Re: RARA-AVIS: No Country For Old Men

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 05 Aug 2005

> Chris M wrote:
> I had a difficult time figuring out what McCarthy
> himself thinks of a few of the characters,
> particularly the sheriff. This isn't simply a case of
> an author showing, not telling. Any thoughts on this,
> miker?
> ******************
> I think he has some respect for the way the sheriff
> believes but also thinks him naive, ineffective, and
> more than a little bit overconcerned with the tarnish
> on his knightly armor.
> I think that McCarthy is a fascist, and I love him for
> it.

I just finished this book and found Anton Chigurh to be a pale imitation of Judge Holden from BLOOD MERIDIAN. Or of Kaiser Soze in THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Or of Hannibal Lecter. He literally proves the truth of the cliche about
"the banality of evil." His taunting of his victims, including the repeated references to himself as the part of their fate that hearkens to the end of their lives begins to get as old as the folksy semi-narration of the neo-post-modern noir thriller's ostensible central character, Sheriff Ed Tom
(or is it "Tom Ed"? Difference? Nah.) Bell.

McCarthy has done better. To the good, the prose is Hemingwayesque in its stripped down power, and the dialogue crackles with the cadences of South Texas, along with its singularly wry wit.

I've heard BLOOD MERIDIAN likened to MACBETH (don't ask), and I'd have to say that this book reminds me of KING LEAR, in that evil is so all-pervasive and powerful that good not only never has a chance, it doesn't even show up. Since I hate straw man morality tales (I skipped the book of Job in the Bible), I had as much of a problem with this aspect of the book as Bill did with McCarthy's getting the initial facts about how they executed prisoners in Huntsville back in the day.

At the end, McCarthy doesn't even allow you to ask, "Just what was the point of all that?" Instead he has one of the cardboard characters (and with the possible except of the underwritten Carla Jean Moss, and the Sheriff's wife, Loretta, also underused, they are ALL cardboard characters, as McCarthy simply doesn't allow any time for character development) do it for you. So you don't even get to have the author imply that there is no point, merely
"life happening."

For my money, I wish I'd just read another Elmore Leonard. All the zing of the snappy dialogue (including actually bothering with QUOTATION MARKS. Novel concept, that), none of the dispepsia of McCarthy's non-ending (sorry, I like resolution one way or the other), good use of characters of both genders, and no lengthy ruminations about how you know evil's going to win as soon as people stop saying, "Sir," and "Ma'am."

I'm reminded of my father's frequent exhortations to me when yelling at me about something I had or hadn't done back during my teenage years: "Don't call me 'sir' when you don't mean it!" Haven't called him "sir" in 25 years. Makes me want to ask Sheriff Ed Tom Billy Joe Bob Jim, "Whose fault is it that you're not getting the respect of your young-uns?"

In order to get the taste of this book out of my mouth, I've lined up several offerings by our members: a short by Karin Montin, Guthrie's TWO WAY SPLIT, and Winter's NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN.

Summer's good for knocking down my TBR pile a foot or two!

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

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