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audreyhawkins

audreyhawkins

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy Lately, a lot of the books I've been reading seem overwritten, with an adjective (or two!) hanging off every noun. In that sea of verbiage, it's a relief to find McCarthy's clean, sharp prose with hardly a modifier. His keen ear for dialogue lends plenty of color that might otherwise be missing, and mostly the story is as taut as the prose.

Perhaps a drawback to this writing style, though, is the opacity of the characters. We don't get any glimpses inside the most intriguing characters, and spend too much time inside the head of the local sheriff who, despite all the first-person narrative, plays more like a stock character than a three-dimensional presence. Though McCarthy feints at complicating the sheriff a bit at the end, you won't need to worry about identifying "bad guy" and "good guy," it's all spelled out, they're practically wearing white hats and black hats (cowboy, of course). I can see why McCarthy's books are so readily adapted to the screen as they can feel more reported than written, with lots of room for the director and the actors to interpret everything besides the action.

But perhaps I don't give McCarthy enough credit. There's an inevitability about the story that, after all, wasn't inevitable at all, but only seems so because he crafted and wrote it so well. It's like a machine that works so well and simply, you don't even spare a thought to the engineer who built it. He's written the sleekest crime thriller ever with nothing extraneous in the way of information, plot twists, character, etc. He sets up a situation, pushes certain characters into play, and off it goes, winding down to the end. I think Henry James said that character is plot, and, in this book at least, McCarthy seems to agree.

Even for all my quibbling, though, I did enjoy the book and found it difficult to put down. I look forward to reading _The Road_, and might even give the Border Trilogy a reconsideration.