Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men cover pictureI got this one from my parents for xmas. I have read All the Pale Horses and while there were elements that I quite liked, the whole thing didn't jibe for me. A major strike against Cormac McCarthy is that he doesn't seem to think that he has to use quotation marks when people speak. I think the goal is to create a more flowing text or something, but it just comes off as pretentious and annoying (at least for me).

The cover of No Country for Old Men has a quote that says "...McCarthy's most acccessible work!" which I guess was a way to try to get it to sell more mainstream. If by accessible, they mean tons of action than that is very true. This is a violent book. Pale Horses had moments of extreme violence, but they were punctuations amidst pages and pages of thoughtfulness and human longing or something. This book is the opposite, brief moments of human exploration that punctuate pages and pages of serious ass-kicking.

The story takes place in Texas around the Mexico border. It's about a hunter who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad in the desert and takes the cash left over. He is hunted. The main protagonist, though, is an old sheriff whose county this all takes place. He represents the voice of the older generation that wondered what the hell happened to the world. The story is great and there are some serious kick-ass characters. The theme of a society falling into chaos and evil is well presented through the voice of the sheriff. It avoids an easy narrative, which seemed right, but at the same time the ending kind of meanders away. Nevertheless, this is a very satisfying and enjoyable read. Quick and intense. I would recommend it.

I'm suspicious of McCarthy, though. I suspect the voice he writes with is not his own and it doesn't quite ring 100% authentic. It's incredible craftsmanship, for sure, but sometimes it has the sound of an extremely talented upper middle class intellectual acting country and with the people. I know nothing about the author as a man, so I could be wrong.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting take. I have long been pressed to read McCarthy by friends and never really felt interested. I think it was the western genre or that he came off as a writer of 'important' fiction.

I recently finished The Road (look for my review soon) and found it powerful and skillfully written. Your point about not having a voice is an interesting one. I don't know that I would find it a problem if a writer didn't write something 'authentic' to their background. If it is well done then who they are should be irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

holy shit! two books in three days!
olman is taking no prisoners this year!

Jarrett said...

Sailing to Byzantium

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

WB Yeats, 1928, from The Tower