Poussin's Extreme Unction, 1637-1640. Notice how Poussin included the floor of the studio in this painting? Notice how he paints with contemporary technique people in archaic setting and clothes? Poussin is teasing us with his gift for illusion.
I believe Blood Meridian is an example of how resonance in art and literature depends on it's intuitive comprehension trumping intellectualism.
It's entirely possible Cormac McCarthy hadn't seen or considered Poussin's Et In Arcadia Ego, but it's hard to believe. Five minutes in a library looking for the adage and you will find Erwin Panofsky's essay on the phrase and it's history of misinterpretation.
The relationship between novels and readers lies in D.W. Winnicotts idea of transitional objects. As humans mature the transitional objects move from blankets, teddy bears or soothers to play to sophisticated play: transitional phenomenon located in cultural experience.
I define sophisticated play as music, writing, art and theoretical science. And audience engaging in the product also sophisticated play.
We make contact with Blood Meridian in the moments of illusion, much like we did as infants in parent-child bond, and as we do with movies when we suspend our disbelief. It is the moments of illusion, often created by feelings of ambiguity, that allow us to comprehend themes, safely and at a distance, that may be difficult to process in reality.
I nickname this phenomenon a "cosmic reset button" and I liken it to an aha moment, to mystical experience, love, religious and spiritual rituals, and hunter gatherer traditions.
1985, New York Times Review.
If you are a visitor inquiring about the Oprah and McCarthy interview, please leave me a comment and I will get back to you. Don't be shy :)