Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #102: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

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I forgot how sparse a writer Cormac McCarthy can be. The only other book of his that I’ve read to date is The Road, and I know from the Coen Brothers’ film adaptation that it’s a deceptively simple story, so I shouldn’t have, but my repeated attempts at reading Blood Meridian, a denser book than those I normally read, were freshest in my mind. I was, then, taken aback by how lacking in frills No Country for Old Men was. McCarthy tells it straight, not wasting time on any needless details, which is both its blessing and its curse.

On one hand, the story moves along at a brisk pace. It surpasses 300 pages, but it felt like more than half that length. On the other hand, I as a reader like my prose a little more purple. I like to see the author play with language and get descriptive. Workmanlike prose is one of the worst things a novel can have, in my opinion. I’m not saying you could call McCarthy’s prose in No Country for Old Men workmanlike, because the italicized portions told from the sheriff’s point of view are anything but, to give you one for instance, and Chigurh, though a disappointment after Javier Bardem’s stellar portrayal in the film, was still a force that helped keep my attention in the other parts.

What I am saying is that it was workmanlike enough that, unless it directly involved the sheriff or Chigurh, I found myself very nearly bored with what I was reading. To say it’s nothing more than a story about a man who makes off with some money that wasn’t his to have, bringing his world crashing down in on him as well as those around him, would be selling it short. Yet there were moments where that’s all I was taking away from it because Chigurh and the sheriff were the two things that set it apart, and so the story dragged when they weren’t directly involved.

In short, I feel much the same way about the book as I do about the movie. I have eyes only for Chigurh and everyone and everything else fades into a dull obscurity.

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #49: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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“Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”

Full disclosure: I am almost eight months pregnant and cried during a Gilmore Girls episode the other day. I should have known better than to pick up this book as I am an emotionally unstable human being.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a brutal read about a brutal post-apocalyptic world and I did not like it one bit. It follows a boy and his father (both unnamed) as they try to make their way south through an unrecognizable wasteland that used to be America. Everything is covered in ash and snow, and cannibalistic humans have formed tribes. The boy repeatedly asks his father if they are going to die, and they come close a few times. The boy is always cold and hungry. I am seriously crying again right now what the fuck.

This book managed to be simultaneously heartbreaking and dull. Though he got tears out of me every time the boy called his father “Papa” (again–pregnant), McCarthy’s text was extremely repetitive. Like in No Country For Old Men (which I just finished & enjoyed), he doesn’t use quotation marks and leans heavily on the run on sentence. A lot of the paragraphs seem to repeat over and over. I get that the author did that intentionally–all these two characters do is walk, try to find food and avoid “the bad guys”–so the writing style matches that environment.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It made me feel emotionally manipulated and crabby. And I can’t stop books once I start them, so I was stuck. The best I say for this Pulitzer prize winning novel is that it was short. And I was probably not the best audience for it. My husband read it last year and should have warned me so when I’m done being crabby at McCarthy, then I’ll be crabby at him. Maybe I’ll reread it some day when I can make it through a show on ABC Family without waterworks, but for now, I switching to Philippa Gregory novels until this kid comes out.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #48: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

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“I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics.”

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but this is actually a case where I preferred a movie adaption over the original novel. Here’s why, I think:

This novel is incredibly bare bones and straightfoward (which I know is McCarthy’s style — no quotation marks, run on sentences, little to no description). Pretty much everything is advanced in dialogue and short paragraphs describing the action. The movie adapts the book very faithfully — almost no changes. In fact, the first quarter of the book or so seems more like a screenplay than a novel. But the movie is able to flesh the characters out, and give the viewer some scenery, which McCarthy does not do. For instance, he limits his description of Chigurh to simply dark hair and blue eyes while the movie version of this sociopath is one of the creepiest and memorable characters I can think of.

But that’s not to say the novel isn’t good. McCarthy’s tale of an at-heart good man who makes the decision to take a briefcase full of money from the scene of a drug deal gone wrong, only to be chased down by a psychopath and a close-to-retirement small town sheriff is riveting and incredibly fast paced. He breaks up the novel with interludes from the sheriff’s perspective, thinking back to some events he lived through in World War II.

The novel makes some very good points about human nature, and good vs. evil, and getting older, that resonate well. But reading the book really just made me want to rewatch the movie (yet again).