Very late last night I finished reading No Country For Old Men, the newest novel by one of my favorite authors Cormac McCarthy, and I highly recommend it. Like all of his novels, this is stark and elegaic writing at its best. McCarthy writes about the desolate borderlands of southern Texas with a restraint and a beauty that I would have never imagined I would be drawn to, but I am.
As an author, McCarthy is stripped down to the essentials, using limited punctuation and only necessary words as he crafts his terse and heart-wrenching prose. Listen to this excerpt:
“He stood there looking out across the desert. So quiet. Low hum of the wind in the wires. High bloodweeds along the road. Wiregrass and sacahuista. Beyond in the stone arroyos the tracks of dragons. The raw rock mountains shadowed in the late sun and to the east the shimmering abscissa of the desert plains under a sky where raincurtains hung dark as soot all along the quadrant. That god lives in silence who has scoured the following land with salt and ash. He walked back to the cruiser and got in and pulled away.”
The action revolves around a drug war (with its ensuing stolen money, panicked fleeing and motel shootouts), and its effects on the lives of several people involved in the small border towns the war traverses. This book is thematically kind of like Traffic (the movie) minus the soundtrack.
Reading McCarthy’s books is like slipping away into a world that you can viscerally feel as you delve into the dusty roads of his characters and plotlines. This one is pretty bloody, actually, full of evil men and evil deeds, but the human development and dialogue for me is more compelling and drew me in. It is a fascinating glimpse into a part of our land (the country between Texas and Mexico) that I wouldn’t otherwise think twice about – maybe just drive through on a roadtrip, looking for the next rest-stop. As a character in the book reflects, “It just seemed to me that this country has got a strange kind of history and a damned bloody one too.”
McCarthy writes poetry in the form of novels. I first had to read All The Pretty Horses in Mr. Hanford’s sophomore English class in high school, and it has stuck with me and grown on me as one of my favorites. If you’ve never read any of his works, take some time to sit down and lose yourself in one of his novels. They transport you to the rhythms and cadences of another lifestyle, another lifetime, soaked in barren beauty.