Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Country for Old Men, 16/100

Finished Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. The only other McCarthy book I've read is The Road, which is worthwhile if you're as much into post-apocalyptic fiction as I am.

I think No Country was ruined for me by seeing the film adaptation by the Coen bros first. The film followed the book page to page. It was like reading the screenplay.

But there is something to be said for McCarthy's ability to build dread and suspense through minimalist writing. There are no flowery descriptions to be found--of scenery, character appearance, or the thoughts of the characters. It's all action and dialogue, written minimally and with precision. Almost too minimal. It was often difficult to tell which character was saying what, with the lack of he saids and she saids.

If the entire novel was written this way I probably would've gone batty. Thankfully, it was broken up by Sheriff Bell's reflective monologues, providing some sanity.

I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It don't move about from place to place and it don't change from time to time. You can't corrupt it anymore than you can salt salt. You can't corrupt it because that's what it is. It's the thing you're talkin about. I've heard it compared to the rock--maybe in the bible--and I wouldn't disagree with that. But it'll be here even when the rock is gone.

Then there are the insane, but thoughtful, ramblings of the killer, Chigurh.

Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. ... When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end. You can say that things could have turned out differently. That they could have been some other way. But what does that mean? They are not some other way. They are this way.

The first Zen hit man! If I was being whacked by this guy I would probably succumb to Stockholm Syndrome. Despite how creepy Javier Bardem's haircut was.

By the end of the book, it was getting a little too old-man-yelling-at-a-cloud for me. Because somehow having green hair or lacking manners doesn't compare to killing people for money. I kept picturing Clint Eastwood yelling "Get off my lawn!" and shaking his fist at the neighborhood kids. And I've never understood people who idealize America in the 1950s. I cringe at the sight of 1950s themed diners.

Then again, maybe it's just a nostalgic thing, and in 20 years I'll be frequenting a 1990s themed internet cafe. The PCs will run Windows 96 and AOL. The servers will wear flannel, chunky shoes, slap bracelets and scrunchies. The PA system will blast The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana all day.

Actually, forget about in 20 years, let's do this thing now.

1 comment:

  1. "By the end of the book, it was getting a little too old-man-yelling-at-a-cloud for me."


    I'm seeing themes of psychoanalysis, but I won't discuss it because I fear for my own sanity.

    For the record, Bardem's haircut caused me some confusion. It made me uncertain about the year!