By Colm Rush

I didn’t go to see the film because all the advance publicity was so violent and I don’t particularly hold with gratuitous violence. So, why did I read the book? Two reasons: firstly, the author, Cormac Mc Carthy, is in my opinion a fine writer. His Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing and Cities of the Plain) is a masterpiece. Granted, he is a no-holds-barred writer in that he portrays evil as it is, and the consequences of breaking unwritten laws do not make for ‘pretty’ reading.

After the Border Trilogy, driven by curiosity, I delved into some of his earlier work. And brother, let me tell you, some of it is blood-chilling stuff. Set in hillbilly country in the early to mid 20th century, one novel recounts the way a serial killer stores his victims in a cave in the mountains. Sheer perversion. Another is a tale of incest and a young mother’s quest to find her kidnapped child. Primitive, you would have to say. However, inter- spersed among the unsavoury characters we come across the odd ‘good’ man, living a virtuous life –kind, generous, hospitable– out of tune with his time and contemporaries.

I suppose it was curiosity, too, that drove me to pick up and take out ‘
No Country for
Old Men’ when I came across it in the Resource Centre. And it is violent, exceedingly violent. There is the narrative and then, like in a lot of McCarthy books, a lot of dialogue: simple, sparse, terse. Much of the story is gleaned from the dialogues and all the character description. The saving grace of this book is the sheriff’s thoughts and musings, presented in italics at the beginning of each chapter. It’s like being inside someone else’s head –startling yet comforting– as he ponders on the meaning or indeed, the meaninglessness of it all. A wholesome person, the sheriff; a disturbing book.

A sample: I think we are all of us ill prepared for what is to come and I don’t care what shape it takes. And whatever comes my guess is that it will have small power to sustain us. These old people I talk to, if you could of told em there would be people on the streets of our Texas towns with green hair and bones in their noses speaking a language they couldnt even understand, well, they just flat out wouldnt of believed you. But what if you’d of told em it was their own grandchildren? Well, all of that is signs and wonders but it don’t tell you how it got that way. And it don’t tell you nothin about how it’s fixing to get, neither.

Part of it
was I always thought I could at least someway put things right and I guess I just don’t feel that way no more. I don’t know what I do feel like. I feel like them old people I was talking about. (Yes, pretty ungrammatical, but he gets his point across.)