Just to get your morning off to a bright and cheerful start, here's a bit of a nibble from Cormac McCarthy's new novel:

"The murdered lay in a great pool of the 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."

I knew you'd like that; it goes so well with the orange juice. So how about a little something to mix in with the corn flakes? This should do the job:

"The dead lay awash in the shallows like the victims of some disaster at sea and they were strewn along the salt foreshore in a havoc of blood and entrails. Riders were towing bodies out of the bloody waters of the lake and the froth that rode lightly on the beach was a pale pink in the rising light. They moved among the dead harvesting the long black locks with their knives and leaving their victims rawskulled and strange in their bloody cauls . . . One of the Delawares passed with a collection of heads like some strange vendor bound for market, the hair twisted about his wrist and the heads dangling and turning together."

If you're Vampira, or Dracula, you're going to love "Blood Meridian" from first page to last, for it is indeed "a welter of gore, a reeking scene." What a pity it is that Sam Peckinpah is no longer around, for surely he would have loved to film it -- though there is at least the possibility that even the director of "The Wild Bunch" and "Straw Dogs" would find "Blood Meridian" rather a bit too much for his stomach.

No kidding: This has got to be the bloodiest novel ever written. The passages quoted above are, if the truth be known, somewhat on the mild side; consideration for my fellow man has compelled me to refrain from quoting the ones involving eyeball-gouging, genital-slicing and other niceties of life in the Old West -- or, to be more accurate, life in the Old West as depicted in the imagination of Cormac McCarthy, an imagination that seems, on the face of it, a trifle fevered.

This tale, though "tale" is perhaps too generous a description of it, has to do with a young man from Tennessee, known to us only as "the kid," who "can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence." He leaves home at the age of 14 and heads west, killing off pretty much anyone or anything that gets in his way. In the course of his travels he signs on with various enterprises, most of them having to do with murdering Mexicans and/or Apaches, sometimes both. All of this is described in the most flamboyant detail.

Eventually the kid finds himself in the employ of a couple of especially odious gentlemen, John Glanton and Judge Holden, who are collecting the scalps of Apaches in the service of a Mexican governor. This leads to a lot more killing -- splat! powee! oomph! yippee! -- and to a certain amount of amateur philosophizing by Judge Holden, who among other things opines that the only man who has truly lived is "that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart."

It is rather unclear from this mess of a novel whether Cormac McCarthy himself believes this, but the brio with which he portrays the carnage suggests that he does. What is even less clear, though, is what the point of it all may be. If what McCarthy is up to is demythologizing the Old West, then it can only be said that he has taken the myth from one extreme to the other. He has also written a novel in which everything seems to happen, yet nothing really does happen. A bunch of men ride around for a while, they camp for a while, they philosophize for a while, they kill for a while. It's all in a day's work, but it sure makes for a slow day.