Magazine article The Spectator

Pursuit in the Desert

Magazine article The Spectator

Pursuit in the Desert

Article excerpt

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy Picador, £16.99, pp. 309, ISBN 0330440101 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Seven years after the groundbreaking Border trilogy, Cormac McCarthy has returned to that literary landscape he has made his own, the American-Mexican border: a near-fantastic tabula rasa of unmapped and unknowable spaces and histories, populated by people in thrall to geographic and climatic necessity, and for whom both the present and the future represent only a succession of unavoidable challenges; a landscape endlessly redrawn and reshaped in the formulations of new brutalities, new expectations and new desires.

No Country for Old Men is perhaps McCarthy's most contemporary fiction.

And unlike, say, the Border trilogy or Blood Mountain, where experiments with prose and narrative style almost subsumed in places the stories being told, No Country sees a return to the far simpler structures of Child of God and Outer Dark, where the unfolding tension and speed of events engage the reader, and where the prose is paced and tempered accordingly.

And McCarthy's prose is never less than knowingly and superbly tailored, honed and polished to its very specific and powerful purpose, combining here the simple-seeming language and savage grace of Jim Thompson with the lyrical and evocative toughness of William Faulkner.

No Country concerns the intersecting lives of Llewelyn Moss, who comes across two million dollars amid the shot-up cars and scattered corpses of a desert drug deal gone wrong, Chigurh ('Sugar'), a Mexican assassin in search of the money Moss has stolen, and Sheriff Bell, the experienced, world-weary lawman in pursuit of them both. …

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