Friday, December 30, 2016


I thought I'd get a re-read in before the year was out.
He's done it with the western and he's done it with the post-apocalyptic novel. And now Cormac McCarthy tackles a crime thriller and does what he usually does, turns it into something else that's part of a whole different genre: "Cormac McCarthy Fiction."

It starts as a simple noir. Llewellyn Moss is out hunting game when he stumbles onto a botched drug deal complete with dead Mexicans, dead dogs, dead trucks, and a satchel of 2 million dollars. He decides that finders keepers, so he does what any hot-blooded human would do and takes it for himself, setting off a chain reaction of violence across Texas, as a multitude of enemies search for him.

I prefer the more recent McCarthy novels, like this and The Road, to his earlier work. It feels like he's been able to really hone his style and become more disciplined and economical, straying away from some of the distracting bloat without losing any of the trademark lyricism and rumination he's famous for. And this book has some of his best characters. I think that Moss is a great "hero," a simple but resourceful man of straight action while still being charming, while with his lady Carla Jean, I at first got the sense that she was a bimbo, but she turns out to be much stronger, resilient, and acute than I initially thought. McCarthy really surprised me with her character. And then there's Anton Chigurh, the enigmatic figure doggedly chasing Moss. He's less of a person than a force, similar to the Judge in Blood Meridian. He's the embodiment of unstoppable judgment and inescapable fate. His character is pretty unsettling.
Anything can be an instrument, Chigurh said. Small things. Things you wouldn't even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People don't pay attention. And then one day there's an accounting. And after that nothing is the same.
But then you have the character of Sheriff Bell, whose character is what provides the soul and transforms this crime noir into Cormac McCarthy fiction, and turns a four star book into a five-star book. He's the real main character here, providing a point of view for the reader, as he muses on the nature of violence and his horror at the way that evil has evolved into something that he's unable reckon with.
Things happen to you they happen. They don't ask first. They don't require your permission.
Another stunning, instant-classic McCarthy novel.


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