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Emily St. John Mandel: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Emily St. John Mandel



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3 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

No Country for Old Men

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No Country for Old Men Cover

ISBN13: 9780375706677
ISBN10: 0375706674
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeatss poem “Sailing to Byzantium”: “That is no country for old men, the young / In one anothers arms, birds in the trees, / —Those dying generations—at their song.” The poem also contains the lines: “An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick, / Unless soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress.” Why has McCarthy chosen a line from Yeats poem for his title? In what ways is No Country for Old Men about aging? Does Sheriff Bell experience any kind of spiritual rejuvenation as he ages?

2. McCarthy has a distinctive prose style—pared down, direct, colloquial—and he relies on terse, clipped dialogue rather than narrative exposition to move his story along. Why is this style so powerful and so well-suited to the story he tells in No Country for Old Men?

3. Early in the novel, after Bell surveys the carnage in the desert, he tells Lamar: “I just have this feelin were looking at something we really aint never even seen before” [p. 46]. In what way is the violence Sheriff Bell encounters different than what has come before? Is Anton Chigurh a new kind of killer? Is he a “true and living prophet of destruction,” [p. 4] as Bell thinks? In what ways does he challenge Bells worldview and values?

4. After Llewelyn finds the money and comes home, he decides to go back to the scene of the crime. He tells his wife: “Im fixin to go do somethin dumbern hell but Im goin anways” [p. 24]. Why does he go back, even though he knows it is a foolish and dangerous thing to do? What are the consequences of this decision?

5. When asked about the rise in crime in his county, Bell says that “It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight” [p. 304]. Is he right about this? Why would deteriorating manners signal a larger social chaos?

6. How can Anton Chigurhs behavior be explained? What motivates him to kill so methodically and heartlessly? How does he regard the people he kills?

7. Llewellyn tells the young woman he picks up hitchhiking: “Things happen to you they happen. They dont ask first. They dont require your permission” [p. 220]. Have things simply happened to Llewellyn or does he play a more active role in his fate? Does his life in fact seem fated?

8. What motivates Sheriff Bell? Why does he feel so protective of Llewellyn and his wife? In what ways does Sheriff Bells past, particularly his war experience, affect his actions in the present?

9. McCarthy will often tell the reader that one of his characters is “thinking things over” without revealing what the character is thinking about [see p. 107]. Most novelists describe in great detail what their characters are thinking and feeling. Why does McCarthy choose not to do this? What does he gain by leaving such information out?

10. Sheriff Bell says, “The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over. . . . Which I reckon some would take as meanin 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” [p. 123]. What incorruptible truths emerge from the story that McCarthy tells in No Country for Old Men?

11. In the italicized sections of the novel, Sheriff Bell reflects on what he feels is the moral decline and growing violence of the world around him. What is the moral code that Bell lives by? What are his strongest beliefs? How has he acquired these beliefs?

12. Jeffery Lent, writing in The Washington Post Book World, described No Country for Old Men as “profoundly disturbing” [“Blood Money,” The Washington Post Book World, July 17, 2005]. What is it about the story that McCarthy tells and the way he tells it that is so unsettling?

13. Near the end of the novel, Bell says: “I think we are all of us ill prepared for what is to come and I dont care what shape it takes” [p. 295]. What kind of future is Bell imagining? Why does he think we are not ready for it? How can No Country for Old Men be understood as an apocalyptic novel?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

zodat, January 10, 2010 (view all comments by zodat)
a very unsettling look into the human being from several different types.An edge of your seat thriller.A cat and mouse chase with a surprising ending.
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(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Deepak, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Deepak)
No Country for Old Men has just the right amount of good writing, sinister characters and a wicked, fast paced storyline to keep the reader engaged. Thoroughly enjoyable
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
lukas, September 19, 2007 (view all comments by lukas)
Mccarthy, whom some consider our greatest living novelist (that's not Philip Roth), delivers a more straight ahead, stripped down crime thriller, complete with a merciless villain, drug money, shoot outs, and lots of blood. It moves quickly and implacably, though Mccarthy's plotting is ocasionally contrived and the ending is unsatisfying. He is one of the few writers whose world is very much an Old Testament one of judgement, retribution, sin, and violent death. Easily his most readable novel and the basis for an upcoming Coen Brothers' film, which looks to be great.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375706677
Author:
Mccarthy, Cormac
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Author:
McCarthy, Cormac
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Drug traffic
Subject:
Sheriffs
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Suspense fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;crime;texas;novel;western;drugs;thriller;american;violence;murder;literature;usa;mexico;21st century;suspense;american literature;movie;mystery;mccarthy;american fiction;crime fiction;20th century;contemporary fiction;money;2000s;drug traffic;amer
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Publication Date:
20060731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
7.92x5.30x.68 in. .52 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

No Country for Old Men Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 320 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375706677 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This may not be Cormac McCarthy's best book, or even one of the best books of the year (in fact, its construction is a bit incoherent), yet I remain a sucker for the peculiar blend of melancholy and savagery that permeates all of McCarthy's work. Frightening, depressing, bleak: don't miss it.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Seven years after Cities of the Plain brought his acclaimed Border Trilogy to a close, McCarthy returns with a mesmerizing modern-day western. In 1980 southwest Texas, Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles across several dead men, a bunch of heroin and $2.4 million in cash. The bulk of the novel is a gripping man-on-the-run sequence relayed in terse, masterful prose as Moss, who's taken the money, tries to evade Wells, an ex-Special Forces agent employed by a powerful cartel, and Chigurh, an icy psychopathic murderer armed with a cattle gun and a dangerous philosophy of justice. Also concerned about Moss's whereabouts is Sheriff Bell, an aging lawman struggling with his sense that there's a new breed of man (embodied in Chigurh) whose destructive power he simply cannot match. In a series of thoughtful first-person passages interspersed throughout, Sheriff Bell laments the changing world, wrestles with an uncomfortable memory from his service in WWII and — a soft ray of light in a book so steeped in bloodshed — rejoices in the great good fortune of his marriage. While the action of the novel thrills, it's the sensitivity and wisdom of Sheriff Bell that makes the book a profound meditation on the battle between good and evil and the roles choice and chance play in the shaping of a life. Agent, Amanda Urban. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Shades of Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, and Faulkner resonate in McCarthy's blend of lyrical narrative, staccato dialogue, and action-packed scenes splattered with bullets and blood."
"Review" by , "[N]asty fun...a darting movie-ready narrative that rips along like hell on wheels....Such sinister high hokum might be ridiculous if McCarthy didn't keep it moving faster than the reader can pause to think about it."
"Review" by , "The pace is deliberately grim and airless — the book has little of the space and quiet that resonated beneath All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. As a result, the murders are numbing rather than moving..."
"Review" by , "With his stripped-down Marlboro Man prose, Cormac McCarthy knows how to write a bang-up Western thriller. But when he strives for grand mythic effect in the second half...his taut, suspenseful story quickly heads south. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "[A]n entertaining novel from one of our best writers. Often seen as a fabulist and an engineer of dark morality tales, McCarthy is first a storyteller."
"Review" by , "No Country for Old Men would easily translate to the big screen so long as Bell's tedious, long-winded monologues were left on the cutting room floor — a move that would also have made this a considerably more persuasive novel."
"Synopsis" by , In this modern-day Western--his first novel since "Cities of the Plain" completed his acclaimed, bestselling Border Trilogy--McCarthy pens a harrowing story of a war that society wages on itself, an enduring meditation of the ties of love and blood and duty that inform lives and shape destinies.
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