One of my favorite audiobooks ever is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was riveting and horrifying and heart-breaking and almost everything I want in a book (well, except for laughs). After Jenny mentioned that she really enjoyed listening to All the Pretty Horses, I decided that it McCarthy’s style might translate particularly well to audio, so I decided to give No Country for Old Men a listen.
No Country for Old Men involves a drug-related killing spree, an innocent bystander on the run with a bag of cash, the world-weary sheriff trying to figure out what’s going on, and an assassin with no conscience whom very few people have lived to actually describe. Most of the story is told in third person, but Sheriff Ed Tom Bell offers some of his own reflections in the first person. It’s his reflections that, to me, make this book feel like something more than just a crime thriller. Readers can’t get away with just enjoying the tension-filled drama. Bell makes us ask the tough questions: Is the world in a worse state than it’s ever been? Has humanity abandoned goodness? Can an old man with old-fashioned ideas of morality get anything done?
Being a huge fan of the Coen Brothers, I had already seen their film adaptation of this book, so I was familiar with the plot. As it turns out, that was a good thing because the narrative switches from place to place and person to person pretty quickly, and it helped to already have a sense of what was going on. When a new scene begins, it’s not always obvious who the players are, and Tom Stechschulte, the reader for the audio version, did not make each character sound quite distinct enough. (Admittedly, this would be a tough job in a book with so many characters, almost all of them tough Southwestern men.)
Despite the difficulties I had following the story, I did find that McCarthy’s style once again works well when read aloud. It’s simple and clear and vivid. The various stand-offs that occur throughout the book made my hair stand on end. Here, Stechschulte does an excellent job, pausing at just the right places to ramp up the tension. Bell’s narration also sounds remarkably authentic, never too rehearsed. It was almost as if he were sitting in the car with me, telling his story.
I’m suprised to find myself liking McCarthy much as I do on audio, especially since I didn’t particularly like All the Pretty Horses, which I read in print. I’d like to read more, maybe giving him another try in print. Any recommendations? I’m thinking Blood Meridian, but are there others I should look for?