Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Long Way in the Same Direction

"I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics. Maybe he did. I told that to somebody at breakfast the other mornin and they asked me if I believed in Satan. I said Well that aint the point. And they said I know but do you? I had to think about that. I guess as a boy I did. Come the middle years my belief I reckon had waned somewhat. Now I'm startin to lean back the other way. He explains a lot of things that otherwise dont have no explanation. Or not to me they dont."

Cormac McCarthy No Country For Old Men


Ethan said...


Great quote from a great book. I read that in December in preparation for seeing the movie, though I only managed to see the movie the other night. Liked that quite a bit, too.

Are you reading the book? I'd like to hear what you think.

Bruce Gee said...

What do I think?

I think the Coen Brothers blew it.

On one hand, they were rather faithful to the book--actually using word-for-word quotes at length. Their development of the Moss character was terrific.

OTOH, they forgot that the story was in the end about Sheriff Bell. Too much of Bell's monologue was left on the cutting room floor. The most important feature of the book--Bell's relationship with his dead father--was neglected, and so the final monologue didn't make any sense. The entire issue of the bronze star and Bell's deeply conflicted feelings about it were dropped. And so was the follow-up to Moss's investigation, which put in proper perspective the entire Moss story, which in the movie was left hanging (Jeremy said, about that: "The Coen Brothers got bored".)

As for the book, McCarthy did tend to wax a bit on the italicized monologue, so there were times I felt a bit embarassed for old sheriff Bell--he wouldn't have gone on like that. But his use of dialogue reminds me of Steinbeck--and that is high praise.

What else? While this was secondary--I don''t hold this against the brothers--Bell's relationship with his wife was essentially missing in the film. In the book this keeps coming up repeatedly, and was tied in with the rest of his complex psychology. It was his relationship with his wife--now that his dad was gone--that kept him going.

Having said all of that, I loved both book and movie. I plan on treating myself to more Cormac McCarthy in the near future.

Ethan said...

Indeed, I hardly argue for perfection in either the book or the movie.

The book, I think, gets weaker towards the end--as you pointed out, Sheriff Bell goes on for too long, and the story kind of peters out--though the end is strong.

The movie, I think, has the opposite problem. The first half, in a lot of ways, sucks, while it gains momentum through the second half. And, while you're right that it loses some important nuances of the book, I think in a lot of ways it works--at least on its own, and it doesn't absolutely fail to do justice to the book.