Old Men and Their Country

Just finished Cormac McCarthy’s No Country and came away a little disappointed–for reasons I’m not quite comfortable with but probably need to explore. One of the problems has to do with patterns. My response to McCarthy’s fiction after Blood Meridian, excluding All the Pretty Horses, which I felt explored a few character issues beyond the Judge and the Kid, was that it took no risks beyond what had already been accomplished in the imagery, landscape, and characters of Suttree and Blood Meridian. In those novels, McCarthy explores and ranges around the limits of narrative language that tells of events and marries landscape to fictive human flesh. What can come, if this can be called up? They weren’t explorations of plot, of connectivity, of knots to tie up and to resolve. Blood Meridian is an argument, a test, a hypothesis in the form of a journey. Blood Meridian is a contained “place” that can’t be judged by the terms of “real world” morality and won’t be contained by theories of art. But neither will Borges be “so contained.” Or Moore.

No Country, however, doesn’t seem to live on its own terms or create its own dilemmas; it appears to rely on patterns already presented, like paisely on paisely. I still come back to Suttree and Blood Meridian to look for more, to experience again for freshness. As I hear Chighur speak about whys and what must be done “because it already had been done” (not a quote from the novel) to Carla Jean, I clench. I get the third power, I get that now implies then, and that a multitude of historical crash courses are interesting to ponder, and that the idea of a terminal paradox is at play. Does Chighur go beyond the judge? I don’t think so. Moss beyond the Kid or John Grady Cole? Do they have to? I’d like them to, sure. But it’s just what I would like. Carla Jean’s story: try that.

Let’s say C listens to CJ and takes her as correct. Then what? Or maybe Wells doesn’t have a deathwish and isn’t as dumb as he’s written. Wells is a kind of glue, but is that enough? Then what? Maybe M blows C’s head off in the hotel at Eagle Pass because his finger slips. Then what?