No Country For Old Men

This novel says a lot beyond its immediate theme of growing old in an increasingly pathological society.
It's a odd thing when you come to think about it. The opportunities for abuse are just about everywhere. There's no requirements in the Texas State Constitution for bein a sheriff. Not a one. There is no such thing as a county law. You think about a job where you have pretty much the same authority as God and there is no requirements put upon you and you are charged with preserving nonexistent laws and you tell me if that's peculiar or not. Because I say that it is. Does it work? Yes. Ninety percent of the time. It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.

-- Sheriff Bell, No Country For Old Men (Cormac McCarthy).
Joel and Ethan Coen made this novel into a film which is faithful to the book, for a change. (Another favorite novel of mine, The Paperboy, was apparently slaughtered for film by its own author, Pete Dexter). I remember when No Country came out in 2007 and several reviewers were horrified, because Cormac McCarthy's work says some very uncomfortable things. There was a similar reaction to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. Reviewers couldn't deny the history of the Mayan empire and the realities of hunter-gatherer existence, so they attacked Gibson personally. Basically, it's the adult equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and screaming the Pledge Of Allegiance. Here, for example, is Christian cultural Marxist Mark Shea putting his fingers in his ears and screaming the Pledge Of Allegiance. (Via Occam's Razor.)

People really do not like being reminded about what's left once we get outside the protective and entirely artificial cocoon of civilization and technology. The four million Syrians capable of civilized existence are finding this out. McCarthy apparently thinks we'll find this out too.

No Country was published in 2005 about events in Texas in the early 1980's. The cartels haven't taken over any local governments yet, but apparently a lot of national parks are turning into marijuana farms, there are fairly routine kidnappings in Phoenix and renegade Mexican military occasionally fire shots across the border. So far though, no heads are being dumped in town squares nor bodies being hung over highway overpasses like in Mexico so this can all work out, right?

I wonder if McCarthy thinks about his novel as just anecdotal or if he really does think it's prophetic. If he said in public appearances what his protagonists say in his novels, the Left would go absolutely crazy. I'm surprised a film like No Country even got made.

A lot of the country used to be like rural Texas,, so people trying to understand America should read McCarthy's novels. For much of America's existence, government was pretty remote and people had to figure out how to manage for themselves. Big, complicated schemes like Obamacare, No Child Left Behind, the Ownership Society, the Great Society, really do not fit the American psyche. George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson were from Texas, so they should have known better when they were hatching all their crazy schemes. Barack Obama (How the eff could we ever have a President by that name?) is a rootless, urban dilettante, so I can understand why he fancies the US as a European social democracy. Of course, this makes the fact that the Obamas are provincial buffoons even funnier.

Another theme from No Country is how Mammon makes people do stupid things, leaving them vulnerable to monsters like Anton Chigurh, who aren't motivated by money.


Jason said…
Those guys you list as being from TX were not serving their country but the cartels that told and continue to tell them what to do.

LBJ was the capstone of the ultimate takeover project if you will, and it was all down hill from there.

I've read McCarthy's "The Road," but have not delved into "No Country." "The Road" was not easy in terms of theme and got clunky in places. But I'll give "No Country" a go sometime. The movie was brutal.
Anonymous said…
This post would have been much better had you seen The Counselor, which is the sequel to No Country and written by McCarthy
I think the reality of the drug trade is it's populated by much less colorful, lower-g characters.
The heart of this novel is not so much bewilderment at death but bewilderment and fear at the death of a country - the country that was the Republic - not Empire - of America. Sherrif Bell is alwasy there, too late and too sorry, to watch one more intense derangement of the country he grew up in - no place left for survivors from another time. No place left for old men.