Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Country For Old Men: A Recommendation

I've been in a reading slump ever since I finished Stephanie Meyer's premiere vampire melodrama, Twilight. Of course, I assume the slump came as punishment for reading that novel against my better literary judgement. As a form of repentance, I picked up Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men. I finished the novel on Monday and I already feel my self-respect returning.

While No Country For Old Men is hardly McCarthy at his literary best, it is still a very good novel. In fact, I like that this novel is more accessible (that's a lit professor term for "easier") than some of McCarthy's earlier works. Unlike Blood Meridian, for example, No Country For Old Men doesn't settle in to an easy pace. Rather, it runs non-stop from start to finish. Indeed, with this novel, McCarthy gives lay readers the chance to experience how a master wordsmith writes a page-turner. Think of it as a novel by Harlan Coben's smarter older brother.

Today, violence and gore seem ever-present in art and entertainment. Like other McCarthy novels, No Country For Old Men is a bloodbath. Yet, unlike so many other works of violent art, this novel avoids exploiting and sensationalizing violence. If anything, it is a 309 page lament for a society gone sick with violence, selfishness, and greed. 

No Country For Old Men won't brighten your day, but it also won't bring you down to utter despair. After all, at its heart is a character most of us can identify with: an aging sheriff whose seemingly innate goodness works to stem the downward spiral of society. His presence in the novel is important, if only to serve as a reminder of what society could be if we all looked beyond our own selfish interests. As the novel's title suggests, though, the sheriff's kind is a dying breed. 


  1. hhmmm...

    Maybe I will read this. I haven't read anything for a while because I keep starting Don Quijote. I am reading it in espanish so it's a bit of a chore getting through the old Spanish language (About 1605?). I think I need to read something else in English first.

    So Scott, I really liked Les Miserables and I have wanted to read more classic books lately but I don't know where to start. You should tell me. You are the older and wiser past roommate you know.

  2. The problem with books like Don Quijote and Les Miserables is that they are extremely long and demanding books. If you want to get back into reading the classics, start with something short and semi-demanding. Try Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.