No Country for Old Men (Review)

No Country for Old Men (Review)

The movie for this book stuck with me – it has one of those critical moments (like Purple Rose of Cairo) where the screen-writer tells you “you think you know where this is going? Guess again.”

I suppose it comes from our expectations of story-telling, that heroes always win and villainy is defeated. Occasionally its nice to see an author perform a public service of rocking us back on our heels.

I was happy to see (as I read the book) that this wasn’t just a director decision – the author ran with it. I won’t do a spoiler on this, but I’m just saying if you want a shocking surprise, a bit of cold-real-world splashed on you, read it. I’ll even recommend this even though the author does the same trick I recall in The Road, where punctuation is largely ignored (making for a smoother story scan but making dialog exchanges rather like a blind person following a ping-pong game). You know there is a fierce exchange, but just who said what is a bit confusing.

While the movie follows the book faithfully, there are things a book always does better. Here, I’m not coasting on the visuals. The confusing scene at the end (where killer Chigurh gets T-boned) suddenly makes sense. And Sheriff Bell’s quiet pause in a dark hotel room in the presence of a murderer slots into his early lifelong reflection on a less-than-heroic moment he suffered in World War Two. I’ve got more time, I’m following the story closer, its subtleties make sense.

Overall, a good book and a quick one. It might be called No book for casual readers. It’s far more subtle than most books, delicious in its pacing and full of surprises. But worth it. Hey, if I’m wrong, you’ll be through it quick enough and back to the comforts of Harry Potter.