I just finished No Country For Old Men and I'm having trouble with it.
I can say it is likely the grimmest book I have ever read. It's a book where Hope sits on the sidelines with its head in its hands while Depravity goes about its business efficiently and rather creatively. I'm not sure what to make of it - was this kick in the stomach good for me or not?
I do disagree with James Wood's assessment of it as "unimportant" (if this is unimportant, The Book Against God, Wood's own novel, is nonexistent) but I will agree with him when he calls the book frustrating. By the end it has devolved into an extended essay by McCarthy on the inevitability of chaos. I didn't think Coetzee got away with the same sort of disguised philosophizing in Elizabeth Costello and I don't want to let McCarthy gets off the hook either. The first two-thirds of the book are brutal and compelling but (and I don't want to give away too much here), the way in which all of that is discarded in service of the Revelation of St. Cormac feels like a cheat.
It's not like McCarthy's made a career out of being maudlin. Child of God with its necrophiliac serial killer protagonist didn't spook me like this. Blood Meridian was (to use an overused but apt phrase) an inquiry into the nature of evil - and is in my opinion one of the best American novels of the 20th Century. No Country For Old Men isn't about the nature of evil. It's a concession of defeat to it.
If anyone else has read/is reading/will read it, please tell me if I'm being too lillylivered about this.