THE BLURT BULLY PULPIT 2 Ben Nichols

The
Lucero frontman talks about the influence of author Cormac McCarthy on
The
Last Pale Light in the West.

 

 

BY BEN
NICHOLS

 

 

I just
released a short album of seven songs based on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood
Meridian
. I called it The Last Pale Light in the West. In no way
does this record sum up the book. In fact I don’t believe I intentionally tried
to make any kind of statement about the book whatsoever through the songs. The
book only inspired the songs.

 

 

So. Why
the title The Last Pale Light in the West? Firstly, the phrase itself is
very nice. Simply put it makes a nice sounding title. Also it was not the first
line of a chapter or part of a more significant element of the story. It was
hidden in the second half of an innocuous sentence towards the end of the book.
It was nice because it was obscure. More importantly it is an excellent theme
to base a song or a record around. The poetry is there but so is the entire
idea of death. It can either be the light, or life itself, being extinguished
and fading out, or it can be a light to follow out of this life and into the
next…  into the West.

 

 

I’ve
noticed that even in the bleakest of McCarthy’s books he leaves the reader with
the slightest bit of hope. In The Road it is a kind stranger in a yellow
parka with a shotgun. In No Country for Old Men it is the Sheriff’s
dream of his father riding out ahead into the cold and lighting a fire in the
distance for his son to follow. In Blood Meridian there is an odd
epilogue with a man traveling west striking fire in holes in the rocks. I have
to be honest I’m not exactly sure who this man is. I’ve read opinions but it is
impossible for me to say exactly what McCarthy meant. Does this man represent
technological progress? Does he represent a coming of new gods to a land that
was apparently godless? Who the hell knows. But it is a light. And it is making
progress across the desert. It is something to follow even if we don’t exactly
know where it is going. But then again when do we ever really exactly know
where we are going to end up.

 

 

So I
thought it would make a good title for an album.

 

 

I ain’t in
school and this is no book report or research paper and therefore there is no
hypothesis and there is no form to this piece of writing here. The beauty of
the internet eh? There is one other point on Blood Meridian I’d like to
discuss though. I’ve met a number of people who read the book and comment on
the brutality and violence. Some write the book off as pretentious because of
the style it is written in. I’ve never met anyone who discussed its humor. I
bought a book called A Reader’s Guide to Blood Meridian, and in the
preface the author refers to Blood Meridian as “even disarmingly
humorous”. That’s all I’ve ever heard in reference to McCarthy’s skill at being
damn funny. But it is a sense of humor that I can easily relate to. A type of
humor that could be in any Hollywood film. It
is actually a very down home kind of funny. It is not the main focus of the
book but it is there throughout. This is important because the flashes of humor
help show another side of the humanity McCarthy is telling us about. A side not
found in the chaos and violence.

 

I now have
the urge to simply quote all the funny parts and say “See! That’s totally
funny! Don’t you get it?” But I’ll leave that for later at the bar. For now
I’ll just say there are a lot of good lines in there. And Toadvine’s got most
of them.

 

 

[To read Nichols’ previous installment of The
Bully Pulpit, go HERE.
]

 

 

[Photo
Credit: Sam Holden]

 

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