Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men is deceptive. On the surface a bare bones, ruthless narrative about a man on the run from a cold-blooded killer and the sheriff who tries to figure out the puzzle of what went down, it's also a meditation on the nature of the country as we see it now, as opposed to how we viewed it in the past. It's a book about how our perception of evil has become more grand and black with every passing generation, and where we seek to identify ourselves within that framework. It's also a story of responsibilities, to family, to community, to one's self.
The plot is almost an afterthought - quiet vet Llewelyn Moss, hunting in the plains on the Texas-Mexico border comes across a couple trucks, several dead men, blocks of heroin, and 2.4 million in cash. Moss takes the money, and from there it is a bloody chase across Texas and Mexico as psycho-killers, Mexican drug dealers, and a determined sheriff follow Moss for their own reasons. McCarthy's writing is brief but poetic - it takes a few pages to get used to his unique writing style but once you're there the story moves at break-neck speed until its all-too-abrupt conclusion. Sheriff Bell, the narrator/voice of reason in the book contemplates that this new world he's seeing is indeed No Country for Old Men, and perhaps the evil apparent in killer Anton Chigurh is an evil we may all be destined for if the world continues to dip and sway on the tip of its own modernity.
For anyone who has not yet read McCarthy, this is supposedly his most accessible book ,and might serve as a great starting place before dipping into heavier fare such as All the Pretty Horses, Suttree, or Blood Meridian. The Coen Brothers are also currently adapting this book to be their next feature film, which sounds fantastic, since in many ways the themes here echo FARGO and, to a lesser extent, BLOOD SIMPLE. Great book, A-.