Saturday, December 29, 2007

Book 19 – No Country For Old Men

By Cormac McCarthy

I won’t waste my breath providing a synopsis as Olman and Mount Benson have already written great reviews for this book.

This was a very cool read. To quote a review from The New Yorker, No Country For Old Men is “tight, reduced, simple and very violent”. Since I saw the film adaptation prior to reading the novel, it was an unexpected pleasure to discover a “different” ending, which revealed a more straightforward resolution compared to the inexplicable and jarring denouement of the Coen Brothers’ movie.

In the novel, the motives of Llewellyn Moss were definitely more questionable and complex. The nemesis, Anton Chigurh, really came across as this new breed of monster in human form, who, for whatever mysterious reason, ends up ascending the echelons of criminal society. And finally, there’s Sheriff Bell as the moral center, who seems even more a helpless and irrelevant figure, as the world he once knew gradually descends into lawlessness.

Even though it was mildly confusing at times, I didn’t mind the lack of punctuation and dialogue quotations. It was a self-conscious stylistic device for sure, but it also added a kind of detached surreal quality to the narrative.

From what I’ve read in the way of reviews, though McCarthy's talent for words is undisputed, there are some critics who question whether he’s really all that deep. He's post-moderney and intellectual but successfully mimics southern white trash vernacular. Does this make him inauthentic? His pessimistic takes on human nature and running themes of meaningless violence and the pervasiveness of evil... does this make his work morally empty?

I haven’t read enough of McCarthy’s stuff to know. But I do know that NCFOM certainly delivers as an existential action thriller. I also like his style, which is, as quoted by Mt Benson, “a consistent voice and a world of destruction and desolation”. In the future, I’ll definitely check out other books by McCarthy, particularly his latest: a post-apocalyptic father & son story called The Road (despite the fact that it was selected by Oprah for a Book Club pick!).


Olman Feelyus said...

I think the movie and the book work best together. You get the action and intensity of the novel beautifully filmed, without the annoying lack of quotation marks. And you get the richer narrative satisfaction from the book.

Crumbolst said...

Definitely read The Road. A damn good book, but bleak.