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No Country for Old Men

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Alternate Cover Edition for ISBN 9780375706677

In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, the setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones.

One day, Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.

As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.
No Country for Old Men is a triumph.

309 pages, Paperback

First published July 19, 2005

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About the author

Cormac McCarthy

48 books23.2k followers
Cormac McCarthy was an American novelist and playwright. He wrote twelve novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and also wrote plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. His earlier Blood Meridian (1985) was among Time Magazine's poll of 100 best English-language books published between 1925 and 2005, and he placed joint runner-up for a similar title in a poll taken in 2006 by The New York Times of the best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. He is frequently compared by modern reviewers to William Faulkner. In 2009, Cormac McCarthy won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, a lifetime achievement award given by the PEN American Center.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,942 reviews
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
September 24, 2014
So are we gonna talk about No Country For Old Men, he said.

Why not, she replied.

Then we gotta do it like McCarthy, he said. Short sentences. Southern dialect. No punctuation.

I can drop the punctuation, she said. But I can't do Southern.

You can try.

Well then I caint. That good enough for you?

Youre tryin. That's the important thing. Caint do more than try.

Thank you. I wish I could speak it. It's a beautiful language. But I aint got his ear. He's got the best ear for dialect this side of Mark Twain.

He's got a mighty fine ear, that's for sure.

Well like I said I loved the language. And I loved the characters. Sheriff Bell and Llewelyn and Chigurh and even the minor ones. Carla Jean and Loretta and Carson and the hitchhiker.

They are all fine characters. They just come alive off the page.

They do. I aint gonna forget none of them soon. But I dont know what it's about.

It's gotta be bout somethin?

Hell yes. Chigurh is more than just a man. He's some kinda elemental force. A symbol of somethin.

A symbol.

And his duel with Llewelyn. That's a symbol too. It's like that Swedish movie we saw. Where the guy plays chess with Death.

The Seventh Seal.

That's the one. But I dont think Chigurh is Death. He's somethin else. Somethin else we caint escape from.

Now what would that be.

I bin lying here thinkin and I caint rightly say.

Maybe he aint no more than what he looks like.

I know what I know, she said. But I caint put it in words.

I dont think this conversation is goin noplace, he said.

They lay there for a while until she heard he was asleep. She got up quietly so as not to wake him and checked the door was locked. Then she got back into bed.

Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,376 reviews12k followers
May 13, 2023

“How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?”
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men

My first contact with this work of fiction was listening to a 'Partially Examined Life' podcast with three young philosophers and Eric Petrie, a university professor who has made a study of Cormac McCarthy's dark novel set in Texas in 1980. This fascinating discussion motivated me not only to read the book but listen to the audiobook read by Tom Stechschulte. I'm glad I did. Stechschute's reading is spot-on, particularly his portrayal of one of the main characters, a good old boy by the name of Sheriff Bell.

Since there are many reviews posted, in the spirit of freshness, I'd like to share a few reflections of a philosophical nature. My observations are in light of what contemporary British philosopher Simon May has to say about the nature of love. According to May, love isn't what philosophers like Plato say it is, that is, love being a longing for the Good and Beautiful; rather, May argues love has a wider range: we fall in love inspired by an anchoring for our life, an anchoring giving us a home in the world. Such a love is worth dying for, since we want so much to be rooted in the world with a feeling of being fully alive.

So, keeping Simon May's idea of love in mind, let's take a look at McCarthy's novel. An entire essay could be written for each main character, but, in the interest of concision, I'll limit my remarks to a few sentences on each man's way of living and loving:

Llewelyn Moss is a 37-year-old welder who served as a army sniper in Vietnam. Moss is out in the desert with his sniper rifle hunting game when he sees something unusual off in the distance - a bunch of cars and trucks appearing to have been abandoned. He walks down to have a closer look and finds the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad - men and even dogs filled with bullets and covered with blood. Moss then comes across a briefcase filled with $100 bills. He takes the money and knows this is the moment his life will be changed forever. Why would he do such a thing? I see one big reason Moss would take the money: by so doing he will be skyrocketed into a world where the intensity of being alive is a thousand times greater than being a welder. Having had an experience of life-and-death intensity in Vietnam, Moss knows the feeling well - and he loves intensity, made all the more intense when danger looms.

Anton Chigurh, also a Vietnam vet or a veteran of other types of wars (or so it appears), is the man from the drug world who comes after Moss. As we follow Chigurh in the story, it quickly becomes clear he sees himself as a grim-reaper -- anybody who stands before him, if he so chooses, has come face-to-face with their own death. Well, not exactly his choice alone. Chigurh will occasionally flip a coin and ask the person to call it. If anybody shows the least hesitation to face their own choices in life or the reality of their own death, then, well, by Chigurh's standards, they might as well be dead. We would have to go a long way to find a character in literature, perhaps Richard III, who is equally the embodiment of pure evil. Love? Chigurh loves death; he is a true necrophiliac, and he shares his love whenever the occasion presents itself. In the course of this McCarthy novel, Chigurh kills men and women left and right.

Sheriff Bell is a World War II veteran who sees his county losing its moral glue. And moral glue anchors Sheriff Bell's life and gives him a home in the world. He reflects toward the end of the story, "These old people I talk to, if you could of told em that there would be people on the streets of our Texas towns with green hair and bones in their noses speaking a language they couldn't even understand, well, they just flat out wouldn't of believed you. But what if you'd of told em it was their own grandchildren?" We also learn what especially anchors Bell's life (what Bell loves) is a prime military virtue: loyalty to your men. And Bell tells his old uncle about the major regret of his life -- when a Sergeant in the war he faced a choice: stick with his men or save his own life. Since at one point in a battle the overwhelming odds were that all of his men were dead, he made the choice to save himself by leaving. Bell says he has been reflecting on this event over the years and concludes he violated the code of loyalty. He goes on to say that if he had to do it over again, he would have died with his men rather than leaving.

These observations about the nature of love are made as a kind of invitation to read McCarthy's novel and see where you stand philosophically. Is love only love for the Beautiful and Good, or can love have, as Simon May puts forth (and illustrated by the respective objects of love of these three men), a more expansive and darker range?

American novelist Cormac McCarthy - Born 1933
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,963 followers
January 20, 2018
This is officially the 1000th review I’ve written on Goodreads, and I wanted to make sure that the book would fit the occasion so that’s why I decided to re-read this one. What better novel could I choose than this heartwarming tale of human kindness from one of the most optimistic men on the planet, Cormac McCarthy?*

* Note - That statement is sarcasm done in the interest of humor. 1000 reviews have taught me that I apparently have to explain that or someone with poor reading comprehension will troll me in the comments.

In 1980 Llewellyn Moss is just a working Texan living in a trailer home with his young wife, Carla Jean. One day Llewellyn goes out hunting and comes home with a lot more than meat for the stew pot after he stumbles across the aftermath of a huge drug deal gone wrong in the desert. Over $2 million in a satchel would be hard for anyone to resist taking with no one around to know better, but giving into temptation unleashes hell in the form of Anton Chigurh, a relentless enforcer who removes any obstacles in his path with a cattle bolt gun and a silenced .12 gauge. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is also on Llewellyn’s trail, and he has to bear witness to the incredible violence unleashed by Chigurh and others. When Chigurh’s actions grow too much for the men who sent him they hire the savvy Carson Wells to stop him and recover the money.

An unsuspecting reader unfamiliar with the story or McCarthy’s work might expect this to be simply a crime novel, and that’s how a good chunk of the story plays at first. Llewellyn may seem like your average good-ole-boy, but he’s also a Vietnam vet who shows a fair amount of caution and smarts even when he’s forced to go on the run. He’s clear eyed enough to know that once he’s taken the money that there’s no going back, and he’s actually got some good survival instincts for this kind of thing. However, for all the determination and capability he shows, and even knowing that he’s put himself in the crosshairs of very dangerous people by taking the money, Llewellyn doesn’t truly understand what he’s gotten himself into.

The actions of those involved in the drug trade at that level have created an ocean of evil and chaos. The satchel full of money is just a bit of debris that washed up on shore that Llewellyn found like a piece of driftwood that he thinks he can scamper off with, and he’ll be fine as long as he stays off the beaches. However, something else lurks in those depths. Maybe it’s something new or maybe it’s something ancient that was awakened by all the noise around it, but this creature won’t stop at the water’s edge. Anton Chigurh strides out of that ocean on two legs but still fully capable of devouring anything in his path with no more thought than a shark gives any fish it chomps. He can swim or run, it makes no real difference to him as long as he gets to eat.

Sheriff Bell has been aware of existence of men like Chigurh, and he’s not sure how to stop them or even if they can be fought. Take a boat out on the those waters and you’ll probably get dragged down into the depths with them. Battle them on the shores and you’re still likely to get pulled in and chewed up. What really worries Bell is that it seems like water is rising, and a lot of people seem willing to dive in so he's pretty well convinced that the entire world is sliding into hell.

That’s why I consider this a next level book. The idea of a guy finding a bag of money and getting bad people on his trail has been done before. The characters also could be cliches. The regular guy with a tough streak, the bad ass pursuing him, the honest law man, the worried wife, the roguish hustler looking for an angle, etc etc. McCarthy is good and sneaky enough to let that play to the point where you think that you know how the story will end, and that’s when he pulls the rug out from under you. It’s also where the book really shifts from what seems like a straightforward thriller to a brooding contemplation about fate vs. free will as well as good vs. evil.

I could make some complaints about that might ordinarily knock it down from 5 to 4 stars for me. McCarthy’s style of doing a minimum of punctuation so that quotation marks aren’t used and apostrophes are seldom seem can cause confusion and often seems like a distracting affectation, but on the other hand this is a book about the normal rules not applying so it does seem to work in a way. The story also seems to be littered with anachronisms for 1980. There’s a mobile phone capable of fitting in a shirt pocket at a time when a cell phone was essentially a bag, and while ATMs existed I don’t know if they would have been common in south Texas at the time. A Glock pistol is mentioned, but they wouldn’t exist for at least another year or two. Plus, I’m no gun expert, but I don’t think it’s actually possible to silence a shotgun.

Despite that nitpicking this book hits an intersection of things I love. It’s a fusion of genres that draws on crime stories and westerns, but it ultimately becomes Very Serious Lit-A-Chur that’s done in a minimalist way that works very well for me. I’m also a deeply cynical person who agrees with McCarthy’s dim view of the world so I appreciate a story that isn’t blinding rainbows and unicorn farts. It also has the advantage of being turned into the fantastic flm by the Coen brothers which is one of my favorite book-to-screen adaptations. So I’ll stick with the 5 stars and consider it among the best of the best.

Since this #1000, I’ll also provide a little bonus content. The violence associated with the drug trade in Mexico and it’s creep into the US has sparked a lot of great fiction that can be genuinely chilling in it’s depiction of the way it can corrupt and utterly destroy people. If you’re into that sort of thing I also recommend:

- The film The Counselor was also written Cormac McCarthy. It isn’t nearly at the level of this one, but I do think it was unfairly savaged by critics. It’s not great, but it is good and shares similarities. You’ll also never look at Cameron Diaz in quite the same way again.

- Writer Don Winslow has been researching the history of the drug trade on the American/Mexican border for years, and he has two fantastic books that are essentially historical fiction that shine a lot on how US policies helped create that monster in The Power of the Dog and The Cartel. His Savages is also a black action comedy about people who think they can just dip their hands into that flow for profit and not get sucked into it. They are wrong.

- Sicario is a great and criminally overlooked film from last year that features a haunting performance by Benicio del Toro. It should also come with a warning label to abandon all hope before watching.

Thanks to all those who voted and commented without being a trollish asshat on my first 1000 reviews. It's genuinely appreciated, and I hope that you now all know better than to try and keep a bag of drug money you find in the desert.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,191 reviews1,818 followers
January 4, 2023

I tre protagonisti del film diretto dai fratelli Coen. Trovo Bardem così insopportabile che non sono riuscito a godere il film, che pure portò a casa ben quattro Oscar, tra cui quello sprecato proprio a Bardem.

Si legge con gran facilità, con inconsueta scorrevolezza.
Però, non è un pregio.

Ho sentito la mancanza di certi incagli, della necessità di rileggere, di fermarmi a immaginare ed evocare che aveva il meridiano e la trilogia.
Sono sostanzialmente deluso, da McCarthy mi aspetto e pretendo di più, storie così dovrebbe lasciarle a Jim Harrison & Co, e lui dedicarsi a qualcosa di altro, e oltre.

Tommy Lee Jones, come sempre insuperabile.

I dialoghi, però, sono da recitare più che leggere, magnifici in entrambe le lingue (ma anche per questo aspetto posso comodamente rivolgermi altrove, per esempio a Elmore Leonard).

Un thrilleraccio, un westernaccio, con un improbabile imprendibile psychokiller.
Riflessioni sul tempo, la vita, la violenza, le cose che cambiano per rendere la narrazione più pregnante di una saga di ol' timers.

Josh Brolin, uno dei tre protagonisti del film del 2007.

Manca la natura, solitamente grande protagonista nell’opera di McCarthy, assenza che pesa.
Il pessimismo cosmico affidato ad Anton Chigurh (nome scelto per poter giocare sulla pronuncia e far confusione con sugar, ma ‘sto killeraccio malefico tutto è meno che uno zuccherino) e alla sua arma ad aria compressa si perde nei frammenti di calotta cranica, negli schizzi di sangue e nei cervelli spappolati.

Funziona solo in parte, si legge, ma non incide.
Probabilmente meglio il lavoro dei fratelli Coen, che restando bassi e meno universali, si avvicinano di più al bersaglio.

Penso che quando non si dice più “grazie” e “per favore” la fine è vicina.

Il film è stato girato principalmente in New Mexico, ma anche in Texas, e una puntata nello stesso Messico, a Piedras Negras, Coahuila.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews42 followers
October 7, 2021
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men is a 2005 novel by American author Cormac McCarthy who originally wrote the story as a screenplay.

The story occurs in the vicinity of the United States–Mexico border in 1980 and concerns an illegal drug deal gone awry in the Texas desert back country.

The plot (of the book, rather than the film) follows the interweaving paths of the three central characters (Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Ed Tom Bell) set in motion by events related to a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican–American border in remote Terrell County in southwest Texas.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه دسامبر سال 2012میلادی

عنوان: جایی برای پیرمردها نیست؛ نویسنده: کورمک مکارتی؛ مترجم: امیر احمدی آریان؛ تهران، نشر چشمه، 1387، در 285ص؛ شابک9789643626006؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

داستان «جایی برای پیرمردها نیست» درباره ی پسر جوان جوشکاری است، که روزی برای شکار، به کوه میرود، و آنجا شاهد یک صحنه ی بجا مانده از درگیری، در حین داد و ستد مواد مخدر میشود؛ در صحنه، مواد بسیاری بر جای مانده است؛ افرادی کشته شده اند، و پولها نیز، در همان نزدیکی، درون چمدان است؛ پسر، پولها را برمیدارد، و فرار میکند، و همین سبب پیگرد و گریزی دراز بین پسر، و کسی که در پی یافتن پولهاست میشود؛ و البته کلانتر آن منطقه نیز...؛

نقل از متن: (من یه پسر رو تو «هانتسویل» به اتاق گاز فرستادم؛ فقط یکی، نه بیشتر؛ خودم دستگیرش کردم و شهادت دادم؛ دو سه باری اونجا رفتم و باش ملاقات کردم؛ سه بار؛ بار آخر روز اعدامش بود؛ مجبور نبودم برم ولی رفتم؛ معلومه که نمیخواستم؛ دختر چهارده ساله ای رو کشته بود، و همین الان بهتون بگم که من هیچوقت هیچ علاقه ای به ملاقات پسر نداشتم، چه برسه به دیدن اعدامش، اما اینکار رو کردم؛ روزنامه ها نوشتند این جنایت از سر اشتیاق بود، و خودش به من گفت هیچ اشتیاقی در کار نبود؛ با اون دختره قرار میگذاشت هر چند که خیلی بچه بود؛ خودش نوزده سالش بود؛ به من گفت از وقتی که یادش میآد، نقشه ی قتل کسی رو میکشیده؛ گفت اگه ولش کنن باز همین کار رو میکنه؛ گفت میدونه که به جهنم میره؛ با زبون خودش به من گفت؛ نمیدونم درباره ش چی بگم؛ واقعاً نمیدونم؛ فکر کنم تا به حال هیچکس رو شبیه اون ندیدم و به نظرم خودش یه جونور تازه از نوع بشر بود؛ دیدم که چطور روی صندلی نشوندنش و در رو بستند؛ شاید کمی عصبی به نظر میرسید ولی همه ش همین بود؛ مطمئنم خودش میدونست که تا پونزده دقیقه ی دیگه به جهنم میره؛ شک ندارم؛ خیلی به این قضیه فکر کردم؛ حرف زدن باهاش خیلی هم سخت نبود؛ بهم میگفت کلانتر؛ ولی من نمیدونستم بهش چی بگم؛ به مردی که خودش میگه روح نداره، چی میشه گفت؟ چرا باید بهش چیزی بگی؟ خیلی به این قضیه فکر کردم؛ اما اون بچه نسبت به چیزی که انتظارمون رو میکشید هیچ بود

میگن چشمها پنجره ای رو به روح آدم اند؛ من نمیدونم چشمهای اون پنجره ای رو به چی بود، و حدس میزنم حالا حالاها ندونم؛ اما اون بیرون چیزای دیگه ای برای دیدن هست و چشمای دیگه ای که ببینند و اونجاست که همه ی اتفاقا میافته؛ مجبور شدم به جایی برم که عمراً فکرش رو هم نمیکردم سر و کارم بهش بیفته؛ جایی اون بیرون، پیامبرِ زنده و واقعی نابودی حی و حاضره و من اصلاً دلم نمیخواد به جنگش برم؛ میدونم که واقعیه؛ کارش رو دیده م؛ یه بار جلوِ چشمهاش راه رفتم؛ دیگه نمیکنم؛ دیگه ژتونهام رو وسط نمیذارم و بلند نمیشم برم به دیدنش؛ مسئله فقط پیر شدن نیست؛ کاش همین بود؛ حتا نمیتونم بگم این کاریه که به اراده ی خودم انجامش میدم؛ همیشه میدونستم برای انجام اینکار باید از قبل علاقه به مردن داشته باشی؛ این حرف همه جا صدق میکرد؛ هیچ چیز باشکوهی درباره ی هر کاری که بکنی وجود نداره؛ هیچی نیست به جز کاری که میکنی؛ اگه هم خودت ندونی دیگران میدونن؛ با یه نگاه میفهمن؛ فکر میکنم قضیه بیشتر اینه که چی میخوای بشی؛ فکر میکنم آدم مجبوره سر روحش قمار کنه؛ من اینکار رو نمی کنم؛ الان فکر میکنم که هیچوقت این کارو نمیکنم)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 14/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
February 19, 2022
“The dead man was lying against a rock with a nickelplated government .45 automatic lying cocked in the grass between his legs. He’d been sitting up and had slid over sideways. His eyes were open. He looked like he was studying something small in the grass. There was blood on the ground and blood on the rock behind him. The blood was still a dark red but then it was still shaded from the sun. Moss picked up the pistol and pressed the grip safety with his thumb and lowered the hammer. He squatted and tried to wipe the blood off the grips on the leg of the man’s trousers but the blood was too well congealed. He stood and stuck the gun in his belt at the small of his back and pushed back his hat and blotted the sweat from his forehead with his shirtsleeve. He turned and stood studying the countryside. There was a heavy leather document case standing upright alongside the dead man’s knee and Moss absolutely knew what was in the case and he was scared in a way that he didn’t even understand…”
- Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men

My experience with Cormac McCarthy has been very hit-and-miss. Sometimes, I simply cannot suffer the pretensions of his tangled Old Testament prose, his philosophically-dense opacity, and his refusal to use quotation marks to set off his dialogue. Other times, though, his alarmingly realized worlds, his ability to turn a phrase, and his beautiful sense of place have great appeal.

No Country For Old Men falls squarely in the “hit” category for me.

Though as affected as everything else McCarthy has written – you can look all the way yonder to the horizon without finding a quotation mark – it has the virtues of brevity, simplicity, and memorability. The pacing is fast, the characters stand out, and just about all of McCarthy’s punches land with the desired impact.

This can be classified as either high-brow pulp or low-brow literary fiction. Either way, the story is archetypal and bare bones: there are three men vying for one pot of money.

The first of these men is Llewelyn Moss, who is out hunting when he finds $2 million and some dead guys. Unable to resist the lure, he takes the cash.

Unfortunately for him, this was not abandoned property. Others give chase, abetted by some poor decision making on Moss’s behalf. With the hunt on, the intensity seldom lets up.

The two men following on his trail are Carson Wells and Anton Chigurh. Wells is an ex-Special Forces operative, while Chigurh is a walking agent of destiny. To Wells, Chigurh is: “[A] psychopathic killer but so what? There's plenty of them around.” But he’s more than that. With his penchant for allowing his victims a coinflip to save their lives, he becomes something mythical.

The moral center of the story is Sheriff Bell, an old man who sees the writing on the wall. Positioned as a hero, the stalwart Texas sheriff, Bell is revealed to be something of a coward, running from danger all his life, and wrestling deeply with those choices. While Moss is chased by Wells and Chigurh, Bell takes up the rear, trying to save Moss from his own self-destructive choices. Though most of the narrative is told in the third person, Bell is given a number of first-person scenes – set off by italics – in which he ponders, pontificates, and tells us his dreams.

No Country For Old Men is incredibly cinematic, which makes sense, since it was originally developed as a screenplay. It also makes sense that the Coen Brothers were able to adapt it so marvelously, shooting most of the novel’s dialogue line-for-line. That dialogue is heavily stylized and achieves a pleasantly consistent idiom, as when Moss and his wife Carla Jean discuss what they’re going to do:

What’s in the satchel you brought in?

I told you what was in the satchel.

You said it was full of money.

Well then I reckon that’s what’s in it.

Where’s it at?

Under the bed in the back room.

Under the bed.

Yes mam.

Can I go back there and look?

You’re free white and twenty-one so I reckon you can do whatever you want.

I ain't twenty-one.

Well whatever you are.

And you want me to get on a bus and go to Odessa.

You are gettin on a bus and going to Odessa.

What am I supposed to tell Mama?

Well, try standin in the door and hollerin: Mama, I’m home.

Where’s your truck at?

Gone the way of all flesh. Nothin’s forever…

Just as good is McCarthy’s abilities with landscapes, the harshness of which tends to match his worldview:

He stood there looking out across the desert. So quiet. Low hum of wind in the wires. High bloodweeds along the road. Wiregrass and sacahuista. Beyond in the stone arroyos the tracks of dragons. The raw rock mountains shadowed in the late sun and to the east the shimmering abscissa of the desert plains under a sky where raincurtains hung dark as soot all along the quadrant. That god lives in silence who has scoured the following land with salt and ash.

I like novels that aren’t all one thing or another, but are a bunch of different things, because life is a bunch of different things. No Country For Old Men is sometimes tense, sometimes funny, sometimes offbeat, sometimes moody and ruminative, sometimes impenetrable, and often starkly violent. It is a satisfying hybrid that moves at the speed of Chigurh’s captive bolt pistol. It even manages to linger after a fashion, a new old-fashioned morality play set against a backdrop of deserts, drugs, and highly-competent killers.
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews185 followers
April 4, 2021
‘I just have this feelin we’re looking at somethin we really ain’t never even seen before’

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is having a bad day. A bloody body has been found in the trunk of a car.
Arriving at the scene, Bell, an ageing WWII vet, feels an awful sense of foreboding. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in sleepy Terrell county, on the Mexican border.
Llewelyn Moss, a thirty something veteran of Vietnam is out hunting in the desert. In a barren landscape of rock and dust he comes across some SUV’s full of drugs and bodies. A little later he finds a satchel stuffed with money.
Moss is basically a good guy presented with a moral dilemma that will have a big impact on him, his young wife and many people he hasn’t met yet.
The scene is set for a chase, multiple senseless murders and the quiet, measured step of a psychopath.
The backdrop is evocative - endless desert, empty highways, cheap motels etc
Cormac McCarthy’s writing is taut and exact (this started out as a screenplay) - any more minimal and the page would be empty! That’s not to say there isn’t a paired down lyricism ........ and the Texan speech inflection/ dialogue seems perfect (to this UK expert!)
Set in the eighties, No Country for Old Men speaks of a changing America, an America beyond the comprehension of Sheriff Bell. Drugs, organised crime and the impersonal killers that attend it. Old fashioned values of justice, community and friendliness that are being permanently eroded. Life and death is the luck of the draw and good doesn’t always conquer evil.
This is a dark, searing and mostly disillusioned novel, lightened by some touching character portraits and some wise humour.
Very impressive stuff.

‘It's a mess, aint it Sheriff?’
‘If it aint, it'll do till a mess gets here.’
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
May 22, 2017
Cormac McCarthy has created - again - the perfect villain, this time in the form of a former special forces killer named Anton Chigurh.

Like Judge Holden and Glanton in Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, Chigurh is intelligent, resourceful and utterly devoted to violence and chaos. Yet, like the antagonists in Blood Meridian, McCarthy has imbued in Chigurh a strange integrity, a devotion to a natural order that I think is McCarthy's embodied illustration of evil - a man cut off and separated from the love of man or God.

McCarthy's lean, muscular narrative style is in masterful form for this dialogue on good and evil, and like other McCarthy novels, he pays no mind to popular ideals of what a story should say or do.

McCarthy is the quintessential post-modernist with his bold disregard for traditional plot structure and unsettling dénouement. There is no warm and fuzzy Hollywood ending here, no cathartic summation. Mccarthy leaves the reader to ponder this modern tragedy without a clear sense of resolution, this is the present day, cultural Lamentation of Jeremiah, but without the prophet's faith.

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,631 followers
June 4, 2017
Coac McCartney's No Country for Old Men is a quick but intense read. For those that saw the Cohen brothers' movie first (as I did years ago), the book is as bleak and violent as the movie was. Chigurh is probably up there with The Joker as one of the most evil, conscience-free bad guys in literature. He kills willfully and without a shred of remorse before slinking back into the woodwork unseen and uncaught. Moss is a tragic, but heroic character who gets caught up with something far beyond his abilities (which are great to say the least) to control. Bell is precisely how he was portrayed in the film: tired, old, jaded.

The writing is typically devoid of quotation marks but full of wonderful descriptions:
"It was a big redtail...Any small thing might venture to cross. Closing in on the prey against the sun. Shadowless. Lost in the concentration of the hunter." (P. 45). This attention of Bell for the dead hawk mirrors his attention to the various victims of the cartel and Chigurh.
"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." (P. 57). This is sort of the leitmotif of the entire novel. Nothing is ever the same.
Moss and the hitchhiker:
"What do I gotta do for it?
You don't gotta do nothin. Even a blind sow finds a acorn ever once in a while." (P. 233)
Moss never asks for help and yet throws himself into what he knows is a deadend quest - for a goal he is not even aware of, other than knowing that he will never reach it.

The last time we see Chigurh with Carla Jean, he again leaves her fate to the toss of a coin:
"I only have one way to live. It doesn't allow for special cases. A coin toss perhaps. In this case to small purpose. Most people believe there cannot be such a person. You can see what a problem that must be for them. How to prevail over that which you refuse to acknowledge the existence of." (P. 260)

As in most of McCarthy's novels, there is not really a moral to be found here. There is inescapable evil in the world and at some point you place yourself on one side or the other. When you straddle the line as Moss did, things usually do not come out well. Nonetheless, it is powerful reading and of course was made into an epic film. Hard to forget
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
May 25, 2019

A taut thriller with crisp, naturalistic dialogue, this book refuses to avert its eyes from the darkness.

Perhaps I'm rating this a bit low, but--considering the author's reputation--I expected more. Besides, I liked the movie better.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
December 13, 2020
Well, if you saw the Oscar-winning film, you pretty much got the gist.

This is an examination of evil at its most primitive level, in which lawlessness, even in the modern world, reigns over conscience, reason & morality. Chigurh is one very prototypical Boogeyman: a walking, talking Michael Myers (c.a. 1978 by J. Carpenter) that is not immortal, though the concept of him will rule all the ages, prevailing like a force of nature. Powerful stuff, emotional & heartless at the same time, & of course, written in precise, minimalist prose.
Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,724 followers
May 4, 2022
2022 re-read:

My thoughts are much the same as when I read this four years ago, except that I love it even more than I did the first time around. Up it goes to five stars, even though I still find the ending somewhat "blathering" and still think that there could have been a lot less chewing of the cud (there's a shockingly huge amount) to round up the book.

Why five stars now? I think this time I appreciated Sheriff Bell's parts more. I finally understood that the book was really about him and his (failed?) attempt to bring some good into the world, rather than about Chigurh or Moss, as compelling as those two are.

I think I appreciated more what a marvel this book is, how it is riveting but also deeply arresting, because it's about the mystery of life. Cormac McCarthy shows his impressive skills here. Dialogue to die for. A vision of evil unparalleled in all literature.

In addition to the many leisurely chapters that he gives Bell and his thoughts at the end of the book, he goes against the often agreed upon wisdom of not ending a narrative with a dream. But that just goes to show McCarthy can do what he damn well wants, because he's that good. The ending, that dream, is a thing of beauty, and this book goes on my favourites shelf because I just can't stop thinking about it.

Original 2018 review:

This is No Book for Tender Hearts. No Book for Gore Haters. No Book for Punctuation Police.

But hot damn, it's a great book. I was worried that it might be dwarfed by the exceptional movie version, but then I read three pages and was completely in the hands of this writer. Yes, he writes without punctuation, in clipped, incomplete sentences. His voice is often and easily parodied. It didn't bother me, though. The bare, unsentimental style suits this ruthless 1980s cowboy story. There's almost no interiority here, by which I mean the author describing his characters' inner turmoil or thoughts. There's no big backstory or even much physical description. There's just action, killer action, and some of the best dialogue out there, which tells us pretty much all we need to know.

Llewelyn Moss chances upon something that doesn't belong to him (fatal mistake #1) and then returns to the scene (fatal mistake #2) which sets the murderous story rolling along. Anton Chigurh is probably the most heartless villain ever written (if you can think of one worse, tell me!), and is hot on his trail in this vicious game of cat and mouse. When I say vicious, believe me. This should come with a rating of R for extreme violence.

The themes of randomness and chance come up many times, as depicted by Chigurh and his dreaded coin. The shape of your path was visible from the beginning.

Also, the big, dark question of destiny is answered bleakly:

Your notions about startin over. Or anybody's. You dont start over. That's what it's about. Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it.

Sheriff Bell is always a few steps behind, and is the source of all interiority in the book. He's disillusioned with the world. And who can blame him, after he sees the trail left by Chigurh and his terrifying air-gun-thing. The author speckles the Sheriff's thoughts throughout the book, in short, italicised chapters. They provide a sort of moral anchor to the book, which is necessary and works for the most part, but becomes too much towards the end. When all the spectacular action has wrapped up, when all the dead people are dead and the ones that survive have survived, somehow we are forced to keep reading more thoughts from the Sheriff - about how bad the world is, his experiences in the war, and other subtleties that are probably very meaningful but to which I became immune because by that point my interest had waned down to a disappointed blip.

How this book could be so razor-sharp and then so blathering brought down my review a star. Just a star, because it's SO good, it's worth reading. But just be forewarned. It needs the cardio-conversion paddles towards the end.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
901 reviews137 followers
May 12, 2022
When I was reading this book I began noticing how much the killings in it reminded me of the bible. They are the same book, I thought, No Country for Old Men and the bible. Only one is more graphic than the other. You have to really use your imagination when reading the bible. McCarthy fills in the cracks, takes away your imagination.

I once read a story about a woman who lived with a tribe, and a man from another tribe came in and raped her. After that her people killed every one of his people, men, women, and children. Sound like a McCarthy book? The murderers, in this case were the Israelites. God’s people. It was okay for them to kill because there was a reason, but whatever that reason was, I do not know, but I could not see the justice.

The murderer in McCarthy’s book does the same thing, he kills innocent people, but he is a psychopathic killer. He feels nothing for those he murders. If you want a psychopath to feel your pain, he has to look into your eyes. They won’t for this reason. Did God look into the eyes of those he had killed? Did he feel anything for them?

Moss, the main character in this book, lives in a Texas desert town with his wife, and he loves hunting antelopes. He was out hunting for antelopes on this fateful day, but instead of killing an antelope, he hunted up trouble. He got out his binoculars and scratched around the land for antelopes, finding instead three vehicles with dead bodies scattered on the ground.

Remember Lot’s wife in the Bible? She was told by an angel of God to not look back, if she did she would die. Moss looked back instead of running from the scene. He couldn’t help himself anymore than Lot’s wife could. Moss went down to check out the dead too many times. The first time was fatal; the second was just dumb. But I am not saying that he died in the story; just saying.

One man was still alive and asked for water, just like Lazarus,the man in hell in the New Testament, had. When Lazarus asked for water; God didn’t listen. Maybe He didn’t even look into his eyes to know his suffering. I don’t know. Moss, on the other hand didn’t have any water to give or he would have given it to him.

Then Moss checked out the vehicles, found heroin. He left the heroin where it was and walked down a bloody path where he found another dead man--and money. He took the money, went back to his truck and then home to his wife.

I thought then that his wife was now good as dead. She should have left him when he told her about the money. Maybe she should have left him long ago. Life is like that, sometimes you get only one window of opportunity.

Moss leaves his wife at home and decides to check out the scene again, but by this time it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens now is fate.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,297 followers
January 3, 2016
This is started as a one-star book, then progressed to four slowly as the story unfolded. The novel grows on you.

No Country for Old Men starts out in a thoroughly disjointed way. Multiple POVs, total lack of punctuation, dialogue rendered exactly as the characters speak it... the reader is utterly confused as to where the focus is, who the protagonist is, and what the story is about.

It could be about one Llewlyn Moss who stumbles upon a fortune while hunting antelope near the Rio Grande. A transaction between drug dealers has gone wrong, leaving a number of bodies, a huge stash of heroin, and a case full of cash. Moss takes the cash and runs, knowing fully well that his life is changed for ever.

Or then, it could be about Anton Chigurh, hired gun and cold-blooded killing machine. He is entrusted with the task of finding the money taken by Moss. On the way, Chigurh leaves a trail of dead bodies, sometimes philosophising to his victims.

Or it could be about Sheriff Bell, bent on doing his job of keeping law and order and protecting the citizens of his county to the best of his ability-even though most of the time, he fails.

The story moves at a roller-coaster pace. The scenes are short and mostly disjointed: the author sometimes leaves a major piece of the action behind the scenes. Characters come and go without any introduction. The sentences hit you like machine-gun fire.

If you stick with the novel, after some time, you get accustomed to the style; it loses its annoyance potential, and the real story starts coming through.

For this is not the story of Moss, or of Anton Chigurh; but of Sheriff Bell, and the country he is a symbol of. This is the country of Daniel Boone and Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kidd and Jesse James: the country of "The Man With No Name", and a hundred Spaghetti Westerns we have seen and forgotten. This country is absolutely heartless but imbued with a certain terrible beauty. This country sends forth its sons to die in Vietnam and Iraq.

It is, indeed, not a country for old men.

Anton Chigurh is a masterly creation: one of the most frightening villains I have come across, because he is not "evil" in the traditional sense. Chigurh is a philosopher, a believer in the karma of what he is doing, the karma which is unstoppable and which will find you out no matter what. The scenes of him philosophising with Carson Wells and Carla Jean before he shoots them are terrifying for the lack of emotion in them. It is also ironical that an out-of-control car driven by three junkies, an entirely chance event, ultimately proves to be his undoing.

But as I said earlier, this is the story of Sheriff Bell, who is atoning for a single act of cowardice during the second world war (rather like Lord Jim). We get to know this only towards the very end, after the whole affair of Moss and Chigurh is over and done with: then the story suddenly falls into focus, and the philosophical interludes of the sheriff interspersed throughout the novel with the main narrative starts to make perfect sense. The killers, the chase and the shootouts are all just window dressing for the story of this one man as he tries to make sense of the conundrum of the meaning of life. And he does find his answer, though maybe not the one he expected.

The image of this man, standing alone in the midst of the desert, shoulders slumped in defeat against an increasingly violent and unjust world, is a touching one: and somehow heartening. Because we know that he is the real spirit of the desert, the gunslinger of American myth who rides off into the sunset after taking care of the baddies. And because we know that finally at the end of the trail, his dad will be waiting for him with the fire burning in the dark as he saw in his dream.

Ride on, Sheriff Bell.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,888 followers
January 15, 2015

Rayner took the bolt of the Uzi and slid the firing pin on. He aligned the springs and dropped the housing in. He felt and made sure it was seeded properly. He got the barrel and pushed that down. It rotated and found the notch. Bryant rolled a thin one, tamping the tobacco, pinching off the surplus and returning it to the tin. There was a dog.

You fixin to make me flip a coin on you.

No I particular aint.

Don’t look like it to me.

You shouldn’t likely do this.

Well you know how this is goin to go when you done it.

I know they gone say I stoled it from you, I knows it. But I aint. It was the only way to do it.

Yep. You got that right. Stole it.

Dint stole nuthin. Likely cant be done no other way. Tried it ever which way. Dint come out right.

Rayner eased in a new clip, slid one into the magazine. Bryant watched the barrel. It was pointing at his gut. A dog poked ragged ears round the plywood door. Rayner moved the barrel three inches sideways and put a cartridge into its brains. The dog flew in a red arc about eight feet four inches in the air and landed somewhere they couldn’t see. It yowled somewhat and then it didnt.

What you shoot a damn dog for.

Wasnt your dog.

Yeah wasn’t my dog. Aint sayin.

Well, it might could be emphasisin a point here. Which you don’t seem to of got.

Well, all right. You try an write a review of No Country for Old Men without doin it like in speech and like that. I’m getting tired of sayin cant be done. I knows you done it first.

You shouldna kindly stole it. I’s thinkin we should flip a coin on thisn but we done here.

The bullet put a hole the size of a fair sized bag of cashew nuts in around the upper middle of Bryants front carpicles. Blood pooled over the plastic chair legs and the rough plywood floor. Bryants arm spasmed out onto the laptop and pressed SAVE. Rayner stepped around the dead man and went into the sun. He got into the Dodge pickup and started the engine. He let it idle for a while. He took the list from his front shirt pocket and took a pencil and crossed through Bryant’s name. He studied the next name on the list then threw the Dodge into gear.


With apologies to my old GR friend Manny Rayner, who I firmly believe would never shoot a dog just to emphasise a point. I tried this where I shot Manny, and it was pretty funny, naturally, but also a little creepy assassinating a fellow reviewer, so I let him shoot me.
Profile Image for Brett C.
801 reviews183 followers
May 2, 2021

This was a great read in my opinion. The story reminded me of an American Western with a steady plot involving money, pursuits, shoot-outs, and the arid backdrop of West Texas. I saw the movie recently and that was only helpful because it provided visual aids while I reading.

The reading took some adjusting because the author employs a unique style of writing. McCarthy used a minimalist approach: short/quick dialogue, basic punctuation, and a gritty colloquial vernacular in the characters speech patterns. Examples of his stylized speech include 'I was fixin to', 'Them over yonder aint Mexican' and 'Dont got no'.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend it if you like a good suspense/action story. Thanks!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
May 14, 2011

4.5 to 5.0 stars. First, a pre-emptive apology...this is my first Cormac McCarthy novel and so my gush of praise may be a tad too CAPTAIN KIRKISH in its melodramatic over the top-ness, so please forgive me. I will attempt to keep my giddiness to a minimum...but man can this guy write a novel!!!

I will start by saying without trying to sound overly stuffy or pretentious that I thought this was a brilliant, nuanced, multi-layered story that was told in extremely simple, straight-forward prose yet required the reader to sift through the dialogue and pull out the deeper meaning that McCarthy was trying to convey. Or, put another way...THIS BOOK WAS FULL OF ENOUGH WIN TO PUSH IT UP INTO UBER TERRITORY.

I have a read quite a few books in my life with a large portion of them being read over the last five years when I have been old enough (hopefully) to more fully appreciate some of the “classics” that I was forced to read in high school and as an undergrad (in between a lot of science fiction, fantasy and thrillers). I have loved quite a few of the books and have a pretty healthy bookshelf of “All Time Favorites” and “6 star books.” However, for all of the books that I have loved, there are only a handful that have actually either changed the way I think or given me a deeper insight into my world and my history. These I would call my "life-changers" and comprise a fairly eclectic group:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and John Adams (both inspirational figures who demonstrate greatness to me);

American Psycho (the loss of empathy and consequent brutality resulting from the isolation, shallowness and loss of true identity that resulted from the rampant consumerism of the 80’s);

The Old Man and the Sea (the power and beauty to be found in a man’s simple determination to persevere and not give up);

The Sparrow (a superb story that illustrates the battle a good person can have with their faith when they are faced with the question “How could a loving God allow such evil and pain to happen to good people?);

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (the Short Story) (the most evocative and powerful rebuttal to the utilitarian theory of ethics I have ever read...it still gives me chills when I read it);

Night (the stark reality of man's inhumanity to man is something I will never forget);

Lost Boys (the short story) by Orson Scott Card; (as a parent, this was the most devastatingly emotional piece of literature I have ever read).

To that list I now add this amazing book which if I was annotating it like the stories above I would say: the most concise, piercing and spot on description of the rapid, cataclysmic escalation of violence in America beginning at the start of the 1980‘s and the absolute inability of the previous generation of leaders (in all areas of life from education, to spiritual, to law enforcement) to respond to, cope with (or even understand) the new breed of criminal that arose during that time. I would also say that the fact that the reader (i.e., a regular person of today) is not as shocked or confused by the actions of people like Anton Chigurh as Sheriff Bell is in the book is a powerful statement about how numb and accepting we have become of brutal, sadistic violence being a part of our everyday lives. I thought the book was superb and I look forward to reading more by McCarthy very soon.

OH, and I can not end this review without saying that ANTON CHIGURH is one of the most COMPELLING, DISTURBING AND AMAZING literary characters I have come across in a long while. I was riveted to the story every single time he was anywhere near the narrative. My advice, if he asks you to call it....JUST RUN!!!!!
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews735 followers
May 23, 2019
Saw the movie, read the book afterwards to fully understand the story. Fascinating story. Great writing. I'm have become a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy! Grand writer.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,255 followers
June 3, 2014
Wanting to give up...
Refusing to give up...
Not knowing the meaning of giving up.

When drugs and money come to a small Texas town, sheriff-about-to-retire trope Ed Tom Bell is tasked with solving a deal gone murderously wrong. This is indeed No Country for Old Men.

A psychopath of a hitman, Anton Chigurh (that last name being pronounced cheekily similar to "sugar,") is making Bell's last days as sheriff a living hell. Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss isn't making things any easier. Moss happened upon the drug deal aftermath, grabbed the loot and dashed. Chigurh's been on his heels ever since. That leaves Bell trailing along behind them, picking up clues and wondering what in the heck they all mean.

I found myself actually pulling for all three men, yes, even the psycho killer and that scared the crap out of me. He was such a good "bad guy" that I didn't want to see him die. There are a multitude of colorful and carefully crafted characters herein, some as thorny as the landscape. How do I know the landscape is thorny? Cormac McCarthy made me feel it.

The book is set in 1980. Thankfully, McCarthy doesn't overplay it with product placement...Oh look at me in my Lee jeans and pornstar mustache drinking from a glass bottle of Coke while sitting on the hood of my '76 Camaro....He uses period-appropriate props only when they are necessary.

The plot is tight when it needs to be and breathes when it can. The action fluctuates from relaxed to tense and back again. Not-completely-necessary-but-still-enjoyable story asides (that you won't find in the movie) often contain pearls of homespun wisdom like "Every step you take is forever. You can't make it go away. None of it."

I saw the movie version of this awhile back and, although the book and movie are very similar, this was still an exciting read for me. McCarthy's austere style may not set well with all readers - he doesn't fuck around with flowery words much - however, the spartan prose marches soldierly ahead, pressing the story on, delivering to the reader a tale victoriously told.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,301 reviews22k followers
June 15, 2008
To be honest, I found this a bit irritating. It jumped around a little too much and the violence was pointless and excessive. I also found the ‘home-spun’ philosophy a bit hard to take.

There was not a single character in this book that I would urinate on if they were on fire – their deaths, therefore, were devoid of interest. I guess this book is Dirty Harry from the darkside. Same crap, same fascination with guns and the voyeurism caused by the effect bullets have on the human anatomy - I wonder what it is about modern life that eroticises violence so much?

People say things like McCarthy is the ‘greatest living writer’ in the US. But obviously, they can’t have read Delillo.

It doesn’t surprise me this was made into a film (or should I call that a movie?) – part of the reason I don’t watch American films anymore is that this would have seemed an absolutely obvious choice.

If you need your prejudices confirmed and reinforced about America - (whatever those prejudices might be, I would suspect) – this is as good a book to read as any.
Profile Image for Katie.
277 reviews356 followers
October 31, 2018
I'd already seen and loved the film. I found my memory though was ingenious in withholding knowledge of what happens next until it happened on the page. The novel is written in the simple prose a gifted but alienated teenager might adopt. Up to the half way point it reads like a darkish crime story without much depth. Then, of a sudden, there's this hallelujah moment. The baddie delivers a speech about why he has to kill this innocent girl and it's as if lights were suddenly thrown on to reveal all the clever and wondrous design of the novel which had been taking place in the dark. It becomes a kind of fable about the pathways of life and the nature of bad luck. From that moment on it was it was a fantastic and moving read with an especially goosebumping emphasis on the consoling and restorative beauty of human relationships. The only bulwark we have against all the bad luck waiting in the wings out there.
Profile Image for Alan.
470 reviews212 followers
May 22, 2021
I’m almost certain that when you pick up a Cormac McCarthy novel, Ennio Morricone’s theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starts playing immediately. The Southern ones, anyway. The sun is at its zenith, tumbleweeds are going by, dust is settling as the shimmering waves of heat move on the horizon. No Country for Old Men gave me this feeling from the first page. The voice that McCarthy lends his characters is undeniable. You cannot help but feel hot and sweaty as you read about the abhorrent acts described in excruciating detail throughout the book. The feeling of dread is a mainstay – this one is a fast-paced thriller, after all.

Just as he did in Blood Meridian, McCarthy creates another larger than life pantomime villain in Anton Chigurh. He is the concentrated power of pure evil. He is so evil, in fact, that all of his acts begin to take on a certain logic. Your start to see the pattern and the law that lays in his “perfectly rational” acts. That’s terrifying. He is beyond a creature toward whom you would feel anger, disappointment, or bitterness. You just know that your hairs stand on end when you read about him. You know he has his own way of doing things, and by god (or satan) he will stick to them. And you know what? He is still not as bad as the Judge.

I finished this much faster than the other two books I had read by McCarthy. It’s hard to put down, really. When the dialogue is hitting, it’s hitting good. It was also much easier to digest than Blood Meridian and The Road. Unfortunately, this meant that I also enjoyed it a tiny bit less than the other two. Not that difficulty level is a prerequisite for enjoying a book, but the bar is so high for McCarthy that hitting that level continuously is not necessarily realistic. I look forward to tackling Suttree and The Border Trilogy down the line.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
671 reviews4,286 followers
May 11, 2020
“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

Marking this one down as one of the books that has surprised me the most this year! I expected an action-packed chase with lots of violence, but what I got was so much more.

One day Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain of catastrophic violence that not even the law can contain.

I wholeheartedly loved this book. Sure, it’s bleak and hopeless, but it leaves you with a lot to think about. You think this is a typical thriller about a badass pursuing a regular guy who should have left well enough alone, but it ultimately evolves into a brooding analysis of fate vs free will, and also good vs evil. These are themes I love to read about, hence why East of Eden is one of my favourite books, and McCarthy really elevates it to another level.

The chapters alternate between the main story and the meandering thoughts of Sheriff Bell, and it was Bell’s monologues that really stood out. Every quote worth noting came from those sections, they were just so full of wisdom. His love and tenderness for his wife felt like a nice counterbalance to all the evil and violence unfolding around him.

No Country also gives us one of the most formidable and shit-your-pants-scary villains in literature. Anton Chigurh is the embodiment of pure evil, the grim reaper. Occasionally he will flip a coin and ask a person to call it - by Chigurh’s standards if there is any hesitation in facing their own choices in life, they might as well be dead.

As always, there is the traditional McCarthy style - no quotation marks - but I always surprise myself at how quickly I fall into the rhythm of his writing, and it ceases to be an issue within a few pages. The only minor reason I didn’t give it the full 5 stars was that some major events took place “off-page”, which somewhat confused me, and I still feel a little cheated by.

Overall, incredibly suspenseful. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Highly recommend! 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Agir(آگِر).
437 reviews525 followers
July 5, 2020
زنِ من دیگه روزنامه نمی‌خونه. شاید حق با اون باشه. معمولا حق با اونه

چند روز پیش توی یه رویا داشتم سیر می‌کردم که "اد تام بل" اومد سراغم و گفت آهای بچه تو هم یه انسانِ مدرن شدی!؟...یه بی‌معرفتِ کامل!!!
گفتم واسه چی؟
ـ مگه از این کتاب خوشت نیومد؟
ـ چرا
ـ پس چرا تا الان چیزی در موردش ننوشتی
ـ آخه از چی بنویسم؟ از انسان‌هایی که مثه آب خوردن همدیگه رو می‌کشن؟...از هیتلری که رفته ولی بجاش هزارتا کثافت مثه صدام حسین و اردوغان ظهور کردن؟...از اینکه هنوز زن‌هایی پیدا میشن که بچه‌هاشونو میندازن توی سطل آشغال...از پدرهایی که دختراشونو سر می‌بُرن...از ترکیه‌ای که چاقو فرو می‌کنه تو قلب پسری که فقط داشته آواز کُردی گوش می‌داده...می‌دونی فقط 20 سالش بوده!!!...ببین زنت حق داشت دیگه روزنامه نمی‌خوند...هیچکی دیگه نمی‌تونه...ببین خود مک‌کارتی هم در مورد کتاباش چیزی نمی‌گفت...میگن گشنگی‌شو یه هفته با لوبیا برطرف کرده ولی حاضر نشده بره دانشگاه و در موردشون حرف بزنه و پول بگیره...یه بار بیشتر نمیشه از این چیزا گفت! درد داره خیلی...این دردها آدمو پیر می‌کنه
ـ میدونم بچه. ولی میخام از پیرمرد درونت بگی
ـ اون تویی اد

جایی برای پیرمردها نیست

پیرمردی در قلب من است
که می خواهد بمیرد
تا دیگر نبیند
و نشنود

پیرمردی در قلب من است
که ویسکی می‌خواهد
تا مست کند
و فراموش کند

پیرمردی در قلب من است
که می خواهد برای همیشه برود
می‌گویم اش، لطفا همانجا بمان!
چرا می خواهی تنهایم بذاری؟

پیرمردی در قلب من است
که می خواهد پرواز کند
دیگر نمی‌توانم
جلویش را بگیرم

پنجره را باز می‌کنم
اما می‌آید
و کنارم می‌ماند
لیوان چای را بر می‌دارد
توی چشم‌هایم نگاه می‌کند
غمگین مباش!
آوازی کُردی برایم می‌خواند
نمی‌گذارد بمیرم
نمی‌گذارم بمیرد


*شعر اقتباسی از پرنده آبی بوکفسکی است
Profile Image for Pantelis Andreou.
275 reviews58 followers
March 30, 2020
“People complain about the bad things that happen to em that they don't deserve but they seldom mention the good. About what they done to deserve them things”.

The perfect example of a book about being good and all the dangers and evil that someone may encounter.

With the movie being one of my all time favorites for a long time, the flow and style of the book it’s so immersive and had that sense of dread that lurks on every corner, making it all the way hopeless till the end.

- What’s his name?
- Chigurh
- Sugar?
- Chigurh. Anton Chigurh.

Anton Chigurh is definitely one of the greatest villains ever created in fiction. An amoral psychopath who will stop at nothing till he guns you down. The perfect punisher.

McCarthy is Pulitzer winner for a reason!
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews351 followers
February 19, 2016
With a book like this, the movie pretty much made itself. You could've just as well filmed the pages being flicked through (preferably by Javier Bardem, I'm sure he'd do it astoundingly) and you'd get roughly the same experience.

I understand the comparisons being made between the film and the book. That's the kind of understanding guy I am. I can only say both are masterpieces. It all starts with Cormac McCarthy though, and while the Coen brothers and the cast of the movie did a tremendous job, I think the biggest piece of the praisecake should go to the author.

This book has many things that define good books:
1. Suspense: Danger looms everywhere as soon as that suitcase gets in the picture. You can feel it breathing down the neck of everyone who comes near it. The main personificiation of this danger, Anton Chigurh, is one of the most legendary villains I've come across. Cold, rational, in control.
2. Pacing: While this is a book where you wonder what will happen next, it doesn't give you much time for doing that. Because while you're wondering BOOM, there's a surprise for you. BAM, there's another one. WHOOSH, still didn't see that coming, did you? Chigurh moves faster than your fears do.
3. Characters: Bell, the good. Chigurh, the bad. And everyone else gloriously in between, with their little views and wisdoms.

Speaking of wisdoms: The Bell-monologues are what really gave this book the extra touch for me. His fondness for his wife Loretta is the strongest counterweight to Chigurh. There are things that Bell possesses that Chigurh can never put a hole in.
Reading those monologues is like listening to your grandfather, full of wisdoms that seem so commonplace to the person uttering them that it becomes touching, especially in contrast with what's really going on in the world that has gone and changed around them.

Some of my favorites, that I'd like to print on little plaques and hang up around my kitchen:

(without quotation marks, they wouldn't feel right)

All the time you spend tryin to get back what's been took from you there's more goin out the door.

He said there was nothin to set a man's mind at ease like wakin up in the mornin and not havin to decide who you were.

I think that when all lies are told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it anymore than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that's what it is. It's the thing you're talkin about. (...) I'm sure they's people would disagree with that. Quite a few, in fact. But I never could find out what any of them did believe.

You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

If you'd like even more wisdom, particularly pertaining to this book and its interpretation, you might like the views of someone who actually knows what he's talking about. (that mysterious review he refers to is also very interesting, but I don't want to reveal too much yet in this regard)
Profile Image for Ginger.
786 reviews364 followers
November 17, 2019

I enjoyed No Country for Old Men more then expected. I think what helped my overall experience with this book was the narrator, Tom Stechschulte. What a fabulous job he did and I'll be adding more audiobooks by him in the future.

No Country for Old Men felt like a western but had a criminal undercurrent to it. I enjoyed the dialogue in this one between all the characters and Cormac McCarthy did a fantastic job with the character, Anton Chigurh. What a scary guy he turned out to be!

The only thing that I felt could have been a bit better for me was the preachy tone of the book. I liked some of it and felt like the character of Ed Tom Bell had some important things to say.
He also sounded like a grumpy old man! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ hahaha!
But it did make him unique and I guess that matters as well with characterization.

There are a few differences with the movie and book.
If you loved the movie, I think you'll also really enjoy the book!
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,004 reviews10.6k followers
January 17, 2011
While out shooting antelope, Llewellyn Moss stumbles upon a crime scene: three trucks, all shot up, and numerous bodies. Upon further inspection, Moss finds a substantial quantity of heroin and a briefcase containing over two million dollars. Moss takes the money and quickly ends up a wanted man. Can Moss survive long enough to enjoy the money?

This was my first McCarthy book and probably won't be the last. I devoured it in a single sitting. The clipped style really drove the story forward, reminding me of Jim Thompson at times and Flannery O'Connor at others. The tension grows as Moss and Chigurh head toward the climax. Sheriff Bell does his best to piece things together and keep more people from dying. A recurring theme through the novel is choices, how one's choices make them who they are.

I wanted to give this five stars but I couldn't for two reasons. The primary reason: What was with the lack of quotation marks and apostrophes? Was McCarthy's keyboard defective? A little dialogue attribution would have been nice, particularly in the later chapters with Moss talking to other characters. The other gripe is that the last fifty or sixty pages didn't live up to the promise of the rest of the book. I don't want to spoil things but a pretty important character dies like a chump and does it off screen, making the previous 200+ pages seem like a bit of a waste.

All in all, No Country for Old Men was a good read, especially for those who like a good pulpy crime story. It's easily worth an evening of your time.

Profile Image for EisΝinΕ|v|XenoFoneX.
249 reviews316 followers
June 2, 2019
Elevating and Transcending Genre: McCarthy and 'Existentialist Crime'
[WARNING: Here there be spoilers.]
Another world unrolled like a carpet of dry, golden plains when I started reading 'No Country for Old Men'; the prose was vivid, but every word was a careful expenditure of idea and style. Cormac McCarthy is not an overly descriptive writer. But the antelope hunt in Southwest Texas that leads Llewelyn Moss to the bullet-riddled cars and corpses of the silent cartel battlefield is told with absolute clarity. It played out somewhere in my cerebrum like a memory, nearly identical to the film adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is a testament to the genius of all three men that the movie felt like a 'remake' of the 'original film adaptation'... by which I mean the film that played out in my head.
McCarthy condenses his prose into clean, spare lines of poetic brevity. The skeletal structure of his language is porous, like the bones of eagles and vultures: it can take flight when it needs to fly, it can sink its narrative talons into heavy prey and dead-ugly notions, it can take to the air with these blood-soaked prizes. Very few writers are comfortable with the high places he makes for his home, or the low places where he hunts for stories. His narrative voice marks him as a blood relation to Faulkner, with a casual grandiloquence strained from the apocalyptic cryptograms of Revelations and the more ominous books of the Old Testament.

'No Country for Old Men' was not well-received by many of McCarthy's fans, seen as an unnecessary digression from literature, 'slumming' in the ghettos of genre-fiction. But if 'NCfOM' is a 'crime novel', and it is, McCarthy not only matches the genre's previous high water marks, but with 'No Country For Old Men', he floods the deep-carved banks of the Genre's narrative current with all the force of a million-year old glacial dam's final collapse, ice-cold waters turning parallel genre streams into a mega-river before spilling into an impossible system of ancient and carefully engineered locks, dams and channels, flowing to feed into the archetypal ocean of human knowledge. The channel of Philosophy was built for regulating the tidal algorithms and powerful undercurrents that would protect the data by isolating whatever play-science variables find important to objectively judge just how sea-worthy the vessels of hypothetical Philosophy truly are as they pass through the system. Dostoevsky's 'Crime & Punishment' was probably the first work of fiction to navigate both the well-traveled central canal/canon of Western literature AND the philosophical channel of proto-relativism. It was portrayed as it had to be: a cautionary tale, concerning an arrogant young man who renounced god and imagined himself beyond good and evil. But all the questions asked by the existentialism of Sartre and Camus are plainly asked or hiding in subtext: How can I justify the restraint of selfish, natural impulses if good and evil are arbitrary and outdated notions used to manipulate the weak-minded? Is a morality based entirely on logic and serving individual needs possible? Is it cowardice to submit to a moral and legal code that contradicts one's core philosophy? In a world without gods and heavenly rewards, how can the individual justify self-sacrifice? With nothing but the void waiting for us after death, is dying to keep a secret that will save lives justifiable... when the world essentially dies with you? This presaged the overtly existentialist currents of Albert Camus' 'L'Etranger', with their fictional meditations on the dilemmas facing atheist or agnostic protagonists who let their individualistic philosophy guide their actions, taking them into territory deemed immoral and criminal, and then trapped inside hostile legal institutions with illusions of permanence and religious foundations built on shifting moral sands. NCfOM should also be read as a conflict between the conservative notions of right and wrong held by Sheriff Bell, and the terrifying personification of moral relativism and the Nietzschean ubermensch, Anton Chigurh. Again: 'No Country for Old Men' is a perfect example of great writing that both elevates genre and transcends it...

Just as Llewelyn Moss declares war on Anton Chigurh, after realizing that the only way the assassin will let the woman he loves live is by sacrificing his own life, the Mexican drug-lords find him instead. The narrative symmetry that favored a violent showdown between Moss and Chigurh is thwarted, in a shocking subversion of genre expectations. And just as the enigmatic killer makes good on a terrible promise, as smart and deadly and unstoppable as some capricious Celtic god, his car is T-boned at an intersection, and he is badly injured.
A Random Act of Traffic; it comes too late to save a life, or to offer anyone an advantage -- Chigurh is the last piece left on the board. And it's not a punishment, or a condemnation, since his 'sins' would demand a far more severe accounting. It once again demonstrates that even the hardest and most terrifyingly competent killers are not immune to the many ways the world can kill us without caring or trying. Whatever plans we make, they cannot compensate for the endless variables that number our days.

Sheriff Bell struggles to keep up. As the 'Old Man' of the title, his experience and intellect are not enough to stop the killer it is his sworn duty to stop. He is unable to protect the citizens it is his sworn duty to protect. His thoughts punctuate the action as philosophical prologue, interludes, and epilogue. His failure to understand the callous ease with which these younger men unleash death and suffering is a failure of age. The predatorial hunger and greed that drives the various gangsters of the borderland is something that fades with time. The willingness to inflict harm remains, but not the eagerness, and killers that survive long enough to get old delegate these tasks once their hair has gone grey.

McCarthy rarely provides physical descriptions of his characters, leaving it to the reader to cast the roles. There is one scene in the novel that I felt was integral as a foreshadowing to the seemingly inevitable showdown that never happened. It's also one of the most powerful and suspenseful passages in a book that is perhaps more gut-wrenchingly suspenseful than any other I've read; this is a truly existential crime novel, lacking any connection to myth or morality, subverting reader expectation and creating a sense of near helplessness. With Cormac McCarthy, the reader always finds himself in terra incognita, without signs or maps or lines of demarcation. The sun is always buried behind the clouds, but that doesn't mean it's going to rain. In safer continuums of literature, an overcast day always foreshadows The Storm.

This unpredictability is not a forced gimmick, it's thematic honesty, now that the young gods of chaos have taken an empty throne unchallenged. Archetypal heroes will die unsung and unmourned. The moon will break in two, and drown the earth with its blood.

The pivotal confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist, as it occurs in the novel, further establishes expectations of a 'good guy'/'bad guy' dichotomy that doesn't really exist; but McCarthy uses it to perpetuate the illusion before exposing it. When the Coen brothers significantly altered this scene in the film, after remaining so faithful to the source material, it surprised me.
Anton Chigurh's insistence on killing anyone who knows both his name and his face is a promise he fulfills several times throughout the novel. In both the book and the film, after Moss has checked into a motel room following his first close call, he realizes there must be a tracking device hidden with the money. He uses this device to get the drop on his pursuer. In the film, the dead-bolt is blown in by the compression-powered cattle-killer, stunning Moss. He fires blindly, then escapes through the window. In the novel, however, Chigurh enters the room quietly using a key -- which would have made more sense in the film as well, since he killed the motel-clerk. Moss waits until he enters, and manages to catch him off guard. Moss and Chigurh face one another, with the killer kept at gun-point, hands raised. It is here, through Moss's eyes, that the reader is provided with their first and only description of Chigurh: "(...)an expensive pair of ostrichskin boots(...) Pressed jeans... The man turned his head and gazed at Moss. Blue eyes. Serene. Dark hair. Something about him faintly exotic. Beyond Moss's experience." I won't explain how the stand-off ends.
This is not McCarthy's best work... that honor goes to 'Blood Meridian'. But it's one of the most powerful crime novels ever written, and it is far more than a crime novel. Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon and Denis Johnson have all immersed themselves in the genre, and written excellent books. But 'No Country for Old Men' tops them all, in my opinion (and those are three of my favorite writers). Even though writer Michael Chabon, a brilliant author in his own right and a fan of McCarthy, dismissed 'No Country for Old Men' in his essay collection 'Maps and Legends' as an unfortunate effort unworthy of his talent, I think the novel will be remembered differently by most. Now that it has been adapted, and is one of the greatest films ever made, it will be nearly impossible to separate them. But this is a novel that deserves to stand alone.

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A Mysterious Review That Might Be Related to the Book in Question, But Written By Someone Else Entirely
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,484 reviews843 followers
September 19, 2022
“There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy. Now you’re goin to die.”

Cormac McCarthy’s “Westerns” are like nothing else I’ve read, although there must be some followers by now. In this one, Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss is up in the rocks, hunting antelope who are down on the floodplain, and he takes a shot, hitting one in the leg. He is hiking around to find where they’ve all run, when he sees bodies of men, lying on the ground amid trucks and 4WD vehicles.

He goes down, discovers one man still barely alive, but he has no water to give him. He can tell it’s probably some kind of drug deal gone wrong. Long story short, he finds a document case full of money, takes it, and knows he is now a target for whichever gang it belongs to.

At home that night, he can’t sleep, thinking about the man who might still be alive in the truck, desperate for water.

“But it wasnt the money that he woke up about. Are you dead out there? he said. Hell no, you aint dead.

She woke while he was getting dressed and turned in the bed to watch him.
What are you doin?
Gettin dressed.
Where are you goin?
Where are you goin, baby?
Somethin I forgot to do. I’ll be back.
What are you goin to do?

He opened the drawer and took the .45 out and ejected the clip and checked it and put it back and put the pistol in his belt. He turned and looked at her.

I’m fixin to go do somethin dumbern hell but I’m goin anyways. If I dont come back tell Mother I love her.
Your mother’s dead Llewelyn.
Well I’ll tell her myself then.

She sat up in the bed. You’re scarin the hell out of me, Llewelyn. Are you in some kind of trouble?

No. Go to sleep.
Go to sleep?
I’ll be back in a bit.
Damn you, Llewelyn.

He stepped back into the doorway and looked at her. What if I was to not come back? Is them your last words?

She followed him down the hallway to the kitchen pulling on her robe. He took an empty gallon jug from under the sink and stood filling it at the tap.

Do you know what time it is? she said.
Yeah. I know what time it is.
Baby I dont want you to go. Where are you goin? I dont want you to go.

Well darlin we’re eye to eye on that cause I dont want to go neither. I’ll be back. Dont wait up on me.”

Simple, spare dialogue, very little punctuation, but I can hear it, the accents, the tone, the mood. There is always dark humour and irony, no matter how dire the scene. Descriptive passages are a beautiful, different matter.

“He stood there looking out across the desert. So quiet. Low hum of wind in the wires. High bloodweeds along the road. Wiregrass and sacahuista. Beyond in the stone arroyos the tracks of dragons. The raw rock mountains shadowed in the late sun and to the east the shimmering abscissa of the desert plains under a sky where raincurtains hung dark as soot all along the quadrant. That god lives in silence who has scoured the following land with salt and ash. He walked back to the cruiser and got in and pulled away.”

The writing is perfect; the story is horrifying. The psychotic killer, Anton Chigurh, appears in a bloody scene in the first few pages, so you get a fair idea of what you’re in for. In a few words: Chigurh is evil; Moss is a good man tempted by money; Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is a good man who takes seriously his oath of office to protect his people, the residents of his Texas county.

I recall seeing the film many years ago and had forgotten the actual plot but as I was reading, the scenes I remembered from the Coen Brothers’ film seemed exactly as McCarthy had intended – only my opinion, no idea what the author thought.

The womenfolk are side characters, loved and feared for by their men, but there’s no way this would ever pass the Bechdel test (where two women talk to each other about something other than a man, basically).

Something I don’t remember from the movie is whether Bell’s internal monologues were shared, although I suspect they were. Written in italics and introducing some chapters, they were his thoughts on life and love, justice, responsibility, truth. Here’s a small example from when he was thinking about his own family’s history, and how much is true.

“The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet.
. . .
You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that’s what it is.”

There is much other philosophising, including from the soulless Chigurh. It is not an airport horror thriller. Cormac McCarthy is in a category of his own. I have quoted so much because describing his style and the impact of his writing is beyond me. Even re-reading the quotes I’ve chosen makes me want to choose more.

I also listened to part of it in audio, narrated by Tom Stechschulte, who did a terrific job. He had just the right grizzled tone, and he handled the back-and-forth dialogue so well that it was easy to follow.
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