2008-04-01 : What I read on the plane

I read 3:10 to Yuma and other stories by Elmore Leonard, a collection of his Western short stories, on the way out, and I read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy on the way back.

I preferred 3:10 to Yuma. I liked both quite a bit, but there's something just right about the size of Elmore Leonard's short stories. Each contains the right amount of setup for one single satisfying resolution. Straightforward but not simplistic and just big enough to contain a subtle twist.

They were interesting in contrast. Elmore Leonard wrote his in the fifties, and it shows in the morality of them. Not just in what's depicted, but in how the protagonists act, what they're capable of and what they're called to do. Cormac McCarthy, as we all know, creates a much uglier world, peopled by much uglier people. (Me, I figure that they live in the same world - Cormac McCarthy is documenting a change in fashion in fiction, not an uptick in real violence in the real world. That's how I figure it.)

3:10 to Yuma the movie doesn't follow the short story especially closely, and brings in elements from a couple of the other stories in the book, plus makes a bunch of stuff up outright. But I've never seen a movie more faithful to a book than No Country for Old Men. It's like, line for line almost, barely even elided.

As an aside, on the plane back they showed an episode of The Office (US), which I'd never seen an episode of before. It got me hooked. That's a funny show. It's like the mirror image of Pushing Daisies. It's built on moments of grace in the midst of awkward horribleness, vs Pushing Daisies' moments of awkward horribleness in the midst of grace.

The comments include SPOILERS LIKE CRAZY. Don't click in if you haven't read the books and seen the movies.

1. On 2008-04-01, Seth Ben-Ezra said:

I recently read No Country for Old Men, and I have the movie at home, awaiting a view.  Hopefully tonight....


2. On 2008-04-01, Brand Robins said:

Had you never read 3:10 before?

Because I always kinda figured that 3:10 and Law at Radando were the core stories of Dogs....


3. On 2008-04-01, Vincent said:

I never had.

In its way, No Country for Old Men is the core story of Dogs too.


4. On 2008-04-01, John Harper said:

I just read Blood Meridian, by way of a recommendation here from way back. So, thanks, whoever that was. No Country is next.

Have you read Grendel? The John Gardner one, a favorite of mine. Reading McCarthy made me think of that, all the way through.


5. On 2008-04-02, Seth Ben-Ezra said:

Okay, so having just watched No Country for Old Men, I am now in the process of assembling my thoughts.  This I do, in part, by hearing other people's thoughts.

All that to lead up to....

Vincent, how do you see Dogs in No Country for Old Men?


6. On 2008-04-02, Vincent said:



7. On 2008-04-02, Vincent said:

Sheriff Bell's unequippedness to deal with Chigurh matches some Dogs' unequippedness to deal with what they're called upon to deal with.

It's kind of interesting that No Country for Old Men, at least in the title, attributes it to his age, where Dogs, at least sometimes, attributes it to their youth. Kind of interesting but not a counterpoint, I think. I'd argue from the book that Sheriff Bell was unequipped to deal with Chigurh as a young man, too.

Despite ranging wide geographically, not sticking to a town, Moss's story is a story of pride->sin->demonic attack->false doctrine->sorcery->hate & murder. It doesn't break the what's wrong into individual characters the way Dogs does, it lets the characters share the roles around with one another instead. Like, Moss's wife's standing by her man serves for "3 followers makes a false priest," but Moss isn't the false priest, Chigurh is, that kind of thing. Kind of like how in Brigham City the sheriff takes turns being the steward and the Dogs - not a big deal. It works as long as all the roles are represented, whether they're isolated each in an individual character or not.

(Carson Wells is the steward! And as ineffectual as they always are.)

Sheriff Bell, called upon to save his town from demonic hate and murder, can't. You know how sometimes a Dog will leave her coat on the ground and walk away from her calling, done in by the ugliness of it? Same story.


8. On 2008-04-02, Vincent said:

Come to think of it, Moss's refusal to hand the case over to Chigurh is an important moment of "3 followers make a false priest" too. Funny.


9. On 2008-04-11, Rob said:

For a movie that follows a book wonderfully try Maltese Falcon.

The dialogue is often word for word, 'cause you can't get better.

The "stage comments" such as character descriptions are sometimes different and it's even clearer that Joel Cairo is gay.


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