It’s a terrible thing when you are glad that a book is finished. To me a great book is one in which you turn the last page wishing there was more. No Country for Old Men, alas, did not fit that description for me.
I write that knowing that literary scholars all around would probably tar and feather me for that opinion, but it is just that…my opinion. Before I give any more opinion though, let me give a quick synopsis of the story for those of you who have not either read it before or seen the movie.
This is a modern day western about a man named Lewellyn Moss who, while out hunting in West Texas one day, comes upon several vehicles riddled with gunshot holes and filled with several dead or barely alive Mexican dope runners. Mr. Moss inspects the scene and finds a briefcase filled with $2.4 million which he decides to take home as his own. You could say that it’s all downhill for Mr. Moss from that point. We come to learn that several parties want that money not the least of which is a psychopathic killer by the name of Anton Chigurh. The remainder of the tale describes their hunt for Moss.
I was at first intrigued by the story line. Typically, I am a sucker for a thrilling chase. However, I was immediately put off by McCarthy’s writing style. Some will argue that his use of “artistic license” in not using proper punctuation is an example of his brilliance, but I found it distracting at best. Most of the story is conversation between characters and his decision to use no quotation marks struck me as a ploy to simply make himself unique rather than something that actually improved the flow of the text.
Aside from that, the entire work came across to me as a tale of enormous brutality and very little redemption. There is nothing edifying or uplifting. In fact, even my favorite parts of the work, the reflections given by the kind-hearted sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, are simply thoughts of remorse at how evil the world has become. They are wonderfully written and thought provoking but depressing, nonetheless.
It’s remarkable, however, that even in a book that I disliked I found several gems to savor. Here are a couple of quotes that resonated with me:
“Anyway, you never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”
“My daddy always told me to just do the best you knew how and tell the truth. He said there was nothing to set a man’s mind at ease like wakin’ up in the morning and not having to decide who you were. And if you done something wrong just stand up and say you done it and say you’re sorry and get on with it. Don’t haul stuff around with you .”