No Country For Old Men – Cormac McCarthy

A chilling, pared down, fast-paced neo-Western thriller. It’s a portrait of the new frontier lands – the frontier being the Texas-Mexico border, although I think it could be set anywhere along the south. The emotionlessness of the killers is what’s most striking, and how it reflects in the lives of the people who get sucked into their game.

It has some meditations on the nature of bravery and where the world it portrays is heading, with the narcotics-related violence spilling into all areas of life. Most of all, the prose reflects the people and the place – sparse and stripped of unnecessary fripperies. The voices of the main characters couldn’t be from anywhere else, and don’t ever blow over into hysteria, despite everything the characters they belong to see.

The star is Chighur: a black, ice cold machine of death, brutally efficient at getting rid of anything and anyone that stands between him and what he aims to do. The book describes a place where it was always hard to live, but is now unpredicatable and scary, even for those who consider themselves to be tough and able. An excellent, if disturbing read.

SEE ALSO:

2666 – Roberto Bolano – which contains a similar meditation on the cheapness of life around the border due to the drug trade. Hard to describe the prose as sparse, though.

Once Upon A Time In The West – Leone described the pacing of the film as being inspired by the rhythm of a shooting victim’s dying breaths. He also said that everyone in the film (apart from the wife) knows that they might end each day dead – some of the characters in No Country think they know it, but I don’t think they do.

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