Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Blood Meridian

Here is a passage from Blood Meridian on war (as read aloud here) that gives an idea of the tone and spirit of the work:

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way. [Somewhere in the annals of The Wire, Marlow says something very much like this last part.]

He turned to Brown, from whom he'd heard some whispered slur or demurrer. Ah, Davy, he said. It's your own trade we honor here. Why not rather take a small bow. Let each acknowledge each.

My trade?


What is my trade?

War. War is your trade. Is it not?

And it ain't yours?

Mine too. Very much so.

What about all them notebooks and bones and stuff? [The judge is, among other things, a naturalist.]

All other trades are contained in that of war.

Is that why war endures?

No. It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not.

That's your notion.

The judge smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.

Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man's hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man's worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. 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 least a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.
Yes, this could be an amazing film.


John Carter Wood said...

Oh, man, I love this book.

For reasons that you so clearly indicate.

Film? Hmmm...could be good.

Could be dire.

But who would play the Judge?

Dale said...

JCW - Exactly! I've been mulling over the same thing. I don't think Anthony Hopkins is tall enough, even with Hollywood staging magic (i.e., having everyone else stand in a ditch); he's also getting a little beyond the reach of a physical role like that.

What about John Lithgow? If you know his work from Dexter, it's easier to imagine it.

I wonder if Bill Murray could pull it off? He has tried, in recent years, to get into more dramatic/serious roles. This would be *that.* I'd have to see it tried. Not sure. If he did manage it, our experience of Stripes and Caddyshack would never, ever be the same.

Danny Huston? Yes, I could see that.

Whether we want it or not, The Kid will be played by Sam Worthington. It is now Hollywood Law that he shall be cast in all such roles ... for some reason.