Title: No Country for Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Adult Literature
Synopsis: In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.
This was my first experience with Cormac McCarthy and he is definitely different but one can adjust if one realizes the grammatical liberties he takes in his writing. I ended up enjoying this book, it is a quick read if you get into it and what really drew me in is the diary-sort of entries by Sheriff Bell as he reflects on life and country changing. I think if I had to summarize what this book is about is about the changing of a culture, a changing of a people.
McCarthy’s character are all representative of something else. Sheriff Bell is, for example, the old lawman who does good by his people but cannot change the tide that is coming, he doesn’t have enough inherent evil in him despite his past mistakes. In a way one could argue that McCarthy is saying that the old law cannot handle the new crimes. Chigurh is a stone-cold killer, he represents the evil sweeping the nation. It is heartless, methodical, and nearly inhuman. Then we have Moss, the good ole American boy who bites off more than he can chew and he represents the everyday smart man who has a weakness for money despite his good heart. Then there’s Carla Jean, she is the innocence caught in the fire and the point of the book is that you will loose against evil. There’s a lot that can be dissected from this book, but overall, it’s a book that makes you think.
A particular passage that leads me to more thoughts:
“They dont have no respect for the law? That aint half of it. They dont even think about the law. It dont seem to even concern em…. And this may sound ignorant but I think for me the worst of it is knowin that probably the only reason I’m even still alive is that they have no respect for me. And that’s very painful. Very painful.”
This book is clearly written from the perspective of a white older man and his reflection of a changing country and the narrator, Sheriff Bell very much represents the old way, and the way an old man thinks about how the things are changing and not for the better. In a way I think McCarthy characterizes Bell in a fantastic manner. His thoughts, his memories and his social commentary. On the other hand I had to stop reading and ask myself how much of this narration is Bell and how much is it McCarthy? There is very much a us versus them mentality in the book; the Mexican portrayal falls in one of 2 categories: the drug-dealers full of violence or the poor uneducated and fearful variety. So in a way, it’s an all-American book but I’m not sure if McCarthy wrote it that way as a critique or because he of the like-minded variety, if it makes sense.