No Country For Old Men

July 07, 2023 [books] #fiction #crime

Book: No Country For Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy

It’s been a while since I made an impulse purchase. When I finally did at the local bookstore, it was this one. I was rifling through the book and came across a conversation between Sheriff Bell and his deputy. I knew then I had to read the entire thing. Now that it’s been done, what do I think of it? That the movie is just about perfect. Cormac McCarthy’s writing is so sparse that entire exchanges here have made it as dialogues with little modification. Each time a new character was introduced all I could think of was the actor cast in movie for that role. A rare instance where the book doesn’t improve on the movie. The book doesn’t stand too shabbily either, but it does not add any new context or perspective. McCarthy's characters are taciturn when interacting with each other. Sheriff Bell is chatty when he's talking to us, but not otherwise. I imagine this could have been made into a screenplay without much effort. There are some larger themes here, about good and evil, fate, loyalty, actions and reactions. This last feels like the concept of karma. Every action produces consequences, except in McCarthy's universe it closes more doors than it opens. If one is unlucky, the consequence sometimes takes the form of an unemotional, remorseless hitman, Anton Chigurh. Chigurh is a very fascinating character, and I was hoping for more backstory, but there is nothing of value here that's not in the movie. Chigurh, Bell, Moss, Wells are all veterans. They have seen death, and consequently their world views shaped by it in different ways. Did Wells and Chigurh know each other from Vietnam? What does the outfit in Houston do? What's the relationship between that outfit and the drug runners from across the southern border? So many unanswered questions. Unlike other crime books, there are loose ends and I suspect that's part of the reason for my fascination with this world. The cartel landscape has been explored since the book came out in other movies and fiction - Breaking Bad, Sicario, Don Winslow's works. None with McCarthy's sense of doom and concerns with evil however.