Blood and guts and more blood and some more guts. And literary genius.
It isn’t a graphic gore-fest but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t disturbing. Actually I think what made No Country For Old Men so disturbing was the clinical way the violence it was described.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a quick summary.
Set in Texas, Llewelyn Moss is a normal, average Joe who stumbles across a couple of trucks sitting in the middle of nowhere. The trucks are full of bullet holes, bodies, and drugs. After looking around Moss comes to the conclusion that someone is missing from the scene. He tracks a path until he finds this person, the body leaning against a rock, rotting in the sun. He also finds a briefcase with millions of dollars in it. Moss decides taking the money would be a good idea. Moss also decided returning later that night to look around is a good idea. Neither is a good idea. He leaves his wife and while he’s out searching around, bad guys appear and try to chase him down. Now that he, and his truck, have been seen he has no choice but to go on the run.
What follows is an incredibly violent man hunt, with police, federal agencies and several groups of bad guys all searching for Moss.
Specifically a man named Anton Chigurh does serious harm to everyone in his way. The sheriff of their fair town, Ed Tom Bell, tries to find them both.
About two thirds of the way through the book Chigurh finds Moss and murders him. Later Chigurh tracks down Moss’ wife and murders her too, bringing his body count to more than twenty. With about fifty pages left, Chigurh gets in a car wreak, wraps his arm up in a tshirt and walks off into the horizon, never seen by Bell again. Bell has an existential crisis, is overcome with fear/shame and retires. The end.
But within all the violence there is plenty of McCarthy’s genius to be found.
For instance, the writing of the novel. The style is pretty simple; the syntax is basic, the punctuation is pretty plain, and the dialogue is straightforward. Which is a massive contrast to what the words are actually conveying. There questions about life, death, destiny and free will, fear, and the meaning of life. Deep stuff for short sentences between country boys.
Another example would be in the violence itself. Chigurh has deep rooted beliefs about mankind’s destiny. These beliefs are what drive him to kill people, it’s a duty as opposed to an enjoyment. Which makes his responses haunting when his victims try to convince him he “doesn’t have to do it.”
The violence was depressing but became even more so when Chigurh essentially said there was no escape and even if you did, there was no point in anything. In fact several of the other characters feel similarly. Pretty dark.
This was probably so jarring in style and depressing in nature for me because it followed Strange and Norrell. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t exceptional.
All this is to say you should read it and decide how it made you feel. I always hope my posts will enable you to make informed decisions about picking books, but that’s only helpful if you’re going to actually go out and read. So if not this novel, a different one.
SURPRISE I want everyone to be as obsessed with books as I am. The end.