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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005


 

No Country for Old Men

by Cormac McCarthy

Naked Men

A review by Tom Chiarella

When you finish Cormac McCarthy's newest book, No Country for Old Men, you'll have to wonder if you know any real men at all. From Moss, the unlucky sap who finds a bag containing $2.4 million at the scene of a botched drug deal, to Chigurh, the dark, relentless mercenary who pursues him, to Bell, the stoic sheriff who follows their wake of shoot-outs across the borderlands, McCarthy creates men whose behavior casts them deeper into the pit of themselves.

McCarthy's men don't puzzle or fuss; there is not one moment of hand-wringing. They act, and in the wake of their action they live with what they become. Each is capable of scratching a wayward cat on the head in one moment, then cocking a shotgun and shooting a man in the chest in the next.

None is the star exactly. They pass the mantle of protagonist easily and rightly, as each meets his end in a story that is so deceptively linear, so openly violent, and so stripped of artifice that you feel as if you were left a narrative constructed on a steel wire. As in his All the Pretty Horses, it is this elemental construction that makes McCarthy's prose the most laudable, his characters the most fully inhabited, his sense of place the most bloodworthy and thoroughly felt of any living writer's.


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