Cormac McCarthy could have written No Country for Old Men with one hand tied behind his back. For all I know, he did.
This is not a terribly noteworthy book in the scheme of things, but only Cormac could possibly have created the character Anton Chigurh, one of the more depraved and violent (and memorable) fellows to come down the literary pike in recent years. (Chigurh’s philosophical statement at the end of the book, which came out of nowhere, absolutely slayed me.) [Read more after the jump]
Cormac writes violence better than anyone, but there was nothing in this book that could hold a candle even to the knife fight or the dog hunt in Cities of the Plain, for instance. And, I have to agree with many of the critics who said that in this case the violence was devoid of morality. It served to show off his flashy writing chops more than any exploration of a moral code.
No Country took the edge off my Cormac jones, so it served its purpose. I’ll be able to contain myself until he bangs out another book that could compete with any of the Border Trilogy novels. But it’s a far cry from Blood Meridian or Suttree. There was a time in my life when I considered buying crates’ worth of Suttree and just handing out copies to strangers on street corners, and I still think of images from that tale and laugh out loud to myself. Sometimes I cast the movie version in my head. It’s that good, and I’m that weird.
Suffice it to say that I won’t start pricing grosses of No Country anytime soon.
P.S. Kudos to Cormac’s editors at Knopf, or whomever is responsible for his jacket covers. They’re always excellent.