Cormac McCarthy "No Country for Old Men"

I’m recommending Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Menâ€

Have just completed NCFOM, just after finishing “The Road”. Appreciated - “enjoyed” is probably not the word - both. What NCFOM lacks in clarity and climax, it gains, I agree, in reader-devastation and depiction of evil.

But for even greater devastation and horror and long-term marks upon the reader’s psyche, I doubt if “The Road” can be beaten. Do not read if you do not want a book to gnaw at your consciousness.

I’m now motivated to read his others.

I was devastated by The Road and have just begun NCFOM. So far I find it less compelling and somewhat disjointed, but I’ll stick with it because if it’s good enough for the Coen brothers it’s probably worth my time.

Also, McCarthy earned a lot of trust credits with The Road. It’s impossible to imagine a more haunting book.

Friends who saw the movie (No County…) were surprised when I described how the book affected me. Perhaps translating the story to film softens the impact some. I have no intention of seeing the movie.

I haven’t read The Road yet but will.

I really liked Blood Meridian, also quite violent. The Border Trilogy was different. I read the trilogy some time ago. What lingers in my mind was how McCarthy added mystical elements in one of the volumes, though I can’t recall if it was the first or second volume.


I have yet to read the book, but given the descriptions here, I would agree that the movie is probably a “softer” experience. That isn’t to say the movie lacked bite! In particular, I felt the crisp dialogue and editing served the darker material surrounding the character, Chigurh, while creating an interesting counterpoint to the sheriff’s “one-foot-in-pension-land” narration. The disjointed editing did not bother me, but I see a lot of film, and the device of using un-explained narrative cuts to accent character disillusion is familiar to me. Interesting that the book follows a similar pattern, perhaps? I liked the movie a great deal, and was touched by the final scene. Half of the theatre applauded when the screen went abruptly black, and the other half sat stunned. I think I was doing a bit of both. :slight_smile:

I’ve read that a “Road” movie is rumoured. For me, art house, maybe - Hollywood, no.

But if it’s got to be done then I suppose Viggo Mortensen as the father, also rumoured, is probably the best choice:

I’ve just re-read parts of NCFOM, and I’ve revised my opinion of it.

It’s as good as “The Road”, and in some parts cleverer. It’s devastating, though not as devastating as TR. But it’s more modulated - for example, contrary to some reviews I’ve read, there is a climactic confrontation between the chief protagonist and the chief antagonist, but it manages to be one of the most subtle and indirect I’ve read, whilst full of meaning.

This writer is good! :slight_smile:

Wow - I’ve never read the book, but went to see the film. That film left me absolutely devastated - the final monologue before the credits roll left me sitting in my seat feeling like someone put a concrete block on my chest.

The book is likely more nuanced, but the film was one of the “best” (if I can use that term) in a long, long time. The only thing that ruined the film somewhat was the guy in the row ahead of me inappropriately chuckling at the violent scenes.

That would be the sound of one hand clapping…

Pip pip!

(Just started The Road)

This is one I am thinking about seeing this weekend.

One question though: is it graphically violent, or just emotionally?

I really can’t watch films with lots of blood and gore and severed heads and torture actually shown (but I don’t mind if it is just implied).



You might want to choose another movie. It’s a Coen brothers movie about a deranged killer; you have been warned. While the violence is not “torture porn” (i.e. the “Saw” movies), the violence in No Country is shot in meticulous and loving detail.


I obviously wasn’t there to hear the guy chuckle, but you have to admit, the Coens have – in almost 30 (!) years of making movies – certainly played their share of violence for laughs. While I understand that NCFOM is a much more “serious” work than, say, Miller’s Crossing or even Fargo, there is an air of show-offy cleverness to the movie’s violence that those familiar with their work may find legitimately funny.

Sorry that it bothered you – but hey, you can chalk it up to the great social experience of seeing a movie with a large audience. And at least the guy didn’t take a call.

Oh, I know some of the Coen brothers work that is violence meant to be funny in one way or another (nearly every violent scene in Fargo, for example). NCFOM uses violence in a much different fashion, which made the guy laughing somewhat disturbing.

I’m just thankful I wasn’t in a theater with people yelling at the movie screen. “OH, NO MAN - DON’T GO IN THAT HOTEL ROOM! DAAAAAMN!!!”

It’s a Coen brothers movie, so you do see some pretty violent scenes. If it helps, it’s violence “with a purpose”, not just violence for the sake of being violent. (To me, it seemed that the violence was used to remind you of the type of character that Chigurh really is.)

You know, I had never heard of the Coen brothers until just now.

But I have seen and own Fargo, having been given it for a birthday or Christmas by a relative. I could put up with that, although I didn’t exactly like it.

I think I will delay seeing NCFOM until it is out on DVD, when I can watch it at home and switch it off/leave the room if I need to.

Maybe I will read the book first instead.


Having read the book (see above), I’ve now seen the movie.

I recommend it not just as an entertaining 100 minutes or so, but, for those like me who are familiar with the book, as an interesting study on the differences between novel and screenplay.

As adaptations go, the film is one of the most faithful I can remember - even, arguably, to the possible detriment of what the “Hollywood” idea of the movie might have been. Where amendments have been made to the plot and narrative they are entirely logical. Some subtleties of characterisation have inevitably been lost; the only character I think is damaged by this is the sheriff’s. The dialogue remains remarkable; sometimes macabre, witty and laden with sub-text all at the same time.

It deserves its Oscar nominations.

Just to add my two cents - I love apocalyptic fiction, and I read every one I can get my hands on. Probably because I see that we are living a dream and it is going to end, and the end is going to be ugly. The Road is one of the best; its Pulitzer is well deserved. There are several others also devastating in the sense that you can no longer pretend life will continue to go on as we know it. I recommend Oryx and Crake and the Children of Men. I know there are others, but it’s bedtime and my mind isn’t working.

Oh, yes, we saw I Am Legend a couple weeks ago. I liked Manhattan with the cars abandoned and weeds growing thru the asphalt, but the hero driving around in his sparkling clean car was a little jarring. No one left in the world but him and the minimum-wage workers at the local car wash.

I Am Legend is the only movie I’ve seen in the theater since Bourne Ultimatum in August. I liked the first half. The second half fell apart. One little thing kept nagging at me. Didn’t the movie make a point at the beginning that all connections to the island were severed? That made me wonder how the lady and the child drove on and off the island. Perhaps I missed something, or am confused over which island was severed and isolated.



I think that the woman explains at some point that they’ve arrived from South America by boat (which begs another obvious question…).


P.S. This raises the issue of plot-holes (see also the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” thread). Personally as a reader or viewer I don’t mind them, as long as they’re not yawning. In fact some say that if you’re a writer faced with one it’s better to play it up rather than down, drawing attention to it rather than disguising it. (Isn’t that what happens in the voiceover at the start or end of one of the Terminators? I forget.)

In my view the problem with the second half of “I am Legend” was not that possible plot-hole, but the fact that the story and the visual treatment turned from something interesting and relatively unusual to something quite familiar.

But plot-holes deserve a whole thread to themselves.

Oh yes, they do…

‘Blood Meridian’ is Cormack McCarthy at his densest, definitely my favourite of his. In it, a tale about a flat-mouthed kid whose only defining personality trait is his attraction to violence, who runs with a ragtag army of southerners as they trek down to Mexico to murder some Mexicans, but are instead butchered and scalped when they lose there way.

It’s the most damning dystopian attempt at smashing the American frontiersman myth I’ve ever read, and it makes me want to write a similar novel about Australia’s rocky (and largely disregarded) history.

Find me another author who can artfully toss off a paragraph about a tree hung with dead white babies (they hung like swollen white slugs, or fruit), or who is able to describe the rising sun over the countryside as the ‘tumescent head of some giant purple phallus’ and get away with it :smiling_imp: Go on, I challenge you!