Sunday, August 12, 2007

No Country for Old Men (excerpt)

(A friend lent me a copy of No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and I just finished reading it. In many ways, the book is a eulogy to the bygone American zeitgeist, a nearly but-not-quite hopeless epitaph to a short-lived moral vision and sensibility that once clearly defined right and wrong. I loved every word of McCarthy's stark, gruffly lyrical prose. Enjoy.)

He turned and looked at me. And I thought he looked a lot older. His eyes looked old. He said: People will tell you it was Vietnam brought this country to its knees. But I never believed that. It was already in bad shape. Vietnam was just the icin on the cake. We didn't have nothin to give em to take over there. If we'd sent em without rifles I don't know as they'd of been all that much worse off. You can't go to war like that. You can't go to war without God. I don't know what is goin to happen when the next one comes. I surely dont.

And was pretty much all that was said. I thanked him for his time. The next day was goin to be my last day in the office and I had a good deal to think about. I drove back to I-10 along the back roads. Drove down to Cherokee and took 501. I tried to put things in perspective but sometimes you're just too close to it. It's a life's work to see yourself for what you really are and even then you might be wrong. And that is somethin I dont want to be wrong about. I've thought about why it was I wanted to be a lawman. There was always some part of me that wanted to be in charge. Pretty much insisted on it. Wanted people to listen to what I had to say. But there was a part of me too that just wanted to pull everybody back into the boat. If I've tried to cultivate anything it's been that. I think we are all of us ill prepared for what is to come and I dont care what shape it takes. And whatever comes my guess is that it will have some power to sustain us. These old people I talk to, if you could of told em that there would be people on the streets of Texas towns with green hard and bones in their noses speakin a language that couldnt understand, well, they just flat out wouldnt of believed you. But what if you'd told em it was their own grandchildren? Well, all of that is signs and wonders but it dont tell you how it got that way. And it don't tell you nothin about how it's fixin to get, neither. Part of it was I always thought I could at least someway put things right and I guess I just dont feel that way no more. I don't know what I do feel like. I feel like them old people I was talkin about. Which aint goin to get better neither. I'm bein asked to stand for somethin that I dont have the same belief in it I once did. Asked to believe in somethin i might not hold with the way I once did. That's the problem. I failed at it even when I did. Now I've seen it held to the light. Seen any number of believers fall away. I've been forced to look at it again and I've been forced to look at myself. For better or for worse I do not know. I dont know that I would even advise you to throw in with me, and I never had them sorts of doubts before. If I'm wiser in the ways of the world is come at a price. Pretty good price too.

McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 294-6.

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