Sunday, January 23, 2011
No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy; July 20, 1933) is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road. His 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He received a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for his 1992 novel, All the Pretty Horses.
His previous novel, Blood Meridian, (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1923 and 2005 and placed joint runner-up in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth, calling Blood Meridian "the greatest single book since Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying." In 2010 The Times ranked The Road first on its list of the 100 best fiction and non-fiction books of the past 10 years. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner. McCarthy is increasingly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature by the influential and well-informed Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
The plot follows the interweaving paths of the three central characters (Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Ed Tom Bell) set in motion by events related to a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican-American border in southwest Texas in Terrell County.
While Llewelyn Moss is hunting antelope, he stumbles across the aftermath of a drug-deal gone bad which has left everyone dead but a single badly wounded Mexican who asks Moss for water. Moss responds that he doesn't have any and searches the rest of the vehicles, finding a truck full of heroin. When he searches for the "last man standing" he finds him dead some ways off under a tree with a satchel with $2.4 million in cash. He takes the money and returns home. Later, however, he feels remorse for leaving the wounded man and returns to the scene with a jug of water, only to find that he has been murdered. When Moss looks back to his truck parked at the ridge overlooking the valley, another truck is there. As soon as he tries to run, he is seen, which sparks a tense chase by the gunmen in the other truck. This is only the beginning of a hunt for Moss that stretches for most of the remaining novel. After escaping from the gunmen at the scene of the battle, Llewelyn sends his wife, Carla Jean Moss, to her mother out in Odessa while he leaves his home with the money.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell investigates the drug crime while trying to protect Moss and his young wife with the aid of other law enforcement. The sheriff is haunted by his actions in World War II, leaving his unit to die for which he received a Bronze Star. Now in his late 50s, Bell has spent most of his life attempting to make up for the incident when he was a 21-year-old soldier. He makes it his quest to resolve the case and save Moss. Complicating things is the arrival of Anton Chigurh, a hitman hired to recover the money. Chigurh uses a captive bolt pistol (called a "stungun" in the text) to kill many of his victims (and to destroy several cylinder locks to open doors), as well as a silenced shotgun. Carson Wells, a rival hitman and ex-Special Forces officer who is familiar with Chigurh, is also on the trail of the stolen money. After a brutal shootout that spills across the Mexican border and leaves both Moss and Chigurh wounded, Moss recovers at a Mexican hospital while Chigurh patches himself up in a hotel room with stolen supplies. While recuperating, Moss is approached by Wells, who offers to give him protection in exchange for the satchel and tells him his current location and phone number, instructing him to call when he has "had enough."
After recovering and leaving the hotel room, Chigurh finds Wells and murders him just as Moss calls to negotiate the exchange of money. After answering Well's phone, Chigurh tells Moss that he will kill Carla Jean unless he hands over the satchel. Moss remains defiant and soon after, calls Carla Jean and tells her that he will meet up with her at a motel in El Paso. After much deliberation, Carla Jean decides to inform Sheriff Bell about the meeting and its location.
At the motel, Sheriff Bell arrives to find Moss murdered by a band of Mexicans. Later that night Chigurh arrives at the scene and retrieves the satchel from the airduct in Moss' room. He returns it to its rightful owner, and later travels to Carla Jean's house and shoots her after flipping a coin to decide her fate. Soon after, he is hit by a car, which leaves him severely injured, but still alive. After bribing a pair of teenagers to remain silent about the car accident, he limps off down the road.
After a long investigation that fails to locate Chigurh, Bell decides to retire and drives away from the local courthouse feeling overmatched and defeated. For the rest of the book, Bell describes two dreams that he had the night before. In one, he met his father in town and borrowed from him some money which he eventually lost. In the second, Bell was riding his horse in a pass in the mountains where there was snow on the ground and cold all around him. As he rode, he could see his father up ahead of him carrying a horn lit with fire the color of the moon, and he knew that his father would ride on through the pass and fix a fire out in the dark and cold. And then he woke up.