Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Road & No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

Two books are reviewed simultaneously this time, both by the same author!

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Imagine, if you can, the reality of a world blasted and blackened and dying, where nothing grows, nothing lives. Picking through old tins of canned food like a hungry rodent, you're an old man with a certain future: joining billions of carcasses, the remnants of the human race.

You're not the one who has to worry about everything, he said to the boy.
Yes I am, he said. I am the one.

Then imagine you have your son, and in him is every father's only hope for the future, black and bleak as it may be. Scavenging in the remains of a dead civilization, looking for food, scurrying from cannibals, traipsing through the grey muddy ashes of a post-apocalyptic America, where the devastation is so ultimate and final that the dead are envied.

It's unlikely that you can imagine such a nightmare...but Cormac McCarthy has in this stark novel of a man and his son on a journey toward what could only be the end of their days. He writes abruptly, each sentence stark as the landscape, rationing words as if they were the only sustenance of life. There is nothing of life; not even names. Two people--who carry the fire of life and love within themselves-- journeying through the darkness of utter dispair.

This novel will both frighten you and stir anger deep inside; fear because, in the end, you glimpse the signs of the coming carnage, and that the reins you grip are slippery with the slick oil of discarded values.

Get this book. Devour it. Keep the fire of life and hope for Good People burning...

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy has a style as unique as Hemingway's was in his day. His sparse dialogue and down-home punctuations only distract for the first few pages of any of his writings...and then draws you in. No Country For Old Men has the same trademark prose as The Road, and leaves you with a solid grip on every character.

"It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight."

So does the character of Sheriff Bell think in this absolutely tense novel, and anyone who has ever felt the dischordant strum of disrespect against their eardrums would nod their heads in understanding of what he sees ahead. And although this book is not deliberately a prelude to The Road, you sense that the Sheriff glimpses the destruction of that path.

I read The Road first...and wish I'd read it after reading No Country For Old Men, because the events in this book made me see, perhaps, what could have lead up to the dispair of The Road. In No Country For Old Men, Mr. McCarthy paints as fine a detail about what is evil in our world, and what is good--and what makes one's own character mean something.

Set in our present time along the badland border between the U.S. and Mexico, it is a tale of more than just criminals. Drug smuggling, brutal and violent deaths, apparant (good) fortune and the flip of a coin play out in this novel of the harsh reality of our nation's afflicted collective consciousness. One man, hunting, comes across carnage in a desolate place, and finds a fortune in cash. Llewelyn Moss does what perhaps many of us would do--and starts a chain of events that spirals out of control so quickly that it just might change your mind about what you might do, given the same circumstances.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is a character who "rings true", representing the moral fibre of men and women as we remember them to be, knowing pretty much the difference between right and wrong, black and white, no matter how weak we perceive ourselves to be in that department.

This is no ordinary cops-and-robbers book...No Country For Old Men, like The Road, is about carrying the torch of Truth in your heart. Where The Road is bleak and nearly hopeless, No Country For Old Men is about real life, real death, and the decisions that we make along the path of our lives.

We realize that even Evil might be flipping a coin out there.

You can read more about Cormac McCarthy at The Cormac McCarthy Homepage

Cormac McCarthy's The Road ISBN 0-307-26543-9 Published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.

Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men ISBN 0-375-40677-8 Published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.