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No country,

  • Dec 11, 2007
Am I gone soft, rating three of the last four books I've read as classics? Well I think not, because of the widely divergent subjects: Les Miserables, Moneyball, and No Country for Old Men, about as disparate as any three books could be. But, as I said in reviewing Moneyball, don't prejudge a book by its subject. And the subjects of these books are only matched by the ability of the authors to write superbly about them.

McCarthy writes this spare, tense novel in short sentences, with minimal punctuation (and no quotes around dialogue). The effect makes the action and dialogue tumble kinetically forward, quickly leaving behind the elegiac landscape (so aptly vocabularized in Home Ground, reviewed elsewhere) which anchors people and life, to tumble down a spiral of horrific scenes populated by highways, motels, gas stations, and towns where every action or word is set in the dark and shadows of a midway horror house.

I think this contrast of the beautiful and beautifully described landscape at the beginning to frame the scene with the dark and constricted landscape once the scene is set (iron-cast in fate?) is deliberate and interesting craftsmanship. I recently read Home Ground, a sort of literary atlas of geographic terms to which McCarthy contributed, and I think the two would make great companion volumes.

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape

If you choose to buy No Country, pairing it with Home Ground will enhance your enjoyment of both books.

Brief plot recap: Hunter Moss stumbles onto the aftermath of a drug deal just gone bad, littered with the drugs, money, and dead and dying gang members. Sheriff Bell, a lifelong lawman like his grandfather, is close to retiring but forced to deal with this violence that takes place in his landscape and against his people. Escaped pychopathic killer Chigurh is both subject and object of chase and flight, in a wave of violence scattered across South Texas.

The book has been made into a critically-acclaimed movie which I intend to see. The connection is obvious as McCarthy's spare writing at times seems like stage direction left for the cinematic imagination of the camera's (or mind's) eye to complete. The movie will sell most likely as a "modern Western" or "action/adventure" movie, but the book is more of an extended essay on escalating violence and declining civility, on fate and destiny, on free will and God's will that is anything but academic.

This is also my first McCarthy, so I am likely to continuing reading other titles in his catalog, to judge for myself the wisdom of the readers of previous McCarthy books who were disappointed by No Country.

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review by . June 03, 2010
   Cormac McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men" is like an update/hybrid of both the thriller and western genres.   It's a relentless, merciless story of a man who discovers and absconds with a cache of drug money (Llewelyn), a hired killer who will stop at nothing to track him down (Chigurh), and an aging sheriff (Bell) who can't understand the motivations driving this younger generation.      McCarthy's spare prose creates claustrophobic scenes for …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
A dark and gruesome look at the power and dangers of greed.
Quick Tip by . June 11, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Good Book, Great Story, Interesting, catchy, gets you involved every chapter
Quick Tip by . June 06, 2010
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review by . October 29, 2008
No Country For Old Men
'No Country For Old Men' starts fast, with a violent murder of a young deputy by a chained prisoner. Then it switches to Llewelyn Moss, who's out hunting antelope when he stumbles across three trucks and multiple dead men in the middle of nowhere. In the back of one truck is Mexican brown heroin, in the back of another two million dollars in a case. Moss takes the money and heads home, but after waking up in the middle of the night decides to go back to the scene. Big mistake, this time he's not …
review by . February 06, 2006
Years back, Kirk Douglas starred in a dark masterpiece called "Lonely Are The Brave." A cowboy was living out the old code in a modern era. The Dalton Trumbull screenplay and Douglas's performance left me sad for the passing of an age.     Cormac McCarthy evokes this passing of ages theme in "No Country For Old Men."     Llewelyn Moss, a welder from small-town nowhere is out hunting antelope when he comes across a modern day massacre. No circled wagons here. …
review by . August 13, 2005
Like all of the McCarthy works I've read, this is a suberbly written, raw and stunningly violent novel. It is also, unlike especially his masterpiece Blood Meridian, a quick and easy (which does not mean comfortable or comforting) read: a thriller with a rigorous plot and pace.     I won't repeat details that have already been included in other reviews, but did think one point worth mentioning that I haven't seen in the other reviews. One feature of this novel that stands out …
review by . December 27, 2005
"Yeah, Wendell said. I guess you ought to be careful cussin the dead.  I would say at the least there probably aint no luck in it.  It's just a bunch of Mexican drugrunners.  They were. They aint now.  I aint sure what you're saying.  I'm just saying that whatever they were the only thing they are now is dead.  I'll have to sleep on that."  (No Country For Old Men, Page 73)    Sleep is something in short supply …
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Starred Review. Seven years afterCities of the Plainbrought his acclaimed Border Trilogy to a close, McCarthy returns with a mesmerizing modern-day western. In 1980 southwest Texas, Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles across several dead men, a bunch of heroin and $2.4 million in cash. The bulk of the novel is a gripping man-on-the-run sequence relayed in terse, masterful prose as Moss, who's taken the money, tries to evade Wells, an ex–Special Forces agent employed by a powerful cartel, and Chigurh, an icy psychopathic murderer armed with a cattle gun and a dangerous philosophy of justice. Also concerned about Moss's whereabouts is Sheriff Bell, an aging lawman struggling with his sense that there's a new breed of man (embodied in Chigurh) whose destructive power he simply cannot match. In a series of thoughtful first-person passages interspersed throughout, Sheriff Bell laments the changing world, wrestles with an uncomfortable memory from his service in WWII and—a soft ray of light in a book so steeped in bloodshed—rejoices in the great good fortune of his marriage. While the action of the novel thrills, it's the sensitivity and wisdom of Sheriff Bell that makes the book a profound meditation on the battle between good and evil and the roles choice and chance play in the shaping of a life.
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ISBN-10: 0375406778
ISBN-13: 978-0375406775
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
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