No Country For Old Men

Sunday , 2, December 2018 5 Comments

You never know what you will find at a Salvation Army store. I had a little luck a few months back when I found a hardback of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men $.50.

I had seen the 2007 movie a few years back. Javier Bardem as the homicidal psychopath Anton Chigurh owned very scene he was in. I was curious about the book, but the local library did not have it.

The plot for those unfamiliar with movie or book is set in south western Texas.

The first scene in the book has Anton Chigurh escaping from jail, killing a sheriff deputy by strangulation.

Llewellyn Moss is out hunting antelope when he comes across the scene of a drug deal with Mexican gangs gone bad. Almost everyone is dead with one not long for this world. Moss finds $2 million and absconds with it.

The story shifts between Moss, Chigurh, Moss’s wife Carla Jean, and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

This is the first work by McCarthy I have read. I heard he has idiosyncrasies in his prose. Blood Meridian is a long prose poem for example.

McCarthy does not use quotation marks in his dialogue. You need to sometime go back and reread a section where it shifts to dialogue. McCarthy can write violence and action scenes well. He gives some detail to weapons. He also likes automobiles, especially pick-up trucks.

Many of the longer conversations are inane on the other hand. McCarthy is not Raymond Chandler when it comes to dialogue. There were conversations, especially with Sheriff Bell that seemed to drone on and on way too long.

Anton Chigurh leaves a trail of corpses wherever he goes. A favorite way to dispatch unsuspecting witnesses is using an air gun attached to a compressed air canister used for livestock. He is no slouch with weapons. If anything, there is a bigger body count than in the movie. One scene left out of the movie has Chigurh dispatching several Mexican gang members in a motel.

He is on the trail of Llewellyn Moss. There is a three-way gun battle between Moss, Chigurh, and more Mexicans where Chirgurh calmly takes out the gang bangers.

The scene where Moss comes to an end is detailed in the book while it is off screen in the movie.

A big difference from the movie– Javier Bardem has an imposing physical presence. He is creepy looking and scary. In the book, Chigurh is medium height, blue eyes, dark brown hair, dark complexion, and in good shape. I think the point McCarthy was trying to make is the serial killer psychopath could be the guy at the gas station filling up his car and not attract any attention.

Carson Wells played by Woodie Harrelson is ex-Army Special Forces. He is not at all the way Harrelson portrayed him in the movie.

McCarthy looks at national decay:

“People will tell you it was Vietnam brought this country to its knees. But I never believed that. It was already in bad shape. Vietnam was just the icin on the cake. . .You cant go to war without God. I dont know what is goin to happen when the next one comes.”

“I think I know where we’re headed. We’re bein bought with our own money. And it aint just the drugs.”

“I read it in the papers here a while back some teachers come across a survey that was sent out back in the thirties to a number of schools around the country. Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. And they come across these forms, they’d been filled out and sent in from around the country answerin these questions. And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. Things of that nature.  So they got one of them forms that was blank and printed up a bunch of em and sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years latera. Well, here comes the answers back. Rape, arson, murder, Drugs, Suicide. So I think about that. Because a lot of time ever when I say anything about how the world is goin to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of of smile and tell me I’m getting old. That its’s one of the symptoms. Bu my feeling about that is anybody that cant tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has got a whole lot bigger of a problem than what I’ve got. Forty years is not a long time neither.”

5 Comments
  • H.P. says:

    I put off reading No Country For Old Men for a long time because the movie is so good. Why read a book that you’ve seen the adaptation for when you can read something completely new? When I finally did, I can’t say it left much of an impression, perhaps because I’ve seen the movie so many times.

    Blood Meridian is as good as advertised, if dense and very, very dark. McCarthy’s Border trilogy is his most accessible work (No Country For Old Men is very close). Although I can’t speak definitively to the dialogue because a decent chunk is in Spanish. McCarthy writes work as well as anyone. There are fabulous long passages just about working on a ranch.

    The entire Border trilogy doesn’t have the body count of No Country For Old Men, although there is one hell of a knife fight at the end. Blood Meridian passes No Country For Old Men’s body count in individual scenes.

    He’s softened a bit in his old age, but McCarthy’s prose can be extraordinarily dense. Reading a McCarthy novel always feels like work to me, but, like work, it is fulfilling.

  • Emmett Fitz-Hume says:

    I have tried repeatedly to read Cormac McCarthy. His stylistic affectations are so unnecessary, so in your face ‘I am an artiste’ that I cannot get more than ten pages into anything of his.

    Blood Meridian was my first attempt and I discovered such a visceral hatred that it was another decade before I attempted to read The Road.

    As Tom Hanks said in ‘Big’: I don’t get it..

    As for No Country for Old Men, while it had moments of brilliance, in the end it just feel flat for me. Most of the best scenes involves Chigurh or the wife. But Brolin’s character came off as such a feckless, naive, nobody, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about him, or his fate.

    Some people complain about the end or lack thereof. But I had already checked out by then.

  • 'setting says:

    The excerpt was good. I’ve never tried this writer.

  • David says:

    The first scene in the book has Anton Chigurh escaping from jail, killing a sheriff deputy by strangulation.

    I have only watched the movie, and I enjoyed it, but the opening scene of the movie, upon reflection, opens up a big question…

    How on earth did that sheriff deputy manage to get Anton Chigurh into handcuffs in the first place?

    It sounds like the book doesn’t attempt to answer that question either. It may not be possible to do so without undercutting his character.

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