It ain't easy getting old

  • No Country for Old Men

 

If you read Cormac McCarthy’s novels for a glimpse of the West as it might have been, his latest book, No Country for Old Men, may disappoint you.

Like McCarthy’s earlier works, such as All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing, this one is set along the U.S.-Mexico border. But No Country for Old Men takes place in the 1980s, and follows a psychopathic killer, an aging sheriff who’s lost control of his Texas county along the Rio Grande, and a Vietnam vet turned man on the run.

Diehard McCarthy fans might feel let down simply because this book doesn’t deliver the sometimes bitter nostalgia they’ve come to expect: There’s no sense that the world is ripe for adventure, or that the landscape beckons good men to find their paths. Only Sheriff Bell is tied to the scabby desert along the border, and he seems to suffer for that connection. Unlike his grandfather, a sheriff before him, Bell isn’t tracking cattle thieves or busting up bar brawls; he’s facing down drug runners and finding dead bodies in SUVs in the desert.

Bell comes to recognize that the swollen and dangerous space along the border is no place for an older man, especially one who is losing faith in both himself and the future: "I think we are all ill prepared for what is to come and I don’t care what shape it takes," he thinks. "And whatever comes my guess is that it will have small power to sustain us." Bell recognizes that times have changed, and it’s apparent that McCarthy does, too. The border no longer belongs to Anglo cowboys, dreaming of the frontier and a better life.

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