Monday, August 31, 2009

Next up: No Country for Old Men

It appears that my blog is suffering from my frantic efforts to keep up with homework and writing my WIP.

My last blog was about Jane Austen's Emma. I promised that the next blog (this one) would be about No Country for Old Men. As it turns out, I can't get the story out of my head, even though I still can't decide if I liked it or not.

If you haven't read the book and you plan to, you may not want to read any further. I plan to discuss story, plot, themes, etc. So be warned.

At first, I didn't. Like it, that is. It's a frustrating book for several reasons, the first of which has to do with style. The author, Cormac McCarthy, doesn't seem to be fond of punctuation. In fact, he completely left out quotation marks altogether, and used apostrophes pretty sparingly. This made it very difficult to read dialogue because you could never tell where it was. It made you actively work at reading the novel. Is that a good thing? I don't know. All I know is that if an unpublished writer (moi, perhaps?) tried to pull that, agents and publishers would sneer at them as being pretentious and throw them out the door. I suppose once you've become a successful award-winning writer you can do that kind of thing and instead of being considered pretentious it's considered innovative.

My second frustration with the novel had to do with story. It doesn't follow that neatly packaged Aristotellian rising-action-climax-resolution model, and that's okay. Not every story has to, I guess. But this one kind of wandered around and I couldn't tell if there was even a plot. And the ending is decidently not satisfying. Of the three main characters, one of the good guys dies suddenly without explanation and just disappears from the story, the other good guy gives up in the end, and the bad guy walks off into oblivion and we don't ever know what happens to him. Where's my happy ending? Why doesn't the sheriff kill the bad guy and avenge the other good guy's death? I want resolution, dammit!

But the point of the story is to examine fate versus chance, free will versus predestination. The drug industry is portrayed as a juggernaut that can't be stopped. You kill one drug runner and 2 spring up in his place. It's futile to resist. And against that backdrop you have a guy who just chances upon a bunch of money and of his own free will he picks it up and involves himself in a mess that gets him killed. The sheriff gives up because he knows he can't win - he's just one guy and he can't make a substantial difference, so he gives in to fate. And the bad guy? Well, he's just crazy and he's obsessed with fate and destiny. But realistically life doesn't always have a happy ending, does it? Sometimes the bad guy gets off scott free.

Like I said, at first I didn't like the book. But I've been contemplating it for a week or so now and I think what I like the best about it is that I'm still thinking about it. It's not cut and dried. There's a lot to consider. It's growing on me.

I also watched the movie, which was okay, but not as good as the book. It's too hard to translate the inner dialogue of the sheriff character to the screen and, to me, the movie felt stiff and choppy and didn't flow very well. The book was hard enough to understand, but if I hadn't read it before the movie I'd have been lost and completely uninterested. In fact, I told a friend of mine I was going to watch the movie and she said "is that the one where the guy finds someone and kills him, then finds another guy and kills him, then finds another guy and kills him?" and I said "yes." and she said, "oh, I fell asleep during that one."

So much for the credibility of Academy Awards. What do they know, anyway?

Overall, though, as I continue to consider whether or not I like the book, I'll probably settle on liking it. It's unothodox, bleak, and stylistic but it makes you think instead of just spoon feeding you a cookie-cutter form where you can figure out the ending one chapter into the book. I certainly didn't expect the ending I got from this novel and it left me scratching my head.

I'm glad I read it. If you've read it, what did you think of it?


Angie Ledbetter said...

I gotta like a book pretty much from the start. Too old to let things grow on my like mold. LOL

CDP said...

I haven't read it because I didn't really like "All the Pretty Horses", so I haven't been motivated to read any more McCarthy. Maybe I'll rethink that.

Anonymous said...

I read the 4 -5 pages of the book. Really very boring book.......

Download No country for old men movie

Cheryl said...

That doesn't sound like my kind of book at all. I definitely prefer punctuation and happy endings. Or at least a satisfying resolution. I do like books that make me think, but these days I get enough of that from the news, or life in general.