Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I enjoy stories with villians. A good villain is a fully developed character and not just a background entity, not just an obscure presence prompting the “good” characters onward. While Chigurh is obviously the bad character, it is less clear if Llewelyn Moss is the good character. The voice of peacekeeper, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, is conflicted as well.

Llewelyn finds the remains of a drug deal gone wrong. He grabs the cash and makes a dash. Chigurh pursues relentlessly with the passion of a zealot who believes in what he’s doing. Others give chase including the law and the lawless. In the end, it is not money that drives the characters. It is principle and will.  

McCarthy has a way of exploring good and evil that is only possible by exploring violence -- minds that are violent by nature and violent acts that lie dormant in any average person and erupt given the right circumstances.

Chigurh is unusual because he is morally demented as opposed to morally corrupt. He does not necessarily take pleasure in violence but he is committed to violence nonetheless. He is not altogether illogical either which is the scary part. His mind is functioning properly. He is not “insane” in the sense that he lacks the ability to reason. He has reasoned and found himself at odds with traditional views of morality and the sacredness of life.

The novel is sparse in language and, while I found it easier to read than All the Pretty Horses or The Road, No Country for Old Men is less linguistically beautiful. It is also significantly less violent than The Road (which won the Pulitzer) and moves much faster than All the Pretty Horses.  It’s a good middle-of-the-road McCarthy read so if you’re new to his novels I would say start with No Country for Old Men and see if you can handle forays into dark psyches and violent behaviors.

Publisher: Vintage, 2005.     Pages 309
Rating: 3 Stars     Source: used bookstore