Hodge, who's clearly a McCarthy lover, and clearly also a writer of some brilliance, argues convincingly that the boozsh-guardians are missing the point and that No Country, like all of McCarthy's work, timelessly encapsulates a lost time - book as psychic amber fossil, preserving a tiny yellow vision of the lawless and bloody West. The essay is written with feeling and with considerable insight, which is why it's hard to discount the style-imitation gambit. Here's a snippet from the review:
Sometimes [McCarthy's] subject is the tragedy of history, in which two laws equally just and true come into unavoidable and violent conflict. Sometimes it is that of transgression, as when a brother and sister come together in the darkness and out of that furtive grappling are undone. Most often it is the simple natural drama of predator and prey, of hawks and wolves, trappers and hunters and snake catchers and those who run dogs under the moon; the drama of muskrats and field mice and catfish, wild house cats aloft in the claws of owls, all of which fall prey to man, who hunts all things.See how he tries to channel the man himself? And does kind of a good job? Weird, eh? The other interesting thing is that, in reading No Country (which I haven't read but have just ordered), Hodge thought he recognized some very specific minor landmarks -- including a cattle-guard in Lozier Canyon, TX -- that were actually on or near his own family's border country ranch. In a strange tangent, Hodge travels to the ranch in search of the semi-fictional landmarks, and finds them, along with a bunch of other McCarthyan fever dreams made manifest, like a cave full of -- well, let him say it:
We see a deep metate ground into the limestone bedrock by generations of hands...We are standing on a midden composed of more than ten feet of ash and garbage and burned stone. Bits of sotol cud, a fibrous cactus chewed for its high sugar content, lie here and there all over the floor, as do grindstones and bits of chipped and worked rock, a charred jawbone of some small critter, and thousands of empty snail shells.One is so tempted to call this approach pretentious or somehow self-indulgent. Allowing yourself as the writer of a piece to become so intoxicated with the subject that it begins literally to possess you, to abduct you, to transport you into it. Part of me wants to say, dude, spare us the McCarthy fanfic -- imitation is fine, but do it somewhere where no one needs to read it, like on a fanfic site. But then the more magnanimous part of me -- the little yogi within -- tells me no, no, this Hodge has done something interesting here. There's a poetry to blurring the line like that. For one thing, McCarthy's work is notoriously difficult to assign anything other than nihilistic meaning to. Rather than offering a theory to explain all of it, Hodge does this homage-thing, whereby he offers a kind of personalized version of McCarthy's world, a legitimate piece of McCarthy-inspired thinking. Plus wait a second, did I say it was bad to get kidnapped by your own writing? Uh, maybe it's been too long.
Anyway, I don't think I've explained the piece well at all. You'd have to read it to see what I'm trying to get at, which maybe you don't feel like doing right at the moment. Cool. I definitely recommend it to McCarthy fans, though.