Friday, November 24, 2017

Review of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is a tale as bleak as the west Texas landscape in which it is situated. A hunter
stalking antelope stumbles across a bloody murder scene, the denouement of a drug deal gone sour. He makes a bad decision, plunging into a roiling current of events from which he is unable to extricate himself—or his loved ones.

McCarthy’s characters are presented in a deep, psychological complexity, a rich counterpoint to the desolate setting. The reader is provided a window into the self-doubt of the local county Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who struggles to solve the crime even while haunted by events in his own past. Bell searches for the trigger man, a psychopathic killer who justifies his murders by a contorted fatalism. I suspect the reader is hearing McCarthy’s own voice through the reflective ponderings of Bell: in some ways the book functions as a lament of the state of modern American culture.

McCarthy’s writing style demonstrates the truth of a principle of good writing: “sometimes less is more.” The barren ambiance of the Texas terrain is underscored by his beautifully-constructed minimalist prose. When you pick this book up, you will have a hard time putting it down. Five stars.