This September the length of my annual tip-of-the-hat lists will hit 35. I'm already prepared to add to two lists---films that have stuck with me and favourite fiction---with but one entry: No Country for Old Men. I'll be writing an article on this story in the fall and it will be pretty clear then what I think about it. So for now I'm just going to post a few quotes.
Novel # 27 - No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy
This is a masterfully and thoughtfully written Western thriller. The dialogue and the narrative are swift and simple but drive the reader's heart and mind racing. Gladly, this was one time when seeing the movie did not ruin the novel. In the book you do get more of the Sheriff's reflections, and of Moss's dialogues, and this makes for a very rich read indeed. Here are a few of the lines you don't get in the movie:
[Llewlyn Moss:] There's always somebody knows where you're at. Knows where and why. For the most part.
[Hitchhiker:] Are you talkin about God?
No. I'm talkin about you. . . . .
He looked at her. After a while he said: It's not about knowin where you are. It's about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody's. You don't start over. . . . You might think you can run away and change your name and I don't know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who's layin there?
. . . . . . . . . . . .
[Carla Jean Moss:] You can change it.
[Anton Chigurh:] I don't think so. Even a nonbeliever might find it useful to model himself after God. Very useful, in fact.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
[Sheriff Ed Bell:] The man that shot you died in prison.
[Uncle Ellis:] In Angola, yes.
What would you of done if he'd been released?
I don't know. Nothin. There wouldn't be no point to it. There ain't no point to it. Not to any of it.
I'm kindly surprised to hear you say that.
You wear out Ed Tom. All the time you spend tryin to get back what's been took from you there's more goin out the door. After a while you just try and get a tourniquet on it. . . . I was too young for one war and too old for the next one. But I seen what come out of it. You can be patriotic and still believe that some things cost more than what they're worth. Ask them Gold Star mothers what they paid and what they got for it. You always pay too much. Particularly for promises. There ain't no such thing as a bargain promise.
Film #35 - No Country for Old Men - Joel & Ethan Coen
As far as film-adaptations go, it would be tough to beat what the Coen brothers here managed. The movie and the book are the same kind of awesome in slightly different ways--each perfect according to its medium.
Both begin with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's by now famous monologue: "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, 'O.K., I'll be part of this world.'"
I'll be writing an article about No Country for Old Men this fall for the fourth annual Karl Barth Blog Conference. The theme is "Barth in Conversation with . . ." and this is what I pitched. I'm thrilled that they went for it. I'm not going to elaborate on it right now, but basically it will be a Barthian response regarding the nature of evil. But, that said, the feedback is going to go both ways.
I haven't read any full-scale reviews of McCarthy's story or the Coen's film adaptation yet, and will do so when writing time comes, but what I just may put more stock in is the thoughts of my readers. I would really love to have some of your reactions to the book and the film. For those who've read it or seen it: How did it strike you? What did you take away from it, either intellectually or emotionally or both?