise leaves us, like McCarthy often says, “blackeyed.”23 It is that through which we partake in the larger Oneness of being, if you want to be philosophical.

So then there’s the third arena of being which I think you could probably best understand, and especially in light of BM and its plot, as the persistent™ reality of man. That is, the WoS consisting of all the sensuous input and mysterious interactions with others and the seeming ineffability of being or thinking or doing anything at all—the kind of inertial tendency for a person to keep going regardless of understanding or whatever. This, I think, is the kind of id, or appetitive, or Holy Spiritual, or binding inner fire mentioned in FN 24 infra—it’s the desire and the meat of existence. This is the reality of animals of which the judge says, “whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry.”24

The judge has then provided us three layers:

1. Overarching (Parmenidean) One (what-is)

2. Man’s reckoning of (3) into (1)25

3. Man’s material reality (what-is-not)26

So, what is the significance of war and violence again? Well the book is called Blood Meridian, and at a certain point the judge says, “(man’s) spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day,” which, at first glance, seems profoundly repetitive since wouldn’t “darkening” and “evening” be the same thing?

Apparently not, since just before this he says, “the noon of his expression signals the coming of night,” meaning evening here is being used literally – making even. So man is this thing that at the peak of his existence is “darkening” the day, which throughout the text is associated with killing since somebody dying is somebody whose light is being snuffed and all that, and so man is at is absolute apex—shining brightest—when he is making the world a darker place. What exactly do we gather from this?

One, that man can only achieve transcendence and godliness (the sun as god motif is played out frequently, esp. with the fool, and would make a ton of sense vis-à-vis Plato [the form of the good, and all that]) through the negation of another, and two, that negation can be roughly equated to darkness. Which opens us up to a very interesting interpretation of the judge as something like the prime negator of BM since he is, no less than ten times, described as milky white and c., and also actually compared to the moon at least twice,27 and so can be construed as dominant force or like guiding light of the darkness. Also, I guess you probably remember, in Faust Mephistopheles calls himself, “the spirit that negates,” and in that same exchange, Faust to him, “Oh you peculiar son of chaos!”28 The judge is overtly conflated with Milton’s devil in the gunpowder scene,29 and is explicitly referred to as or compared with the devil by characters within the story throughout (at least five times in the section delineated in FN 30), and at the end of the text is seen dancing and playing a fiddle and doing other more or less cliché devil things like murdering and claiming immortality and what not.30

And so we have this sense of the judge as being very much the devil, but the devil in the perverse Mephistophelean sense, since really the judge is doing, albeit violently, the work of being a rational person, i.e., negating and making historical/perfect/conceptual. This is why we see the judge forever cataloguing items before throwing them in the fire, or killing children and puppies for no apparent reason, or saying things like “Whatever exists in creation without my knowledge exists without my consent… and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before (man) will he be properly suzerain of the earth.”31 Because the judge is rationality personified. He is the being who reigns over our material reality and, straddling the meridian between what-is and what-is-not, bleeds that which he grasps before to either side casting it off. He is the form and flesh of critical thought.

I’d hazard that the judge is so extreme a character because he rather lacks the inconsistency that makes humans human. He doesn’t lack in his rationality, and so he doesn’t lack in his darkness. What McCarthy is bringing out is the queer balancing of man upon the razorous midline, where, as the title of the text suggests and the preceding quote unpacks, the more light I bring into the world the more darkness, the more darkness the more light. (If the latter is confusing, remember the quote supra re those who live by other’s reason, or cf. O’connor’s Wise Blood, esp. Mrs. Flood’s section.)

What is so beautiful and astounding here is McCarthy’s given us an image that articulates not only his own sentiments regarding man and history and the repetitiousness of violence and all that, but a fairly digestible representation of a dense ontological theory brought out not only overtly through the judge’s exegesis, but performatively. Of which on the latter we’ll now focus.32

§ 3. I call performative a manner of writing whereby the text in its entirety can be seen as a representative of one or more of the operant metaphors developed through the plot—texts can be more or less performative as they layer various instantiations of their theme(s), and  I would prefer to use a term like “metafictional,” but this is has been cemented in usage as describing some kind of writing that references the fact that it is writing (something sort of too obvious, I think, to warrant as grand a term as “meta,” but hey, who am I?)—and there are obvious examples of performative literature, e.g.: Moby-Dick is a big, unwieldy, book about a big, unwieldy whale (skeuomorphic); Ulysses probably requires no explanation, but esp. q.v. Aeolus, or even Barthelme’s Balloon for what is essentially the same thing (what Wittgenstein [and Emerson] would call a book, you’d kind of have to figure); Don Quixote focuses in some capacity on the absurdity of literature and is itself a 1,000-page novel where basically nothing happens and the main character dies (twice) in the end; Infinite Jest warns of entertainment and prides itself thereon (even going so far as to construct itself fractally—nested—as our media does so well); The Tempest is a play that is also performative through and in addition to its performance and good luck parsing that; Invisible Man and Notes from Underground are both the text in your hands and the text in the text, which more or less toes at least one or two lines here; 100 Years of Solitude’s performativity is quite obvious, as are Borges’ story collections and Pynchon’s Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow—(I am aware that these characterizations are reductive, but of course this isn’t a paper about classics of world literature, and, secondarily, Borges’ work is a perfect example of the difference between metafiction and performative fiction, as his self-reference is only one layer of the larger metaphor, and, tertiarily, Lot 49’s stuff about chaos (which maybe you got mad at me for the Mephistopheles stuff above but do consider that perfect order is, in fact, perfect chaos, and that two synchronicities can be divided thricely) and information and entropy and the role of the demon therein being both separate but intertwined and all that could be real compelling reading for you if you end up digging this whole Parmenidean literature lens thing I’m blustering on about, so perhaps QV)—and so, in short, performative fiction is something like a book that is also a piece of plastic and physical art, i.e., an object, and so you ask, how is Blood Meridian performative?, and I say, {furtively}, Well what the judge gives us is probably best characterized as explicit communication, that is, he’s telling us to our face (eyes) the guiding notions that keep the text’s internal machinery ticking, except, as we noted above, the thing that the judge is communicating is a concept that is almost inherently paradoxical (remember Zeno and Anisthenes supra), and so he communicates these ideas in a manner that reads as paradoxical; that is, it takes close reading and note taking and, in my case, about a million sticky notes and a couple reams of cribbed notepaper, to keep straight—(Also, for this sort of paradoxical playing check out Kierkegaard, especially Fear and Trembling and, for instance, “Faith therefore is not an aesthetic emotion but something far higher, precisely because it has resignation as its presupposition; it is not an immediate instinct of the heart, but is the paradox of life and existence,” which, this cf, is maybe particularly interesting since Kierkegaard too was another one of these performative-type writers who even went as far as mucking about with his pen names for the sake of some meta message, and since he’s a weird kind of Christian he can kind of be flubbed around with stuff like Jung’s Sermons (q.v. the first three) to orchestrate a real compelling gnostic analysis of BM and like anything else carveable)—but now if McCarthy were stupid you could probably just attribute this, its hydratic prose, to a loose grip on the theme, but of course this guy is anything but, and so we have to assume that the reason this book is so hard to figure out is that it’s sort of trying to clue you into the hardness of figuring out life’s mechanism in general—(a kind of Hamlet/Lear’s madness thing)—and so it’s both explicitly telling you something about the way the world works in a way that perfectly represents just how the world works, and so you’re thinking {peeved} Great more pomo, But there’s a bit more and better like this yet.

You may remember, if you’ve read BM, that each chapter contains a bulleted list of phrases that detail for you what’s coming in the ensuing pages, e.g., “Adrift on the Bolson de Mapimi – Sproule – Tree of dead babies – Scenes from a massacre… On to Chihuahua – The city – The prison…” and you may wonder: What does this give the reader?, to wit I, {sagaciously}, well obviously an outline of what’s to come, but it also forces her to realize that the portents and their actualization are things very different indeed, because of course when you read that preceding quote and get to “Tree of dead babies,” you’re pretty much aghast (hopefully), but reading the explicit detail, which I will spare you here, is obviously something different in kind, and so what is more interesting, though, is not just the violent stuff that becomes more palpable and all that when you read the exhaustive detail But the stuff that runs in the reverse, like, for instance, “Sproule,” which is the name of the kid’s travelling partner whose increasingly tumescent and maggoty arm is infected and gross and pretty expertly described by McCarthy—enough to keep you from hunger for a few hours—and who you get no real insight into otherwise since McCarthy’s characterization is so occlusive, meaning the most definite thing about Sproule is his name and his injury, and so you know most of what you can know about him just from having read the bullet points at the beginning of the chapter—(Also important to remember here is all the stuff about destiny that the judge is forever harping on, and how you have in these bullet points definite locations like “The city,” and “The prison,” but no real indication of what it’ll take to get there)—so then the bullet points are really well bringing out this tension between plans and premonitions and (manifest) destinies, and what actual reality consists of, and what McCarthy is doing is really hammering home the actual machinations of the WoS, or sensuous, reality Because within BM the skyline and the sun and the moon and the stars and the plants and the ground and the bones and the mountains and the clouds and the weather and people’s blood and limbs and eyes and all of the things that you can really easily see are detailed fastidiously But the stuff that you have to guess at, like people’s thoughts and feelings and inclinations and everything else, are kept a dead mystery, and so  then you have this very interesting dynamic where the text is giving you the definite plans just like how these men perceive their futures But the only thing that expands from that in the text is the real obvious, sensuous stuff, and the stuff that they can’t know, like each other, is kept from the reader, and it amounts to a well-executed layer of the aforementioned ontology, and, in keeping with the prose, the recursive way that McCarthy describes the scenes around the gang in terms of the black eyes and white bones and red sky and so on and so forth really buttresses the Nietzschean recurrence stuff mentioned above And I know that generally eternal recurrence is understood more like a tool for self-reflection and behavior modulation And you’re probably still mad about the existentialism jabs up there and want to tell me about man being a lack and all but could you just {defeatedly} Give me a break please and simply consider that it’s also again mirroring again the stuff of the WoS since anyone travelling through this part of the world would probably not be able to focus on much else and  so without giving us any direct access to the character’s interior McCarthy instead just gives us the world as they hold it And this is a world of violence and saturated images and perceived necessity.

And then there are !three! epigraphs and the epilogue that are separate from the main text and operate as these neat little synecdochical paragraphs that hammer home the prenominate and So the epigraphs run through Valery’s condemnation of the cowardly spirit he takes as internal to men of violence and Boehme saying some stuff about darkness that I think is perhaps more significant than anything else and a newspaper clipping about how scalping has been around since basically forever and [1] is important for its reference to time and says “Finally, you fear blood more and more Blood and time” and sort of jives with the fatalistic destiny stuff And [3] is more of the same Violence is eternal yada and so on but [2] is very neat and says “It is not to be thought that the life of darkness is sunk in misery and lost as if in sorrowing There is no sorrowing For sorrow is a thing that is swallowed up in death and death and dying are the very life of darkness” and this little Epicurean ditty holds two bits of interest which are first That Darkness amounts to death and there is no sorrowing in death since death is nothingness And second There is a life to darkness and that means there is a form that darkness takes wherein it is alive or alight and now this might just seem like a stretchy and kind of stupid misreading of what Boehme is saying but just play along for a second Because at a certain point just before the kid heads off on the murdering spree that is only actually an overture to the grander more bombastic and judgecentric genocide one of his friends is murdered and an old Mennonite priest walks by saying There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto and now of course this seems both super insensitive and also a little cliché even given the reverse reading of the road to hell that probably first comes to mind but what this Mennonite ends up communicating is that whatever one forecasts will always pale in the light of the real and But beyond further articulating the points being made a few breaths up you might be wondering what exactly this has to do with Boehme and darkness and all but {narcissistically} There’s a really insightful part of Barth’s Floating Opera where he says Processes continued for long enough tend to become ends in themselves and there the character is discussing his so-called Inquiry which first aims to uncover the precise reason why his seemingly happy father committed suicide and then after realizing that this first Inquiry was reliant on a much broader base of factors it resolves into a second investigation that is variously termed a Life Inquiry (1) and a Death Inquiry (3) and most appropriately a Self Inquiry (2) and consists of an exhaustive catalogue of everything that occurs to this character and then There’s the epilogue which is even by McCarthy’s standards real opaque and tells of this guy “progressing over the plain by means of holes” who is basically walking through and auguring the ground and leaving behind these perfect holes which the people behind either pick through or around or don’t and it sort of gets into questions of cause and effect Though disregard the Hume stuff and move on Because really it seems to be about again eternal recurrence again as regardless of their own volition the people are equated to escapements and pallets i.e. mechanisms of a watch And those who gather and those who don’t are both themselves gathered by the subsequent gatherers and you get thanks to the timepiece allusion the sense that all that will ever happen on this plain is a continuous circling As the sun overhead And a limitless shedding and gathering of bones and an endless procession of perfect little holes that could never have been any other way Which For Whom the Bell Tolls does a much shittier job of getting at this same cyclical life/death/war thing And so again why is this relevant {Frigidly} because remember that the “life of darkness” is erebos is suffering and remember that man is inherently judge-like and straddling the meridian in as much as he negates to make sense of things and remember that the WoS is the reality in which man persists and remember the section headings and the Mennonite’s prognostication and the hollow prose that reflects the hollowness in knowing and in man And then consider that perhaps what McCarthy is doing with this Boehme epigraph is not just cluing you into this text’s gnostic affinities but actually giving you your first hint into man’s true being as a middle point between a world of darkness and a world of light or a world of what-is and what-is-not and saying to you that the only thing definite about man is that he must die [1] and so he is very explicitly a living death or darkness who in living must either impart suffering or suffer himself Because you’ll recall the bits on those who dance and those who do not and those who pick bones and those who do not and those who live by their own reasons and those who live by others’ and those who play the game of war and those who do not And that what the Mennonite says can be reformulated by you as something like There is no suffering in death as on the road thereto Or maybe think like Eglinton and say something like the highroads are dreary but they lead to town  and we think maybe that Hell is more stale and townish than anything and perhaps it’s better to linger with Dedalus and the sophists in the bypaths of apocrypha And then that through the rather long and discursive plot and the shuttle of its various threads you are being invited to consider that even though the enterprise of living is really something awful That as Barth notes any process performed long enough becomes an end in itself So that we or you or the characters end up clung absurdly and desperate to this life that is inherently and historically and recursively violent [3] and tender persistently this war as we try to contravene the destiny of our death that the judge at every moment attempts to remind you of So that Blood Meridian is not in point of fact any kind of moral tale or tragedy or anything else but actually a mindlessly complex and performative novel that through its prose and plot and characters and title and epigraphs and epilogues and structure and allusions and a few thousand other things and other ands that I completely missed Offers an acute diagnosis of human experience which is in summary one of inherent suffering and momentum and thoughtlessness that if at all can only be transcended through violence and, by extension, judgment.33

  1. Q.V. Daughtery, Bloom
  2. If you’ve read Blood Meridian this whole “Light vs. Dark” motif will be real powerful indeed.
  3. Coxon, The Fragments of Parmenides, p. 286
  4. Ibid., pp. 269-271
  5. Ibid., p. 56
  6. Popper, The World of Parmenides, pp. 101,118
  7. Of course there is common sense evidence that contravenes: Antisthenes famously stood before Zeno (a student and follower of Parmenides) and took a step as if to show that the various paradoxes Zeno had put forward disproving movement were bonerific at best (or, some argue, just to be sure that he could still move). See: Long, et al., Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, pp. 134-158, esp. pp. 143-144.
  8. NB, the goddesses that P. interacts with are Heliades, as in Helios.
  9. “… each of Plato’s forms have those qualities of ‘Being’ (viz., One, perfect, timeless)… Plato shows himself… (to be) a direct if unorthodox successor to Parmenides.” (Coxon, Ibid., p. 30)
  10. “Proper” in the preceding is key here, since the hollowness of the WoS’s knowing and being is something that is touched on throughout BM and will be discussed below.
  11. Although NB that the perfection of the form is, similarly, a contingent kind of perfection, while the perfection of what really is what-is is, in fact, a fully autonomous kind of perfection that doesn’t need me or you or even Parmenides, and so there is a hierarchy of perfections, etc. (Cf Kant’s third critique and also Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization, Part  I, where he astutely notes that the whole Vedantic thing about brahman and maya and irreality and reality and so on is startlingly similar to both P.’s stuff and also Kant’s stuff, [footnote to p. 551])
  12. Camus, The Fall, I don’t remember the page number.
  13. Ibid., p. 342,  p. 344, p. 345, p. 89, respectively
  14. Ibid., p. 260, p. 152, p. 208, p. 256, respectively.
  15. Which is itself a condemnation of human vanity since the former, that there is no meaning, isn’t really a slight against man but more like a magnanimous acceptance of limitation, whereas the latter, that there is just too much, amounts to saying that man is just too dumb to figure it out.
  16. Ibid., p. 207
  17. Ibid., p. 261
  18. Ibid., p. 3, p. 153,  p. 349 (Well played here to situate one of  these on both the first and last pages.)
  19. And, for interested readers, see various Nietzsche quotes like, for instance, “…friends of solitude, of our own deepest, most midnight, most midday solitude – such a type of man are we, we free spirits! and perhaps you too are something of the same type, you coming men? you new philosophers?” – Beyond Good and Evil, p. 73.
  20. Ibid., p. 260 and p. 344
  21. Ibid., p. 88 (This quote itself is, I think, enough on its own to validate the Parmenidean model I’m arguing is at play.)
  22. Ibid., p. 261
  23. I started keeping track around page 100 and counted at least fifteen pairs of black eyes. Most often used to describe the autochthonous people who, NB, are almost always killed. It seems too persistent to be accidental, and I’d guess that the descriptor indicates some lack of fire, which is variously conflated with the soul or that which binds man to man (p. 255), i.e., they are outside the bounds of shared humanity—more like the whited stones that frequent travelling scenes.
  24. Ibid., p. 152
  25. And I didn’t have room for it elsewhere, but check out this description of the judge on p. 101, “As if beyond will (3) or fate (1) he and his beasts and his trappings moved both in card and in substance under consignment to some third (2) and other destiny.” It’s vague here whether McCarthy is talking about the judge or man in general, but as you’ll see there’s not much difference as I read it.
  26. And I didn’t have room for this in the other footnote (^), but, in general Ulysses (S -> M -> P), and Dante (viz., 1, 2, 3: Paradiso, Purgatorio, Inferno). If you’ve read the Commedia, then (1) is womblike and where one is apophatically blinded by light [Literally every canto], (2) is work, the stones borne on backs and c. [esp. q.v. canto X], and (3) is hell, e.g., other people and real life [q.v. cantos 32-34; NB there’s a reason those closest to the omphalos can’t cry].ᵃ

    (Count the FNs.)
    (And the P. #s.)
  27. Ibid., p. 174, p. 348
  28. Goethe, Faust, p. 161
  29. McCarthy, Ibid., pp. 129-141.
  30. Also q.v. The Master and Margarita, esp. P.s I and III (Woland’s precognition is relevant, to say the least) and, generally, the whole Pilate arc.
  31. McCarthy, Blood Meridian, p. 207
  32. There is a reference coming below to a footnote, previously (above), regarding the number of pages, their possible division, and the theoretical relations of these parts to themselves, the whole, etc. The studious reader will have noted, however, that there are no page numbers here. I should have changed this, but was too lazy to do so. Instead, we can agree to explain it away as another example of this whole chaos-as-process thing.
  33. And, if you find this melodramatic, just remember: it’s a metaphor.