No Country for Old Men — I gave up on The Road about thirty pages in, but figured McCarthy deserved a second chance, so I grabbed this at the Detroit airport and read it on the flight home. I’d describe it as two-thirds of a good, but not great, novel.
My standards for literary greatness are somewhat ill-defined, but one of the things I look for is a story that I couldn’t have written, or, more exactly, that could only have been written by its actual author. Examples from the nearest bookshelf include John Crowley’s Little, Big, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, and any randomly chosen Margo Lanagan short story. Cormac McCarthy, by contrast, seems like he’d be easy to mimic; the hardest part would be remembering which apostrophes to omit and which to keep (“dont,” “readin,” “dumbern,” but “let’s,” “they’d,” “I’m”).
Which is OK. I don’t need great; good is good enough, especially for airplane reading. But then we get to the other problem, which is that the ending doesn’t work. Brief plot summary: A hunter named Moss stumbles across the aftermath of a shootout between drug smugglers and finds a leather case full of hundred dollar bills. He takes the money and is soon on the run; chief among his pursuers is Chigurh, who’s like the Operative from Serenity, only Mexican. There’s also a sheriff named Bell whose main function is to bear witness to the carnage left in Chigurh’s wake and opine, in more eloquent language than I will use here, that he is too old for this shit. In the end, after much chasing around, Moss dies, Chigurh lives, and Bell retires. This is a reasonable conclusion, except for the way it happens—Moss, whose head we’ve been inside of for much of the novel, dies “offstage.” One paragraph he’s walking up the steps to a motel room. Two paragraphs later Sheriff Bell is arriving at the murder scene. Some paragraphs after that, Chigurh, who’s not the killer (another Mexican got to Moss first), sneaks in to retrieve the money. The novel then continues for another seventy pages or so, failing—to my satisfaction at least—to explain the omission of the final showdown between Moss and Chigurh that the first two hundred or so pages had seemed to promise.
I’m curious, now, to see how the movie handles things (please don’t spoil it for me); I suspect the ending will be different.
House, M.D. — Since ER overstayed its welcome I’ve been leery of medical dramas, and I’ve never liked CSI, so you can see why I’d have skipped a show that promised to combine medical drama with CSI-style mystery solving. Lucky thing, ’cause now that I’ve belatedly discovered how great House is, I can watch the first four seasons commercial-free on DVD. Man that Hugh Laurie is good.
Charlie Jade — This is an SF series set and filmed in South Africa. I found out about it at Norwescon a couple years ago, when I was slated to appear on a Sunday morning panel with the actor Jeffrey Pierce and the producer Robert Wertheimer; when only two audience members showed up, we sat around a table and just chatted for an hour. The series is currently airing in the U.S. on the SciFi channel, but they’re only showing each episode once, at an awkward time (5 PM Pacific on Fridays) and with zero promotion; I missed the pilot but caught the second episode, and was interested enough that I want to see the whole thing. Scarecrow Video has the first ten episodes on Region 7 PAL-DVD (I’ve got a Chinese DVD player that can handle this), but that’s only the first half of the first season; if it holds up, I’ll have to see if there’s a Canadian or British DVD shop that can hook me up with the rest.
Wall-E — Saw it over the holiday. It’s as good as you’ve heard. Don’t wait for the DVD.