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No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
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No Country for Old Men (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Cormac McCarthy

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,873227423 (4.02)266
Member:Veej53
Title:No Country for Old Men
Authors:Cormac McCarthy
Info:Vintage (2006), Paperback, 309 pages
Collections:Your library, 25-book List A, Read 2011
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction - Literary

Work details

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (2005)

  1. 41
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (dmitriyk)
    dmitriyk: Written simply, with a very similar style and attitude.
  2. 10
    Descent by Tim Johnston (sturlington)
    sturlington: The authors have similar styles, and both thrillers explore questions of fate and chance.
  3. 10
    A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both are books in which found money leads to unexpected, horrific consequences.
  4. 10
    A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: We all think money will solve our problems. Sometimes money creates problems . . . especialy when it's other peoples' money.
  5. 00
    Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale (cometahalley)
  6. 00
    The Nightrunners by Joe R. Lansdale (cometahalley)
  7. 00
    Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy (cometahalley)
  8. 22
    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (derelicious)
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» See also 266 mentions

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“How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?”
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men

My first contact with this work of fiction was listening to a 'Partially Examined Life' podcast with 3 young philosophers and Eric Petrie, a university professor who has made a study of Cormac McCarthy's dark novel set in Texas in 1980. This fascinating discussion motivated me not only to read the book but listen to the audiobook read by Tom Stechschulte. I'm glad I did. Stechschute's reading is spot-on, particularly his portrayal of one of the main characters, a good old boy by the name of Sherriff Bell.

Since there are many reviews posted, in the spirit of freshness, I'd like to share a few reflections of a philosophical nature. My observations are in light of what contemporary British philosopher Simon May has to say about the nature of love. According to May, love isn't what philosophers like Plato say it is, that is, love being a longing for the Good and Beautiful; rather, May argues love has a wider range: we fall in love inspired by an anchoring for our life, an anchoring giving us a home in the world. Such a love is worth dying for, since we want so much to be rooted in the world with a feeling of being fully alive.

So, keeping Simon May's idea of love in mind, let's take a look at McCarthy's novel. An entire essay could be written for each main character, but, in the interest of concision, I'll limit my remarks to a few sentences on each man's way of living and loving:

Llewelyn Moss is a 37 year old welder who served as a army sniper in Viet Nam. Moss is out in the desert with his sniper rifle hunting game when he sees something unusual off in the distance--- a bunch of cars and trucks appearing to have been abandoned. He walks down to have a closer look and finds the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad - men and even dogs filled with bullets and covered with blood. Moss then comes across a briefcase filled with $100 bills. He takes the money and knows this is the moment his life will be changed forever. Why would he do such a thing? I see one big reason Moss would take the money: by so doing he will be skyrocketed into a world where the intensity of being alive is a thousand times greater than being a welder. Having had an experience of life-and-death intensity in Viet Nam, Moss knows the feeling well.

Anton Chigurh, also a Viet Nam veteran, is the man from the drug world who comes after Moss. As we follow Chigurh in the story, it quickly becomes clear he sees himself as a grim-reaper -- anybody who stands before him, if he so chooses, has come face-to-face with their own death. Well, not exactly his choice alone. Chigurh will occasionally flip a coin and ask the person to call it. If anybody shows the least hesitation to face their own choices in life or the reality of their own death, then, well, by Chigurh's standards, they might as well be dead. We would have to go a long way to find a character in literature, perhaps Richard III, who is equally the embodiment of pure evil. Love? Chigurh loves death; he is a true necrophilia, and he shares his love whenever the occasion presents itself. In the course of this McCarthy novel, Chigurh kills men and women left and right.

Sheriff Bell is a World War II veteran who sees his county losing its moral glue. And moral glue anchors Sherriff Bell's life and gives him a home in the world. He reflects toward the end of the story, "These old people I talk to, if you could of told em that there would be people on the streets of our Texas towns with green hair and bones in their noses speakin a language they couldnt even understand, well, they just flat out wouldnt of believed you. But what if you'd of told em it was their own grandchildren?" We also learn what especially anchors Bell's life (what Bell loves) is a prime military virtue: loyalty to your men. And Bell tells his old uncle about the major regret of his life -- when a Sergeant in the war he faced a choice: stick with his men or save his own life. Since at one point in a battle the overwhelming odds were that all of his men were dead, he made the choice to save himself by leaving. Bell says he has been reflecting on this event over the years and concludes he violated the code of loyalty. He goes on to say that if he had to do it over again, he would have died with his men rather than leaving.

These observations about the nature of love are made as a kind of invitation to read McCarthy's novel and see where you stand philosophically. Is love only love for the Beautiful and Good, or can love have, as Simon May puts forth (and illustrated by the respective objects of love of these 3 men), a more expansive and darker range?


American novelist Cormac McCarthy - Born 1933 ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
WOWZA! Great book, not so great film. ( )
  kemilyh1988 | Jan 16, 2017 |
I read this book in one evening - rare for me these days - just before I went to see the movie. A quick moving, spare book that read like a movie, so no surprise it was made into one. ( )
  mkunruh | Nov 13, 2016 |
Loved the movie and the book. The writer comes across as socially concerned in a subtle way, how things have gone downhill since drug cartels have become so murderous. Seeing the movie first didn't spoil it for me. ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
I read the book after having seen the movie. The movie deviates from the book somewhat; as usual, the book is better.

The story line: a man finds a couple of cars and bodies - the apparent aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. He also finds a bag with $2.4 million, which he appropriates. The local sheriff learns of the killings, and finds that neither the money nor the drugs are in any of the cars. The sheriff figures out who has the money. So, too, does Chigur, a hitman who maybe enjoys his work too much. So the race is on - both Chigur and the sheriff are looking for the man and the money, and it is a question of who gets to him first.

The story is told in McCarthy's inimitable sparse prose style which - after having read all of his books - I find to be one of the most effective literary styles going. At least, in terms of the type of books he tends to write. Nasty, brutish and short - a Hobbesian storyteller. No extraneous details, no fluff, nothing fancy. No attempt to convince the reader that the author has a prodigious command of the English language.

For all of his efforts to keep to the point, however, McCarthy does not ignore his characters and their motivations. These are real people - a man who realizes that one impulsive act has made him a target, regardless of what he does; a sheriff who sees his life as making restitution for what he believes was a cowardly act; a psychopath who places no value on life, not even his own.

McCarthy can leave you stunned with his brutality, but in the end, you admire the way he does it. ( )
  jpporter | Jul 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
All that keeps No Country for Old Men from being a deftly executed but meretricious thriller is the presence, increasingly confused and ineffectual as the novel proceeds, of the sheriff of Comanche County, one of the "old men" alluded to in the title.
 

"No Country for Old Men" is an unholy mess of a novel, which one could speculate will be a bitter disappointment to many of those eager fans. It is an unwieldy klutz that pretends to be beach reading while dressed in the garments of serious literature (not that those are necessarily mutually exclusive concepts). It is a thriller that is barely thrilling and a tepid effort to reclaim some of the focus and possibly the audience of McCarthy's most reader-friendly novel, "All the Pretty Horses." Worst of all, it reads like a story you wished Elmore Leonard had written -- or rather, in this case, rewritten.
 
Mr. McCarthy turns the elaborate cat-and-mouse game played by Moss and Chigurh and Bell into harrowing, propulsive drama, cutting from one frightening, violent set piece to another with cinematic economy and precision. In fact, ''No Country for Old Men'' would easily translate to the big screen so long as Bell's tedious, long-winded monologues were left on the cutting room floor -- a move that would also have made this a considerably more persuasive novel.
 
In the literary world the appearance of a new Cormac McCarthy novel is a cause for celebration. It has been seven years since his Cities of the Plain, and McCarthy has made the wait worthwhile. With a title that makes a statement about Texas itself, McCarthy offers up a vision of awful power and waning glory, like a tale told by a hermit emerging from the desert, a biblical Western from a cactus-pricked Ancient Mariner.
 
Cormac McCarthy's ''No Country for Old Men'' is as bracing a variation on these noir orthodoxies as any fan of the genre could expect, although his admirers may not be sure at first about quite how to take the book, which doesn't bend its genre or transcend it but determinedly straightens it back out.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Walter Kirn (Jun 24, 2005)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cormac McCarthyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The author would like to express his appreciation to the Santa Fe Institute for his long association and his four-year residence. He would also like to thank Amanda Urban.
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I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville.
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If you had told me we'd end up in a world with kids with green hair and bones in their noses I would have laughed in your face. But here it is.
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Book description
Set along the United States–Mexico border in 1980, the story concerns an illicit drug deal gone wrong in a remote desert location.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307387135, Paperback)

In No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Stumbling upon a bloody massacre, a cache of heroin, and more than two million in cash during a hunting trip, Llewelyn Moss removes the money, a decision that draws him and his young wife into the middle of a violent confrontation.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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