No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men discussion


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This book almost makes me sorry that I ever learned to read.

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message 1: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - added it

Laura I have twenty pages to go and I'm still trying to figure out what this book has to say except that we live in a violent world where the good guy abd the bad guy don't always get to face off in the town square at high noon so that justice can prevail in the end. I knew that already, so thanks for nothing, McCarthy. I read to expand my understanding of the world, not to have the obvious presented to me in bad prose.

Speaking of which, I recongize that McCarthy has a very deliberately forthright and minimalist prose aesthetic, but personally I hate it. Maybe it's the English teacher in me, but this shit--and I'm talking about fragments and run on compound sentences with simple and unvarying subject-verb constuctions ("he did this and he did this and he did this and he did this. a ray of light from the window. he did that and he did that and he did that and he did that")--does not pass for style in my book. Is he just pandering to some New York publisher's conception of the Laconic Westerner? Are people all over the country really lapping this shit up and giving him awards for it?

I don't expect storybook endings, but if you're going to shit on time-honored narrative conventions--like having a protagonist (preferrably with one or two likeable qualities) who makes a series of interesting and difficult decisions that create conflict which culminates in some sort of pivotal way--if you're going to do away with all that, you better have something meaningful take its place. All I see here is an eminently dismissable, flat, and unintersting bad guy (Chigurh) who confronts no equal and opposing force (no real protagnoist) to give this story conflict in a STORY sense. (Bell doesn't have enough force or depth; Moss does have these qualities, but McCarthy uncermoniously slays him before the pivotal conflict can occur.) So there's just a lot of meaningless blood-slinging.

Barf. I hope the Coen brothers got more out of this book than I did, or the movie is going to suck too. (Please don't let it be so.)


message 2: by Ulrikft (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ulrikft Maybe you just didn't get it... ;) I'm going with that one..


message 3: by Kai (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

Kai I'm waiting to see the film, its getting tons of buzz.


message 4: by Mr.Noah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mr.Noah Masters This book is a total letdown. I swear there were a hundred or so pages missing from the middle of the book, because there is absolutely no climax. It's as if he removed it from the storyline. There's a buildup, then boom, denouement. Wtf is that? A poorly written, incoherent diatribe on McCarthy's nihilistic view of the world. Blaaaah! though, i anxiously await the movie.


message 5: by Adam (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam Some quick thoughts on the book:

You can't go to war without G-d." So says Cormac McCarthy. The concept that G-d has a vested interest in war is as ancient as war itself. Fore did G-d not say to the Israelites as they prepared to enter Canaan: "My terror I send before thee, and I have put to death all the people among whom thou comest, and I have given the neck of all thine enemies unto thee. (EX 23:27)." It is not only in Judaism that a deity steps to the plate in the eternal struggle between men. In the Greek classic "The Iliad" Athena, Ares, and Aphrodite play as prominent (if not more so) a role in deciding the battle's fate as Odysseus, Hector, Achilles, or a large wooden horse. It is not news that before facing the uncertainty, which lies latent in war, man looks to find an ally in G-d.

However, what if G-d does not take a hand in war? How does one go into battle w/o a principle and fundamental faith? A very good and pertinent question-especially with the mindset behind our current military involvement. When man looks at his destiny outside of what G-d’s providence has determined for him, a very strange and scary existence takes shape. While I have no doubt many a soldier has pondered over this, it was Napoleon Bonaparte (emerging from the Enlightenment, where fundamental theological beliefs were called into question) who succinctly summarized this concept: "God is on the side with the most artillery." Thus implying that, indeed, we form our destiny. We create the reality of our lives. This is a terrifying concept for the soldier venturing into the chaotic expanse of the battlefield. Fore, if the buck stops with me, maybe the bullet will to.

But, it is not just in the midst battle where one feels lost without a Divine Providence. The struggle of everyday’s existence can be combat in itself. As the Russian playwright Chekhov says: “Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.” The choices we may make on a day to day basis carry a significant weight when they alone form our tomorrow. It is this notion that McCarthy drives across in this saga of how life’s yesterdays yields to make today. Chance does not bring you to the bed of a cheap motel where you stare at a neon illuminated ceiling. Nor does bad luck put you at the working end of a silenced .22. It is the choices you make that chisel your sculpture of reality from the blankness of the broad, granite world. When one looks with an incisive eye, the destiny of decisions can be made clear. However, an insightful eye is rare. For this reason McCarthy employs Carla Jean’s grandmother in the archetypal role of the old (often sick and/or crazy) soothsayer (it is not by chance she is referred to as an “old woman” on p. 202 when she makes the inference that she deserves no credit for predicting the course Moss and Carla Jean’s relationship would take-the course of events where clear as day).

Many are unwilling to accept the notion that G-d is not laying a path for us; as is the case for the retired Sheriff Deputy Ellis. He waits his entire life for the arrival of G-d. He never comes. When the reader meets Ellis he is old, sick, and alone. Maybe this is the existence that waits those who spend their life waiting for a destiny, rather than creating one.

Ultimately, this novel weaves a tale of masculine brawniness in a world where destiny is created-not found. It is a harsh and cold world where scruples of sensitivity have no place. It is a border town world, where life bends only in the direction we are willing, and able to take it.


message 6: by Eric (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric laura, i'm not sure where you're from (your profile is set to private), but from your assessment of mccarthy's writing style, i can only assume that you're not from the south. i certainly understand your frustration. you'd think that mccarthy might at least employ a simple apostrophe here and there. but he doesnt (har!). but as far as his style goes, in this book and in his others, i find he has the wonderful ability to write in conversational tones that i have witnessed in my time growing up in the south. i personally find that, more often than not, this lends a certain level of authenticity to his stories and his characters (often this narration is through the voice of a character, or at least a narrator who we take to be deeply rooted in the places that mccarthy's stories take place.)

i think more than anything, maybe this book is just not in your wheelhouse. nothing at all wrong with that. but i think mccarthy has a lot to offer for those who can set aside their views of how writing should and should not be and make the trip with him, warts and all.

i also would like to point out that this is probably not the strongest of his works in terms of providing the reader with great insights. it is not less powerful or less satisfying for this. it's just a different piece of work for him. if you haven't, you might want to check out the border trilogy or the road.


message 7: by Alison (last edited Dec 23, 2007 11:01PM) (new)

Alison I didn't read the book, but I loved the movie. I felt the underlying themes were as mentioned above regarding the world's corruption, and yes, a certain fatalistic worldview in that we can't stop what's coming. So much is left to fate, and chance. I felt like the character of Chigurh was a metaphor for fate, or death in that he was relentless and sooner or later he caught up with all of us. We may escape him for a time, or we may not. I also felt the ways different characters dealt with him: running, bargaining, or being strong and speaking to him outright were different ways that people deal with their fate, or their death.


message 8: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Good, not great McCarthy.

to Laura: You don't read McCarthy for story, er, STORY I mean. I would put him in the prose poem category. Not that this removes your arguments, but he's not about taut thrillers or tight turns of character. From watching McCarthy's interview with Oprah about The Road he just kind of writes what comes to him.

He said he wrote The Road in 4 weeks. Er maybe it was months. Whatever it was insane. But that he'd worked on it in his head for years.

I like his work, not in the way that I like Watership Down or Lonesome Dove though. It's not great story telling it's more of the power his prose has for me to force that crushing nihilism into my senses. It's bracing.

Like I said, No Country isn't great McCarthy... At least it didn't leave me gape-mouthed sitting on the couch for an hour after finishing it the way Blood Meridian did.

Also my sister thinks that McCarthy is a guy's author and I read somewhere about guys liking absurdist, violent and nihilistic works more than women. Not sure if that has anything to do with it or not.

I also like Suttree a lot. I wouldn't press No Country on anyone though and it did sort of peter out at the end.

I'm digging Adam's thoughts on this by the way. Nice read.

G


message 9: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Can you explain what it is that I haven't gotten? Or are you (like McCarthy) too wrapped up in being laconic to tell me anything?


message 10: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura To respond to a few of your points... I am not categorically opposed to nonstandard English. There are ways of flouting the conventions with style, which can make the prose interesting, sometimes beautiful. I don't find anything interesting or beautiful in what McCarthy does. Moreover, the point of it (perhaps to mirror in words the pragmatism and directness of the character, or the openness and spareness of the setting) give his prose style some artistic justification--but it quickly starts to seem like an affectation and makes the book tedious to read.

As for likeable qualities--they're not required of every character, but if you have a book where virtually every character is devoid of them, I for one don't give a damn what happens to any of them. And if the writer can't get readers to care, then he is just more or less masturbating--pleasing himself.

Lastly a book need not have a moral to "say something." But to be worthy of the name art, it has to change the reader in some way other than making them annoyed or resentful that they spent time reading the book. It has to make them feel something, or show them something they hadn't seen before, or force them to think a little more about something they've thought about before. That's a way of saying that I agree with you that I read because a good writer can open up the world--not becuase I particularly care about that author's moral judgment of the world.


message 11: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Thanks for the comments. You're right, I'm not from the south. (Had a bicoastal upbringing before landing in the southwest.) You're also not the first reasonable-seeming person to advise me to try some of McCarthy's other work. I'll keep it in mind. :)


message 12: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Andrew- While I still don't find much to like about the book, I appreciate the significance you were able to find in it with your more generous read. The implicit religious commentary was interesting, and not something that occured to me, as a nonreligious and Biblically-ignorant person myself. Thanks for sharing. -Laura


message 13: by Dennis (new)

Dennis You don't have to find the meaning of life in every book you read, you also don't have to view every book from the perspective of a English major. If you can read a book and feel as though you didn't completely waste your time then I feel like any reader comes out ahead.


Terrence Yip I was confused for a while as well, more than half-way into the book. I wasn't sure where Mr. Mccarthy was going with the direction of the story. It was not until Moss was killed that I realized the book was not about him, chigurh, or even the money. I really think the story is about Sheriff bell. Everything that is unfolding before him, all the slayings and hideousness; all of it was to make you see from this old Sheriff's eyes. Eyes that has seen way too much over the years and not seeing a bright future ahead.
And as for his style of writing. I think he writes like how real conversations happen. I've never been in anywhere near situations such these characters face in this book. But I do know that in real life, there are 3 word exchanges, long silences and sometimes nothing said at all. It was definitely not my favorite book, but i'm not sorry I read it. Did you get anything positive out of the book?


Matthew I totally agree with your review, Laura. The book powerful sucked in many ways.


Karen this is the best review of the book yet. i feel everything laura has said rings true...


message 17: by Alicia (new)

Alicia I have not read this book & have no plans to. However, I couldn't resist reading the review. That snarkily ascerbic topic line was wonderful! Review on, Laura. Review on.


Joyce I had no plans to read the book or see the movie, until it was nominated for best picture and my son suggested I see it. I saw the movie and the next day bought and read the book. I understand Laura's view, but I think Andrew's really nailed what the story is about and the movie compliments it. Seeing that stark country and three excellent actors bringing the characters to life, is a great starting point. Then read the book with Andrew's comments as backdrop. It's pretty powerful.


message 19: by Joe (new)

Joe Hmmm. I thought the book was great. Don't know where to start. Maybe you should start with something a little more traditional.


Ulrikft First of all, your objections on his language is what makes the books he write great. Both the road and no country for old men is simplistic, short, compact. The compact language is what makes it great. I dislike long winded language, you seem to like it.


message 21: by Ophelia (new) - added it

Ophelia Adam, I read your review of NCFOM last week, and by mistake responded by writing to Chris (who was kind enough to write back).

I really like what you write about God, destiny and chance in your review.

I belong to another reading group, BOOKTALK.ORG, where we are currently discussing NCFOM.

It would be lovely to have you share your views with the group at Booktalk.

Would you (and anybody else who may read me)like to have a look at our discussion?

Regards,

Ophelia.


message 22: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan Mills this is a wonderful book! all of cormac's novels force you to luxuriate in his language and the lack of punctuation turns it into much more of an oral story.
the film only let me down in its ending


message 23: by chris (new)

chris papalexandrou All I know is that they made a movie of it that was apperantly really good.


message 24: by Tina (last edited Apr 22, 2008 12:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina just finished this bbok and am at the same engagement with mccarthy as adam. i enjoyed no country for old men immensely. have not seen the movie, but was struck throughout the book how it is like watching peckinpah and how he was criticized for similar nihilistic violence. so we live with denial of nihilism and destruction in our realities so we can deny it in our arts.
not too many writers who can write dialogue like mccarthy. his word choice is immediate and natural and the subtext of the simplicity is murky and threatening. perhaps this is what some readers find so threatening or at least off-putting.

also just finished roberto bolano's last evenings on earth and someone who i recommended it to criticized bolano for a certain arty pretension in his dryness...and that makes me feel so sad for the reader who can't interpret direct writing without much openness. thank goodness for writers dealing with border towns and the people who dwell there, for writers who deal with bohemia and or the west without irony. the romance will be implicit.

blood meridian slapped my imagination far more than this book but i stuck with this book and let its pace carry me like a good abstract: dealing with the end you're not expecting.... seems futile to offer insight to that.




Stephen Hawks It is definitely not my favorite of his books, but I would defend what he has to say. Death is inevitable so that holds no taboo. It is not the inevitability of the protagonist's demise, though a shock in the face of convention and in the apparent lack of pathos, but in what the wife says in confronting her killer. Then you have to realize that these are parables clothed in realism specifically tailored for the American psych so inundated with both convention and gratuitous violence by turns. The money, if not all money then this money, is cursed as it is so wrapped up in corruption and the corruption of the streets is tied up with the corruption of the corporation and the high rise office suite. The wife's unraveling of the killer's obsessions with chance and fate is a direct confrontation and scolding of wrong ideology which has led to this horrific end. Her uprightness, her courage, and her ability to love are what are important. Not that she is killed. He holds no real power over her. This is even a step further from Blood Meridian where the young man at the end has almost learned too late but has to be killed because he has learned this lesson after all. That he may ultimately be ruled by his own choice. not circumstance or fate. Among other classic American story tellers like Faulkner, Hemingway and Robert Pen Warren , I think that this book could be viewed in another way like Mailer's Why are We in Vietnam. The Story has broader implications of the American Dualistic character. For that matter The Naked and the Dead was also shocking in its time for having the protagonist die midway.


Nathan Good grief, I thank heavens McCarthy does not follow the conventions I learned from my school english teachers. Sure, it takes some time to adjust onself to his style of writing, but the reward is a richer engagement with the dialogue and characters. People speak in run-ons and sentence fragments all the time--why should prose not reflect that?

"No Country" reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis' novels: it forced me to consider that life may just be a meaningless existential hell. Or maybe not. In the end, the reader can weigh the options offered: Sheriff Bell's old-timey morality, or Anton Chigurh's senseless, but consistent, code of conduct.

Easton Ellis tackles similar moral challenges in his books, and his writing style is also "unconventional". If you liked "No Country", I recommend, say, "Less Than Zero" by Easton Ellis. Also set in a bleak unforgiving western landscape--L.A.


message 27: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan Mills If you loved the existential style, read "The Road" by the same author. Amazing use of language in a post apocalyptic landscape. Wonderful..


message 28: by Nate D (last edited Oct 07, 2008 07:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nate D The Road struck me for how different it was than No Country, actually. Where the latter seems to deny morality (or at least to despair for it) the former seems completely built around a strong, certain moral center. I vastly preferred No Country, incidentally.


message 29: by Donna (new) - rated it 1 star

Donna I hated this book. There is a place to recommend books to people. I recommend it to no one unless you totally want to waste your precious time. I kept reading it thinking it would get better or have a point or something...Not! Hated it!!!! Maybe I am being to harsh... Not!
Hated it!!!

PS
I thought the lack of puncuation was really weird. I am glad he decided to use periods.


message 30: by Blu (new) - rated it 4 stars

Blu Just finished this, and while I can see how it's not everyone's cup of tea, it sure is mine.

The lack of punctuation is a stylistic choice I don't care for, but I have to admit it does help the writing flow - especially in the dialogue, which is (to me) NO COUNTRY'S strong point. I live in the South, and I can say that McCarthy nailed it when it comes to the way many of my neighbors, particularly the older ones, talk.

There were sections dealing with Chigurh that were absolutely chilling, and even having the movie in my head (I saw it before reading the book) didn't impede my appreciation for what the author accomplished here.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I'm no expert (since I haven't read the whole book yet, though I have it on my shelf), but maybe the run - on sentences are done in the same fashion as Hubert Selby Jr.'s 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' or Virginia Woolf's 'Mrs. Dalloway'. Maybe McCarthy wants it to come across as a story being told in a pub, one guy to another (I mean, we all abuse grammar when we talk!).

I kind of like (there we go, I do it when I type as well) novels with protagonists that are completely unlikeable. As long as they can evoke some sympathy, or if not that make us a accept that we will never understand their trail of thought. e.g. Alex DeLarge style.
Same with simplicity and 'chunky' style. If the simplicity becomes part of a theme or a message, it's valuable.

P.S. I'm non - religious too, so that kind of symbolism would probably have flown right over my head as well.


message 32: by Donna (new) - rated it 1 star

Donna good point.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it's brilliantly written. Currently reading The Border Trilogy. More of the same brilliance. I love it.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

OK, I've finished it now, and loved it! I agree with you on there being no real protagonist, but somehow, that was the point. There is no good/bad guy in real life, and McCarthy presents an over - the - top version of just that. Sure, you and I aren't strangling folk or stumbling on trucks filled with drugs, but both drugs and violence are modern issues. Essentially, it's just a manifestation of our worst fears (as I say in my review) - we talk about the world becoming like McCarthy's fictionalised universe all the time, but don't take time to consider what it would really be like.

The prose didn't bother me all too much. I mean, 'Catcher in the Rye' is considered a classic and Salinger wasn't a grammar worshipper either.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

No offense, but I don't see how you can be a teacher and not be open to different styles of writing. I can understand why you might not like his writing, but not how you have to deny it's appeal to a wider group of readers.


Leonard His writing style takes a while to get used to, that's for sure. I really wanna read The Road and Child of God (and possibly blood meridian) to see how they compare


Beth After reading both NO COUNTRY and THE ROAD, I have decided I definitely am not a Cormac McCarthy fan.


message 38: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith Laura wrote: "I have twenty pages to go and I'm still trying to figure out what this book has to say except that we live in a violent world where the good guy abd the bad guy don't always get to face off in the ..."

Speaking of which, I recongize that McCarthy has a very deliberately forthright and minimalist prose aesthetic, but personally I hate it. Maybe it's the English teacher in me, but this shit--and I'm talking about fragments and run on compound sentences with simple and unvarying subject-verb constuctions ("he did this and he did this and he did this and he did this. a ray of light from the window. he did that and he did that and he did that and he did that")--does not pass for style in my book. Is he just pandering to some New York publisher's conception of the Laconic Westerner? Are people all over the country really lapping this shit up and giving him awards for it?

As I stated in my observation about this junk-and-and-and-and-lazy terrible prose-Laura managed to get to the last twenty pages-I discarded this junk after the first five-it is without doubt The King's New Clothes effect-well stated Laura-could not agree more!


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Beth wrote: "After reading both NO COUNTRY and THE ROAD, I have decided I definitely am not a Cormac McCarthy fan."

That's a shame, but I commend you for trying a second after not liking the first. My first McCarthy was All the Pretty Horses and it was life-altering in that way certain works of art sometimes are. If you ever get the knack to try McCarthy again, try All the Pretty Horses - it's stunningly beautiful and not as aggressively nihilistic.


message 40: by David (last edited Mar 20, 2012 11:43AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith pulpfanrandy wrote: "Wow! Totally shocked by some of the comments. Lot's of vitriolic words. And from teachers no less. I can see that McCarthy isn't everyone's cup of tea but it's art and art gets boring when all it d..."

passion is great as are ways of genius-McCarthy might well be one-however, he might be taking advantage of The King's New Clothes syndrome-probably not-and-and-and-it is not a question soley of this missused overused lazy word-dialect-quotes withstanding-but the way some of us look at great writers-he may be one-I had almost the same reaction to the road by the by-just different strokes for etc etc---I see no vitriol here other than mine-I am older'n dirt which has absolutely nothing to do with mental acquity-lousy spelling on occasion I suppose!

In Germany I once saw shit thrown against a blank canvas-art?


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

David wrote: "pulpfanrandy wrote: "Wow! Totally shocked by some of the comments. Lot's of vitriolic words. And from teachers no less. I can see that McCarthy isn't everyone's cup of tea but it's art and art gets..."

Taking a guess, but if you literally saw the shit hit the canvas, the art is in the movement itself. It's almost a political act to take something we consider pristine and sacred (the canvas) and turn it into an abject object.

Of course, this asinine comparison of shit on canvas to McCarthy opens up the whole rhetoric of "art is subjective" which is wholly ridiculous and fruitless.


message 42: by David (last edited Mar 20, 2012 12:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith Perhaps. Then again I am very partial to 'Peaches'-They Ate Peaches is a favorit fruit of mine-so must take your statement into consideration. I did not actually see the shit hit the canvas-it might indeed be art-then again I have heard that manure can be most addicting-love-the art is in the movement! Interesting!

Indeed political-probably-the canvas was sold for twenty K-yes-very political indeed:)


message 43: by Mal (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mal "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."

Either you get the beauty and power of brevity, or you don't.


Steve Chaput Maybe it was 'cheating' but I listened to the book on audio and enjoyed it. The narrator, whose name escapes me, was quite good.


message 45: by Kip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kip Why would so many post-literate people insist upon reading literature? And why does GoodReads have an open door policy to post-literates?


message 46: by David (last edited Mar 20, 2012 02:48PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith Mal wrote: ""For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."

Either you get the beauty and power of brevity, or you don't."


I am quite sure there is beauty,power as well as brevity in this book-it is just so hard to find it-other than the brevity-Look!!!! El kingo has new clothes!!!!!!!!!


message 47: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith Simon wrote: "Why would so many post-literate people insist upon reading literature? And why does GoodReads have an open door policy to post-literates?"

Perhaps it is a desire to hoist folks on literary petardedness? I think you can post literates-if this book is literature then I for one am quite pleased to be post literfarty-then again at my age-with my demeanorificatiousness it is quite pleasant to arise in the morning without hurting myself-where the hell is my post?


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

David wrote: "Simon wrote: "Why would so many post-literate people insist upon reading literature? And why does GoodReads have an open door policy to post-literates?"

Perhaps it is a desire to hoist folks on ..."


What in the world is going on in this post?


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Simon wrote: "Why would so many post-literate people insist upon reading literature? And why does GoodReads have an open door policy to post-literates?"

It's hard to fault people for wanting to better themselves. Self-improvement is part of the cultural zeitgeist right now (due to, in part, the democratization of art). I'm sure their appreciation of what is deemed "literature" would improve if they some training in appreciating it, but theory is woefully underused on Goodreads.


message 50: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Smith By democratization of art I suppose you mean the post depressionist abnigation of Freudian art slippage-correct?


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