“Yeah, Wendell said. I guess you ought to be careful cussin the dead.
I would say at the least there probably aint no luck in it.
It’s just a bunch of Mexican drugrunners.
They were. They aint now.
I aint sure what you’re saying.
I’m just saying that whatever they were the only thing they are now is dead.
I’ll have to sleep on that.”
(No Country For Old Men, Page 73)
Sleep is something in short supply in this violence filled book.
Llewelyn Moss while on a hunt for antelope manages to wound one and is forced to chase it across the West Texas desert country. Instead of finding the antelope dead or dying he finds the results of a drug deal gone bad. To the south of him lie the mountains of Mexico and their stark beauty as well as the surrounding stark beauty of the desert country he walks in as he closes in on three off road vehicles and numerous bodies. He investigates and discovers the dead, the dying, the drugs and a large amount of money. He decides to take the money and run.
For Sheriff Ed Tom Bell society at large, as well as the folks that populate his county next to the Rio Grande, have changed so much that he doesn’t know what makes sense anymore. Already facing the twilight of his law enforcement career and burdened by what he did in the war, he feels helpless to stop the killing. With Moss on the run and a number of parties looking to get the money as well as the suddenly now missing drugs and not caring who dies in the process, this caring Sheriff seems always two steps behind.
But their paths do cross, as do numerous other paths in this highly atmospheric read. What follows is an engaging and often very violent read as the bodies pile up on a trail that leads into Mexico and back and forth across Southwest and West Texas. While the read does occasionally confuse the reader due to the author’s absolute refusal to use quotation marks and his rare use of identifier tags such as “he said,” etc., the novel provides a complex study of morality.
Much of this is done through the deeply complex character of Sheriff Bell. Simplifying greatly which does a disservice to the character and the novel, this is a man who knows that he has always done the best he could and yet wonders if he could have done more. He also wonders why so much was sacrificed in war to have society as it stands today. He wonders why the country he fought for has so many folks willing to dope themselves up among other philosophical issues. His conflicted character is in contrast to the killer Chigurh, who along with killing a number of people innocent and guilty alike, offers his own brand of absolute certainty in wisdom regarding himself and the world he inhabits. Somewhere in the middle is the character Llewelyn Moss, who far from perfect, gives in to temptation and sets lose a secondary wave of death and wonders what fate had to do with all of it.
The result is an engrossing story where amidst everything else, a world that makes no sense on one hand and perfect sense on the other is contemplated. Those looking for escapist fun need to look in other places and steer wide of this book. The novel is one of those examples that abound in good literature—a work that makes the reader think.
No Country For Old Men
By Cormac McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN # 0-375-40677-8
More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at Kevin_tipple@att.net with your comments, observations, and suggestions.
Thanks for reading!
Kevin R. Tipple © 2005