I hated The Road
. But everyone is all "Cormac McCarthy is the greatest American writer!" and maybe I just wasn't giving him a fair chance. So I gave him another. I haven't seen the movie, but I decided to check out No Country for Old Men
since it was relatively short.
McCarthy could grow on me. This book didn't have all the meandering introspection and forced prose of The Road
; indeed, it was sparse, clear writing, not at all what I was expecting. The story is a fairly simple one: a Texas good ol' boy out hunting comes across a drug deal gone bad, and decides to make off with the money. The rest of the story follows from that decision and from several other decisions he makes along the way. This is the "literary" angle that hooked me, the fact that every action each character took had definite and clear consequences, even if they weren't immediate. Moral consequences, albeit sometimes according to the alien morality of people like Anton Chigurh, the scary, implacable hit-man who stalks through every page of the book.
If you're at all familiar with McCarthy, you know not to expect rosy outcomes. There's a lot of death and the ending is bleak. I felt the tension went completely slack in the last couple of chapters, and we were left with just an old man grumbling about past mistakes and the state of the world. Also, Chigurh, indubitably the star of the book, was well-drawn but in very sketchy strokes. He's a grayscale figure who's there to scare you and deliver the coup de grace; he's an archetype, but there's really not that much there
That aside, it's a great book if you like tight, sparse, masculine Westerns (which is pretty much what No Country for Old Men
is, a noir
Western set in the present). After being thoroughly unimpressed with the first book I read by Cormac McCarthy, the second one changed my opinion, and I'm now willing to read something else by him.