No excuse for not reading ‘No Country For Old Men’
Evil is growing stronger in our world, and the good guys lack the resources to stop it. That is the one message to walk away with after reading Cormac McCarthy’s novel “No Country For Old Men.”There is no way to escape this evil; it is coming for you, and no amount of hiding or running will keep it from finding you. With such a depressing theme, is it any wonder that the only emotion you won’t have twisted up like a pretzel after putting down this book is hope?From the violent opening scene to the bleak finish, “No Country” is an examination of crime and punishment and what happens when the bad guys aren’t necessarily the ones getting punished. McCarthy’s creation of Anton Chigurh, a villain so morally oblique he makes Hannibal Lecter look like an altar boy, could be one of the best boogeymen of our generation. Sheriff Bell and Llewelyn Moss are the two “heroes” of the story, but one is such a jerk and the other so pathetic that cheering for them is almost impossible. It’s like a violent menage a trois without the sex.We see the story unfold through any one of these perspectives throughout the book, and a shift in narrative usually accompanies a major death or act of violence.When Moss first discovers a crime scene in the middle of nowhere that is West Texas, he seems cool and in control of his destiny. He finds a case full of drug money at what appears to be a heroin deal gone sour. Dead bodies, guns and blood litter the barren landscape, but he tries to make the most of an unfortunate situation and takes the money, completely aware of his actions, while at the same time expecting the repercussions already headed his way.The repercussions come in the form of Anton Chigurh, a ruthless killer who leaves no clues at the scene and no one alive to talk about it. At one point, he is asked what he would do if his enemies ever decided to come after him. His response: “I have no enemies. I don’t permit such a thing.” At most he will flip a coin and let a victim call it, giving them a glimmer of hope. He is after the money that Moss has stolen from those he works for, and Chigurh will not stop until he has recovered it. He lives by a twisted code of honor and actually believes that he is doing the right thing by his profession. He kills and moves on to the next victim with no thought given to taking a human life.In the middle of all the cat and mouse between Moss and Chigurh stands Sheriff Bell, an old-fashioned man of the law who only wants to stop the bloodshed that has come to his county. Bell’s sporadic confessions peppering the novel are enough to make a grown man cry as the reader realizes just how powerless he feels against this new breed of calculated evil he has come up against. He’s a man from a different time and can’t seem to make sense of the world he lives in anymore. He feels impotent in his role in the war on crime, a place he never thought he’d end up.”Part of it was I always thought I could at least someway put things right and I guess I just don’t feel that way no more,” Bell confesses on the brink of his retirement. He never stops trying to do the right thing, but it is obvious that he no longer feels the right thing can be done.McCarthy’s prose is as sparse as the landscapes in which the story takes place. He uses no quotation marks and rarely uses apostrophes. His sentences are brief and the dialogue simple, adding to the urgency that something is waiting just around the corner for the characters, and it’s not going to be good when they bump into the surprise. He pulls the reader into a realm of hopelessness and despair giving new depth to the conventions and themes of the crime novel. It’s inescapably grim and an important addition to modern literature.Arts & Entertainment Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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