No Country for Old Men

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This completes the reading mini-project on which I embarked back in 2014 or so: to read the novels on John J. Miller's Conservative Lit 101 list. I had previously read two: Advise and Consent, The Bonfire of the Vanities. You can, if you want, read my takes on the others: The Thanatos Syndrome, by Walker Percy; Mr. Sammler's Planet, by Saul Bellow; Midcentury, by John dos Passos; The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton; Shelley’s Heart, by Charles McCarry; Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson; Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin.

And now, No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy. Did you see the movie? Well, especially in the early going, it's just like the movie. Apparently, Mr. McCarthy wrote it as a screenplay first, then hammered it into a novel. Then the Coen brothers adapted their screenplay from the novel.

The book puts a greater emphasis on Sheriff Bell's character; his inner monologue appears throughout the book. He's a decent man, haunted by an act of semi-cowardice back in World War II. But he's bemused by the modern world, never more so than in his current case: a heroin trade out in the wilderness has gone very awry, with just about everyone involved seriously dead. But a good old boy, Llewelyn Moss, happens upon the carnage, and makes the mistake of his life: absconding with a document case filled with $2.4 million.

This puts him at odds with the Mexican drug gang, of course. But also with the guy you probably remember most from the movie: Anton Chigurh, a hitman who plays by his own rules. And his own rules involve murdering just about anyone who gets in his way. Or offends him. Or just engages him in conversation.

The book's body count is impressive, I'm pretty sure even higher than in the movie. But weaving in and out is a dark lecture about evil, fate, and a God who's impotent in the face of injustice. You'd best muddle through in whatever way you can.

McCarthy's style is to use quotation marks not at all, apostrophes almost never. Fun! Not too hard to get used to.