No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

How come people dont feel like this country has got a lot to answer for? They dont. You can say that the country is just the country, it dont actively do nothin, but that dont mean much. I seen a man shoot his pickup truck with a shotgun one time. He must of thought it done somethin. This country will kill you in a heartbeat and still people love it. You understand what I'm sayin?

I still haven't seen the Best Picture Oscar-winning film based on the book, but from reading the book and seeing the movie trailer I'd guess they're fairly similar. It's a harrowing read, and I suppose if you've seen the movie you know why: Anton Chigurh is probably the scariest villain I've come across in a while, and I've seen Heath Ledger as the Joker, so that's saying something. Chigurh's path through the story is littered with bullets and destruction, but the entire time he seems calm and methodical, following a bizarre code of justice that puts everyone who encounters him at risk.

I never thought of myself as a suspense fan but lately it seems I've read a few and I have to admit I haven't been too disappointed. McCarthy does a particularly good job of creating some small-town characters and bringing them to life (before killing them off, of course) through very little action and dialogue. There is action, though there's also a lot of waiting and hunting, and the action scenes are mostly brief. McCarthy's style takes a little getting used to; he writes the way people talk ("He must of...") and leaves out a lot of punctuation, including all quotation marks. It feels stripped down and simple, which is exactly the effect he wants.

The book starts with the aftermath of a desert shootout between drug dealers; a man named Moss happens upon the scene and finds a case full of money. Meanwhile there are small-town cops, drug dealers who want their merchandise and their money, the DEA, and various other interested parties. All of it comes tumbling together, and you never know how long Moss' ingenuity and sheer stubbornness is going to keep him alive. Sheriff Bell (who shares a few thoughts in between some of the chapters) is also on the trail, trying to protect Moss as one of the citizens of his county.

It's a reflection on human nature, the escalation of crime in the United States, and it's not an optimistic picture. Bell notes the transition between the criminals he understands and the newer sort who operate on a completely different level. He cites a school survey that listed things like chewing gum and running in the hallways as the biggest problems in teaching forty years ago, and then the current answers: "Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide." And in the center of his story is Chigurh, the epitome of the new criminal.

I wouldn't recommend this book if you're looking for something light and escapist. If you're ready for a powerful, uncomfortable look at some worst-case scenarios, this is a well-written story that will grab you.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 16, 2008 | Comments (0)


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