The Crossing, The Counselor and the Timely Death of Cormac McCarthy

“The world in which you seek to undo the mistakes that you make, is different from the world where the mistakes were made. You’re now at the crossing. And you want to choose, but there is no choosing. There’s only accepting. The choosing was done a long time ago.” ~ The Jefé

I am a man who stands at the crossing. Make no mistake, there’s a difference between the crossing and the crossroads. The crossroads is a juncture. The crossing is the point of no return. I stand now past the point of no returning. I have made my choices. There is no going back.

I don’t know what compelled me to go out and see The Counselor alone. It was perhaps, given my new sensitivity to violence and darkness, not a good choice. But I have long been an admirer of Cormac McCarthy and have widely credited him as an inspiration and catalyst for my writing and for my novel, Serpent Box.

I’ve read all of McCarthy’s novels. I admire them greatly. His one-act play, The Sunset Limited, is breathtaking and was made into a powerful film starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. I’ve read All the Pretty Horses five times and Blood Meridian three. But my favorite is called The Crossing. It is fitting that in The Counselor McCarthy returns to a theme that demands my attention.

Road 002

This is not a film blog. I am not a movie critic. I write about photography and fiction and the subtle meanings they reveal in me. But film and literature play an important role in my understanding of my life. Great films and great literature can reveal who I am and who I was. They can offer me clues as to where I am going. God sends me messengers in many forms. A phone call made in error. The discovery of a carcass of a buck deer picked clean to the bone. An unexplained compulsion to go to a movie alone. When you find yourself at the crossing you start paying attention. The murmur of a hummingbird, the falling of a leaf. Beyond the crossing all things become talismanic.


The Counselor is a Bright Noir complete with all the tropes of the traditional, chiaroscuro form. Men steeped in greed and doomed by bad decisions are powerless against Praying Mantis women who, between their legs, hold the skeleton keys to their demise. It is a tough film to watch. It’s dark and marred by violence that is sexualized and gory. McCarthy’s worldview is a triptych composed of darkness, sex and violence, which work in conspiracy beneath the hand of an evil that is irrevocable and deeply ingrained in us. I find the film and this worldview disturbing, unsettling and sad. And I believe it to be untrue.

Cormac McCarthy does more than merely suggest that God has long abandoned us. He proclaims it. His stories offer only mere glimmers of light. They are, with few exceptions, absent of hope. He is obsessed with Hell as embodied by the land of Mexico, the carnal nature of man and the poisonous essence of women. To McCarthy we are the lost children of an absent Father cursed forever by the Mark of Cain. We are doomed by a myriad of poor choices that will lead to an impending slaughter that is, in the words of Malkina, the film’s ruthless femme fatale, “Beyond our imagining.”

McCarthy’s meme is apocalypse. His proof is the violence, brutality and cruelty portrayed by the media as the world’s dominant paradigm. His notion is that death has no meaning. Thus either does life. And though it may seem true, and cool, and hip and even kind of macho to get on board with these ideas, these energies, I call them out as destructive, cynical and wrong. We all make poor choices. And our collective choice to permit violence and its depiction as an acceptable norm can no longer stand. As a writer, I grew up on Cormac McCarthy. But as I evolve as a spiritual human being I am seeing him now with eyes anew.


How can you know, as a child, that a decision you make, a decision that at the time doesn’t seem to be a decision at all, will lead you on a thirty-eight year odyssey of self-destruction and self-deception that will deliver a miraculous self-discovery and re-birth? How could you possibly know that it would take you almost four decades to make that hazardous journey from boy to man? Each little decision node affects small shifts in the ripples of time. The unforeseen consequences mounting, year after year. The wreckage piles up behind you but to that you are willingly blind, until the day comes when you wake up from the dream. In my case I was awakened by another dreamer, who showed me the truth and taught me that the meaning of love is the willingness to die in one form in order to fulfill another. I am dying now sister. I am dead. But I believe in the resurrection. Today I am reborn.


In The Counselor this death is literal. Michael Fassbender, who is brilliant in the title role, does a deal with the devil in the form of the Mexican cartels. He’s no stranger to that world however. He understands, he claims, the risks and ramifications. He is advised not to do this deal. He is warned. But he’s arrogant, he’s greedy and he’s compelled by forces that seem beyond his control. What are those forces? Is it something about being a man, is it biological? McCarthy seems to think so. Is it the human ego that believes it, rather than God, is the true creator? Or is it sex? Is it the cycle of lust itself that creates the delusion that we are invincible, that we can keep getting more and more?

The Counselor’s lover and fiancé, Laura (Penelope Cruz) is beautiful, young and innocent. It’s her he puts at risk through this venture for she is the precious object of his desire that he stands to lose – though he fails to see this until it’s too late. Our choices, once we make them, cannot be taken back. They cannot be undone. And as I sat there alone in the dark wondering why I was watching this brutal movie, I kept wanting to leave, to get up and walk out. But something held me in my seat. It wasn’t the sex or the violence, that I could not stand to watch. I turned away from it. It was something else. There was a message waiting for me there. I just had to be patient and endure.


Cormac McCarthy

The camera and the editing bay may have been under the direction of Riddley Scott, but The Counselor is McCarthy’s creature. As in his novels, he is the master of his characters, dialog and scenes. Not even an auteur can ignore McCarthy’s sluglines. He anchors his stories so firmly in landscape and visual details that I expect he left Mr. Scott little choice in alternatives to his vision. And that vision is bleak. The sex and he violence and a myriad of foreshadowing seemed to me blatant self-aggrandizement, as if McCarthy is saying “Look, I can concoct unforgettable screen imagery too. I can invent scenes that will be talked about and remembered.” And there are some doozies in The Counselor – the wire trick, the oil drum passenger, the bit with the yellow Ferrari. But none of them were necessary to advance the film’s ultimate truth; which pays off in a scene close to the end. And this is where my message was waiting. As in real life, I had to endure a lot of uncomfortable and unnecessary carnage in order to understand the purpose of the journey.


It’s not a spoiler to say that things go terribly wrong for the Counselor. That’s just inherent in this kind of film. But also, it’s so telegraphed that a child with a reasonable film education could see what’s coming. In total desperation and in fear for his life and the life of his beloved the Counselor makes a daring phone call to the head of the cartel, the Jefé, played by Reuben Blades, in an attempt to make some kind of bargain. But of course that is not possible. This is the most powerful scene and the one in which McCarthy demonstrates his great genius, that for the grand, all-encompassing, philosophical monolog of timeless truth. And he makes the remarkable choice of delivering this truth over the telephone.

“Actions create consequences”, the Jefé says. “Consequences which produce new worlds, and they’re all different. Where the bodies are buried in the desert, that is a certain world, where the bodies are left to simply evolve, that is another. And all these worlds, heretofore unknown to us, they must have always been there, have they not?”

Michael Fassbender sweats profusely in the seat of his car, parked along a crowded Juarez street. He’s frantic, hoping there is still some chance of resolving this dispute.

“I would urge you to see the truth of the situation you’re in Counselor”, the Jefé tells him.  “That is my advice. It is not for me to tell you what you should have done, or not done.”

I, too, know what it feels like to wish to have your actions undone. If only we could go back and do a thing differently. If only the person we hurt could see how sorry we are, how stupid we know we have been. Surely this knowing counts for something. And that’s what I’ve been living on these past weeks, the hope that the person I hurt would understand that *I* understand what it is I’ve done, so that we could fix things and try again. Isn’t being truly sorry enough? Isn’t knowing we’d never, ever hurt them again?

“Reflective men often find themselves at a place removed from the realities of life.” The Jefé tells him. “In any case we should prepare a place where we can accommodate all the tragedies that sooner or later will come to our lives, but this is an economy few people care to practice.”

We should all prepare a place where we can accommodate our tragedies. What does this even mean? I suppose it means that we should understand that bad things are going to happen to us and we should be ready for them when they do. But is that possible? Can we really see the great consequences that befall the accumulation of so many little actions? I think the film is telling us that we should. And to that I can agree.

The Jefé then shifts gears. He zags in another direction to illustrate his point.

“Do you know the words of Machado?” He says.

He’s referring to the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado and he recites to him a line from one of his more famous poems.

“Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar.”

This is from Campos de Castilla. The stanza, translated and quoted more fully is this:

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea. 

When we stand at the crossing we have left the trodden road to embark upon a path of our own creation. That is what it means to be aware of ourselves and to be living in the truth. We must accept the consequences of our choices, even if those consequences are unthinkable and we cannot imagine or understand them. When we find ourselves at the crossing we must consider ourselves blessed for recognizing that this is where we stand, and further, we must march bravely on. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the willingness to move on through it anyway.

“You are the world you have created.” The Jefé tells him. “And when you cease to exist that world you have created will also cease to exist.”

Three hours before I stepped into that movie theater I took a long, meandering walk through a meadow of high grasses and oak trees. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was compelled to walk and so I did. There I stumbled upon the carcass of a buck deer, picked so clean by vultures and coyotes that there was nothing left but white bone held together with sinew dried leather stiff. I looked down on that crazy skeleton and for the life of me I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. What does it even mean to be living? If I don’t understand living, how can I possibly understand death? There’s no point in wasting one moment’s thought on a mystery such as this.

Deer 001

The Counselor is a movie that called to me after I realized that something I thought was still living was in fact dead, and there was nothing I could do to bring it back. Though I tried and I tried. God knows that I did. In the beginning of the movie, Javier Bardem (fantastic) asks Cameron Diaz (scarily good as Malkina) if he reminds her of somebody.

“Yes,” she says “You remind me of somebody who’s dead.”

“Do you miss him?” He says.

“I don’t miss things.” She says. “To miss a thing is to hope that something will come back. But it won’t come back. I’ve known that since I was a little girl”

I cannot say I liked The Counselor. But it is a powerful film, beautifully crafted and written. The acting and direction is excellent. It is a slick, technically proficient achievement. But it is overwrought with imagery and gimmicks that are wholly superfluous to the theme.

But if the mark of a great film is that the viewer takes away a valuable kernel of truth, an understanding of himself that he didn’t quite have before, then The Counselor is a great film. I did learn something from it. I learned that despite my regrets and what I might hope, I have made choices, for years I have made choices, that all led to this moment in which I find myself standing alone for the first time facing loss and grief but also the miracle of living. And there is no way out of this. There is no escape and there is no numbing. I will feel it, and it will pain me but I will not suffer much longer because that is not what God wants for us, to suffer. Suffering is not part of the deal. It’s only what we have chosen.

Malkina may be right. To miss something is to hope it will come back. So be it. I do miss what I lost. To surrender that hope is to give up that part of being human that Cormac McCarthy seems to have forgotten. I thank him for all he’s done for me. He taught me much. But Cormac and I have grown apart. That love I had for his vision died along with the boy who used to believe in it. I’m at the crossing.  I’ve moved on.

o O o

81 thoughts on “The Crossing, The Counselor and the Timely Death of Cormac McCarthy

  1. Not a big movie goer. Thanks for the warning. I don’t need a depressing movie right now. I’m currently suffering from many of my own past decisions. I hope you can work through the pain though. Life’s a bitch isn’t it. Good writing. I hope it helps in your recovery. Keep it up. It helps me.

    • I will say this Daniel: if I had read my review I wouldn’t have gone to see the movie either and thus would have missed an important lesson I needed to learn. I am not saying you should see it, only that sometimes we find what we need in the places that we least expect them. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m not going to call life a bitch though. Life can be very difficult but it is beautiful, loving and filled with opportunities. I will call life a goddess; she can be terrible at times, but she takes care of me if I take care to keep my heart honest and true.

  2. How full of sh*t does someone have to be before he is directly called on it? McCarthy is so full of sh*t you can smell him in the movie theater. The stupidity of his views, and the pretension with which he expresses them, fill the air with a gag-inducing reek. Machado is full of sh*t too. That passage referenced by the “Jefe” is sophomoric tripe. “There is no road, one makes the the road by walking”? Seriously? Come on.

    • I agree, he can be pretentious and *is* so in the way he conveys the message of the film. The vehicle, through which he chose to express his views, was beneath him and beneath us. The message is heavy-handed and force-fed. We don’t need to see a sanitized version of a snuff-film in order to get it. Machado’s prose however is of course taken out of context but is he ‘full of shit’? We choose our own paths, even if those paths follow the well-worn trail of others before us. He’s a poet Steve. We give poet’s the broadest of artistic license because they are speaking their own truth. When we say that a person is ‘full of it’ what we’re really saying is that he’s being disingenuous, he’s being dishonest, he’s being hypocritical. But both McCarthy and Machado show courage in that they engage in an ongoing exploration of meaning and the human condition, and they do so in the light of day, with their names and faces exposed to the world and not behind the safety of an anonymous mask. It’s easy to sling criticism at someone who creates and expresses his or her views in the form of a story, a film, a poem. But it’s not brave. Why not take a moment to reflect and add to the conversation? Calling someone full of shit is not saying anything. It’s sophomoric tripe.

      • As soon as I read Steve W.s comment, my immediate reaction was “What is the context for his criticism?” I had no basis to agree or disagree. I may agree with him entirely. But I was not persuaded at all. I see grenade comments such as this as conversation stoppers, because I usually don’t have the energy or urge to respond. Glad you did.

      • No translation required. : ) Sometimes a story is like an artichoke. You’ve got to peel away a hundred ridiculous leaves in order to find that morsel. It’s work, but it’s worth it. The Counselor is a big artichoke. But that closing monolog is worth all those spiny pricks.

  3. Your interpretation of some of the film’s dialogue is incorrect…..
    Regardless I can’t fully see that this is the only way in which McCarthy defines the world…and has no room for anything less or more…. so absent of hope?
    I think it’s important to look at your own uncomfortability in it…and why you might need to see something else instead of what’s in front of you. Are all situations hopeful?
    Every judgement out is one from within…….you need hope in it…and MCarthy has exposed a situation in which there is seemingly none.
    Destructive cynical and wrong to get on board?
    If you look at it from another angle…is that all McCarthy is really trying to say?
    To me……there really are consequences to our actions….
    He’s asking why, until it gets too close to too late….we don’t give the negative as well as positive outcomes equal value in terms of coming to fruition. It’s like the drug trafficker only ever envisaging the deal always going right and pushing the possibility of it going wrong into the background. We know it’s there but don’t give it the possibility of equal attention.
    A long time ago I used to work at a place where we all left work before our shift legally ended. Hours before, and everyone covered everyone from being caught…because we all did it. And one night I was driving home feeling incredibly anxious, trying hard not to entertain the likelihood of being caught and the consequences of being sacked. And I couldn’t make the anxiety go away…and I pulled over on the side of the road to think. And then I realised what I was doing while I still had the opportunity to go back. I decided that I would go home anyway…but I wasn’t the same anxious person because I took on board the equally likely possibility of being sacked. That for me in that moment….I included both the positive and negative possibilities of my choice…both possible outcomes…..right up to their likely differing end points. My anxiety subsided and I went home and slept well.

    Isn’t being sorry enough???????
    Being sorry must include the space for the receiver to have a different response…& only then does the sorry has integrity, for it no longer requires the other to only exist for your own needed outcome.
    People apologise and then before the other can have the apology, the opportunity is often taken from them……”I’m so sorry, I so don’t deserve you…your so good to me and I’m so horrible to you”….I’m so sorry I kind of knew something could go wrong but I just so badly wanted to believe that the deal would go well and that we would live happily ever after……
    and then the receiver needs to be there for the one who apologised. I’t not clean, it has no risk, no courage in it.
    And we cannot always control the outcome, because yes….the world in which you seek to undo the mistakes you made (‘make’ is incorrect grammar anyway cause it’s past tense)…is different from the world in which the mistakes were made.
    And he doesn’t say…”and you want to choose”. He says and you ARE to choose…..because your finally at the point where you must..not because you want to. And the only choice left is to continue to deny the truth in front of you because it’s all too painful…or to accept the truth…the whole truth……… and all these worlds heretofore unknown to us….
    they must have always been there (I can’t even see it as a question at this point) To me it’s a statement of fact.
    and therein lies the mistake……because they’re not there until they are…but they were always there…… weren’t they?

    • Thank you for this very thoughtful response. But how can my interpretation be incorrect? It’s *my* interpretation. What you’re saying is that my interpretation is different from your interpretation. You make good points and expose much truth. I choose to see that truth and to allow it to alter my interpretation. We agree to disagree on McCarthy’s worldview however. Though as a writer myself I allow for readers’ to take from my work what I had not meant – more unintended consequences. Messages such as the ones we’re talking about arrive in subjective moments of time. Where I am now, there is no other interpretation. Where I am next year? Who knows? You cannot possibly untangle the Gordian knot of choice possibilities beyond the decision node, and one those choices are made. Looking back is futile and pathetic. There is only the now.

  4. Your very kind to have responded, thank you,,,,I was harsh.
    Lets stick to the movie….where we might or might not be in a years time is not in the film.
    He’s defining a situation in which the likely consequences were always there….but conveniently, the counsellor chooses to push the more unpalatable just as likely outcome into the background rather than the foreground. We humans do it all the time.
    I’m not an expert but have studied many religions, inclusive of buddhism…..and I have to subjectively disagree…there is far from only the now. Every singly moment from our past is an inherent part of who we are when we arrive in the now… it continues to inevitably play a role that defines us, and as such, I would argue….. that it is very difficult to subtract it from the now. No matter how many times we learn to reframe the past in the now…I can’t see how it’s no longer there…..and how the now becomes some precious moment in time… uniquely devoid of it’s impact. And then, looking back is not so clear cut as always being only futile and pathetic.

    And P.S. You said, looking back is futile and pathetic… hope there…..and you conclude that you have moved on from McCarthy?
    Make up your mind cause I’m struggling to let you have it both ways.
    We were bound to clash because my deal, a bit like McCarthy’s, is that I will push to no end to expose the core of something……no matter how rotten it is….and can serve it up on a plate that makes it almost impossible to look away from. And it has it’s value….but it would be limited if it was the only way I saw all things. Nonetheless, when people push the unthinkable away……I want to push harder to make them look. Do you have McCarthy’s phone number?
    So I was bound to defend him…. and yet my learning curve is to tread carefully around what is black and white.
    I need to not deliberately defend and/or devalue McCarthys message to only meet my needs.
    And for me, just one more thing…..about the ending of the film The Road… you know who I need to write to to tell them how much they wrecked that?!!!!!!!! unrealistic beyond measure….

    Thanks for listening,
    Kindest regards, ann-mare.

    • I could write a dissertation on McCarthy. I’ve read his entire canon and most of it more than once. I think I have a firm grasp on how he sees the world. I stand by my words. As for the past, nothing from the past is real except love. What we bring from the past that is not love is our ego’s fear-based conception of sin, punishment, guilt, shame, resentment, etc. etc.. None of those concepts are real. We invent them. I appreciate and respect your views. But we should take this off the thread. Feel free to email me at serpentbox_at_gmail

      • I don’t mind it being on the thread. If someone doesn’t want to follow, that’s there choice. I kinda like seeing the perspective of two people looking at the same thing and seeing it differently. Just my two cents.

  5. I dunno what went wrong……cause I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd. I’m trying to stay with the critique of the film.
    I understand your more in depth (than mine) understanding of McCarthys complete outlook on life. I’m ok with that.
    What I’m not doing so well at attempting to say…. is that if you just look at the film, in and of itself….all alone on a shelf by it’s lonesome….the scenario that McCarthy is trying to portray is far from unrealisitic or even uncommon for that matter. It’s you that stretches it to “where I might or might not be in a year from now” as being so totally beyond prediction….and in my struggling humble view….can’t seem (for me) to make it relevant to the critique of the film.
    How far fetched is it that the counsellor cannot possibly entertain the likely scenario of it all going wrong?…..he is even warned from the very start. It (to me) succinctly exposes the consequences of downplaying one likely outcome (to himself)…in favour of the more agreeable palatable one.
    Like…. could the counsellor realistically sit in the car and at that point in time & wonder to himself… the hell he got where he got to???? Like the likelihood was so unbelievably unlikely?
    Fair enough, there are situations …in which it may very well be more difficult to join the dots of how we got to where we got to…..but this (for me) is not one of them.
    Your view “shouldn’t being sorry be enough” is relevant to the critique of the film and for myself connects with the part in which the counsellor feels the suffering of of the consequences to his actions……and even I want being truly sorry to be more than enough to change everything. But in the film….it’s obviously not. Ok McCarthy uses a criminal world to bring his meaning home….the criminals are hardened and unforgiving….and as such, being sorry is far from being enough. The response that devalues the sorry is a likely outcome in our everyday lives…just as equally as it might also sometimes very well be enough. It is something to inherently consider….because human beings have not yet collectively reached some enlightened stage of development in which the importance of being sorry will always suffice. McCarthy exposes that very real fact …..and I think it is important to see how our human wounds (long before they reach the point of life & death scenarios) still find opportunity to devalue the sorry.
    And you bring God into it……(as your personal view in which you are very much entitled to do…in order to highlight your new found for you understandable rejection of McCarthy’s world view….but, in relation to the is (to me) irrelevant. I’m going to leave that one very much alone….unless your happy for me to go there. The film is not about what can/cannot be proved……it’s about what can be very real, inclusive of why that can be so.
    Discussing the meaning/impact/understanding of the past is also somewhat relevant to the film…..but that nothing from the past is real except love…….is an incredibly (to me) limited view. For starters, you say how looking back is futile and pathetic…..but then you want to change that, and throw in how love is the only real thing from the past. The ego, and illusions of pain……now that I’m an expert on.

    • This is not a film critique. This is a personal essay in which a film plays a role. Everything is relevant because it’s my perspective. It is totally subjective. It is unique to me. Perhaps I fail to convey effectively the message I see in the movie as it pertains to my experiences.

      Did you see the movie? I have to ask because it is filled with every trope in the book. So when you say that what McCarthy presents is realistic I have to agree, but only in that such things *could* happen and I suppose do, but what does that have to do with the suspension of disbelief? It doesn’t matter, because I am not analyzing the film in terms of its realism. I am not really analyzing the film at all. This essay is about a relationship with a writer and a catharsis at a particular juncture in a person’s life – mine. It’s all interwoven and complex because life is interwoven and complex. Again, I take responsibility if I fail to convey it clearly.

      I really don’t think going through your last message point by point is productive. But what *is* your point? I am struggling to figure that out. God is only relevant to me in this case because my journey toward understanding God began at the same time I discovered Cormac McCarthy. Proven vs. unproven is an effete argument. God requires no proof, except to the unbeliever. I would never get into that discussion with you.

      This is my blog. It is not an editorially balanced, objective or even coherent experience. I write these things when I am moved to write them and I post my spell-checked first drafts (which often still contain spelling and grammar issues) as soon as I am finished. I don’t go back and revise. That’s for my fiction and prose. This is about exploring ideas. It’s controlled vomiting. If you choose to read my posts you are getting raw, emotional perceptions. It’s as if we were sitting together on a couple of bar stools talking. Except I’m not drunk.

      You want to talk film? Let’s talk film. This movie is a mess. Only the acting and the crackling dialog holds it together. It’s telegraphed from the get-go. It’s rife with cliche. It delivers only in exposition. There’s a reason why it has like a 36% Rotten Tomatoes meta review. I have been generous in my assessment. I call it a “great film” because it spoke to me. And that’s all a film has to do in order to be great.

  6. Wow, thank you so much for sharing all those beautiful quotes.. I’ve been searching for them for a couple of days now so I’m really glad you posted them:)
    Thanks thanks thanks..
    Btw: Beautifully written! 🙂

  7. You are a truly beautiful writer that writes from his heart. I watched the movie and was not enchanted until I heard the quote about the crossing. I have searched everywhere for it and was pleasantly surprised to read your post. It drew me in and seemed as if you read my heart and told my story. Thank you

  8. I, too, am a fan of Cormac McCarthy. Watched this film last night and was sorely disappointed. I know a good deal about film and film history. There are many film-makers and films that lose track of the fact that they are, despite the medium, telling a story. McCarthy is always telling a story. It’s just not always clear what that story might be.

    I was searching online for some explanation of what the hell went on and came across this post. (You made me Google McCarthy by the way because your title implies he has died.)

    Wish McCarthy would explain this story to us. We get that Cameron Diaz plays “the bad guy,” (a very bad person) but we don’t get what precisely what she did, or why, or how. Or why she was even with Reiner (Javier Bardem). We get that Michael Fassbender’s character makes a mistake, but not how that decision to profit from the drug trade relates to everything that happens to him or his fiancee.

    It also seems like quite a conceit that Fassbender’s character is only ever called “Counselor” and we never know a name.

    Loved “No Country for Old Men.” Understood and appreciated “The Road” even though it was supremely dark read and film. This film affected me exactly in the way if affected you – kept wondering why I was watching it.

    • Thanks for your comment LC. I racked my brain for days over this script. I think I had to write the post just to purge my confusion and try and figure the whole thing out. No luck though. Have you seen The Sunset Limited? Better script.

      • I did, and found it much more a like play than a movie, which is what some have said about all the two-person “discussions” in The Counselor.” That it felt like a play. I think McCarthy’s roots are not unlike Sam Shepard’s, who started out as a playwright.

        I also feel that McCarthy seems to keep pushing himself further and further away from anything he’s done before, except that one can’t really escape one’s style, or voice. So some of the dialogue in The Counselor was not unlike a good bit of The Sunset Limited. It was an amazing piece of work with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

  9. I like all your reflections on The counselor although you picture McCarthy inhuman as described in your last part: “Malkina may be right. To miss something is to hope it will come back. So be it. I do miss what I lost. To surrender that hope is to give up that part of being human that Cormac McCarthy seems to have forgotten. I thank him for all he’s done for me. He taught me much. But Cormac and I have grown apart. That love I had for his vision died along with the boy who used to believe in it. I’m at the crossing. I’ve moved on.” Eventually i’ve read, in a part that you have omitted from the Jefè conversation, where he talks about grief in comparison with machado’s fellings that ultimately grief is a worthless feeling and it leads to nothing, McCharty is givin you a kind way out, a resolution.

    • Thank you for your comments Alice. Cormac McCarthy is in many ways my grandfather. He taught me so much. I owe him so much. I do not consider him to be inhuman. But my worldview and his have parted at a crossroads. We seem to have different views on the nature of God. I think what I am trying to say in this piece is that, like a son, I can leave my father in recognition of what he’s given me, with love and honor, while allowing myself to grow into an identity apart from him. As a younger writer I stood in his shadow, willingly, lovingly. As an older writer I am emerging into the light and regarding my own shadow. The Counselor helped me to see something that has always been in front of my eyes. But I will never close the door on my teacher. And I look forward to reading his next novel and his next after that.

  10. Thank you for your answer. I guess McCarthy is a realist, he does no need the recognition of believers or atheists, his nature is contemporarily hard and delicate and striking truthful. I totally agree with the abandonment of the master, i, myself, dont like the concept of being a fan or god adulation, nevertheless i’m grateful for authors like him as we are everyday distracted by false worlds. Hope to find more publications translated in my language.

  11. I thought it was an extraordinary movie, the best scene, as you said , involved the soliloquy from Jefe, so similar to Macbeth ( what is done cannot be undone).
    I found it hard to watch on a number of levels. I too, have recently made choices that I would like to ‘ undo’ . I am the world I have created, and will have to live with the consequences of my choices.

    Thank you for your writing, it’s magnificent.

    • I will humbly accept your superlative Justin, thank you, but what is magnificent, to me, is that a work of art, an expression of ideas, a story, can bridge us, and teach us, and provide us with this mirror. So in that sense The Counselor is a wild success. To nitpick (as I have done) seems, now, petty and distracting. I thank you for your contribution.

  12. This review is what I needed to read about the film. I have been reading reviews for a few hours since I watched it, and I have not been able to find one which takes the bad taste out of my mouth till here. I become pretty emotionally involved with films and this one did not seem to care for that. Thanks again and I really appreciate your words here friend.

    • Matt, I was surprised to see a comment this morning on this little essay I wrote so long ago. I suppose that now that it’s out on DVD it’ll find a wider audience. Every time I think about it I shudder. I am just so grateful I’ve woken up. Thanks for your feedback brother.

  13. in my reading and watching of Cormac McCarthy’s work, i imagine a man deeply in love and saddened as deeply by the loss of that love. the loss is something that hasnt happened yet but is inevitable. the loss was foretold in the actions, past and present, of men seeking, groping blindly for something with which to stave off the inevitable. they grasp greedily for gold and for power and to what end? they grasp for women to use, to own, and in the use and ownership see the emptiness of that endeavor, see themselves enslaved. he, the author, loves this world and loves women and men and children and all life and he sees the choices made, a design promoted, a worldview extended to its logical conclusion. he creates as a warning to us all. how grotesquely can i show you to yourselves, he asks, to help you to see that you may choose differently?
    the world and all that he loves is dying at the hands of those who cling to this mistaken worldview. there is no god waiting to redeem you at the exit. there is no forgiveness for what youve done to this garden. he so wants you to see and to turn away from this path but in his intelligence and clearsightedness he knows that you will not, that you will follow your footsteps to their preordained conclusion.
    i think that his novel, THE CROSSING, may be the most hopeful of his works. the boy, grown old, sits under the overpass opposite the other elder. the world is not yet dead. the dying will take a long time yet. there are yet dreams to be had. the boy grown old has the satisfaction, as does the protagonist of ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, of having walked a path with heart.
    that’s my take on it. thought i’d share

    • And I am moved by your take, and appreciate it very much. The Crossing is his best work in my opinion. It is the one I turn to again and again for…something. Perhaps the hope you allude to. I thank you for your visit and your words Diondega. Feel free to find me on Facebook if you’re there and friend me in, or on Google+ or whatever. VC

  14. I like part of your comment, I also see that you are afraid of the darkness of life. You see in America hope is a symbol Easy to follow, In a third world country hope is a luxury. I suggest you try to understand the TAO. Evil and good walk beside each other. Also travel, you will see how lucky you are and will learn to count your blessings. Ciao.

  15. One of the MOST moving conversation two men can have; and the realization that most of us if not all find ourselves in instances we wish to make “new” choices to rectify the present that became as a result of a past. I don’t know how many times I watched that scene and each time it feels like a first. It would have been awesome to read the rest of the conversation.

    • Thank you for the comment Monna. I agree, I found that conversation fascinating to listen to and watch. McCarthy’s work is full of such moments. If you’ve not read him, do pick up one of his novels. I’d recommend All the Pretty Horses to start.

  16. the debth of your insight is truely remarkable. You see very clearly into your soul. Most of us dont take time to think let alone reason. But that is were truth lies. This post is very powerful

  17. I saw the movie last night with my husband. We are huge fans of Bardem and Ruben Blades. I have read some of McCarthy. Reading the blog and all of the comments is an excellent way to understand the movie better. I love the Machado poem delivered by Ruben Blades. I love that Bardem is such a great actor. I think Diaz makes a good villain. it would be difficult to recommend this movie to friends, but this discussion thread helps me understand the meaning of the film. Even if it is pretentious it was worth watching to see Brad, Bardem and Blades in the same movie. It is worth it to see how Bardem will transform himself. My husband loved the film and he is very critical of most, so watching the movie and discussing it afterwards gave us lots to think about.

  18. I just watched the movie (twice) on HBO and the Crossing scene made the movie for me… which prompted me to google to see what others said and found your essay. Just read the essay and all the comments. Great thread, wonderful comments all. I have not previously read McCarthy, I did see “No Country for Old Men”, which I also enjoyed. Somehow, I completely missed this movie last year and because of all the great actors, I decided to watch it, completely unaware of what to expect, other than what the HBO overview said. I agree with the sentiment that when art causes you to reflect, to confront, to think about what you have observed and felt, then it is great art. Whatever one thinks about the cinematography, movie making, plot, etc., the power of the dread and regret and awfulness of the world created, juxtaposed with a cartel leader quoting poetry and confronting (I thought with gangster empathy) his prey was for me, powerful. Thanks for your essay.

  19. I watched the movie a couple weeks ago while I was surfing the cable channels, and I was absolutely riveted by the words of the Jefe to the Counselor; that scene was undoubtedly the best part of the movie. The philosophy of the Jefe hit a resonant chord within me, because recently I have been reflecting on my life and the choices I have made – wistfully wishing that I could somehow go back in time and make different choices. It’s as if the Jefe was speaking directly to me, telling me that I had no alternative but to accept the choices I made and the resulting consequences; whereas most would see that as hopeless resignation, I see it as a cautionary opportunity to consider present and future choices, and their consequences, very carefully. Now that I’m aware of the crossing and the cross-roads, the real hope lies in making better choices than I have in the past.
    Since that first viewing, I have watched ‘The Counselor’ three more times, unable to stop myself from watching it. The only other ‘work’ of Cormack McCarthy I have been exposed to, was the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’; however, I will now read some more of his offerings, starting with the border trilogy – “All The Pretty Horses”, “The Crossing”, and “Cities of The Plain”.
    Thanks for all the helpful information in this blog.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response Bill. I think we all have made those choices we wish we could somehow undo. Thank God I’ve not made any with such dire consequences involved. I’ve not killed anybody. But I’ve almost killed myself. If we are lucky enough to get this opportunity – the opportunity to reflect – then there’s time to make amends and do things right. Read All the Pretty Horses next.

  20. Enjoyed your discussion of the counselor. I too left the movie particularly taken by the phone exchange, as well as a statement by Bardem’s character when he knows he’s in trouble, something about, “thinking we still have room, when all of a sudden the situation closes on us”.
    The obvious elements of the story progression for me was also poetic, accurately reflecting a well traveled, human path. Covetousness, greed, pride, perhaps innate, perhaps inspired or at least encouraged by love. Most of us can recall being inexplicably drawn down a losing road…

    Indeed the world in which we seek to correct our mistakes is different than the world in which they were made…

    While this message is presented through experiences of the most reprobate among us, the extreme illustration may provide a sobering moment for those with better intentions for their lives.


    • My understanding is changing/has changed since this posting. The bitter taste of The Counselor has lessened in my mouth. But it still represents such a sad world-view. Perhaps what I’ve come to believe is that it is ourselves we struggle to forgive, and in that struggle is the correction begun. The human ego is unquenchably voracious, ravenous, beserk in its pursuit to godify (deify?) itself. If there is an original ‘sin’ that is it. The devil is a metaphor. Satan is us. But so is Christ, and it’s that fundamental misconception that fuels McCarthy’s delusions. Thank you Ray for your thoughtful response.

    • Thank you Dustin for your visit. It’s still amazing to me that this post garners attention. It was never meant to be a public discussion, but a way for me to process the material and come to terms with my illusions.

  21. To be honest, when I read the title of this piece, I immediately checked Cormac McCarthy in wikipedia, like one does, and was relieved to see he is still with us. But it caused me to put away actually reading the whole until today, which is a pity as it’s beautiful writing and very true about this film. I’m also quite struck by how thoughtfully you reply to everyone here – no matter whether you can agree with them or not. I have a feeling that most of your readers actually do leave a comment ? You’d know better yourself, of course, as the owner of the blog.
    I agree with you that the movie’s world view is somewhat pessimistic, and personally I never actually understood exactly what the Counsellor did to get into his particular predicament, but that didn’t mar my appreciation, (rather than ‘enjoyment’), of the film. I also agree, whole-heartedly, with your observation just above that is is we, ourselves, whom we most struggle to forgive.
    The Jefé’s dialogue with the doomed protagonist, including the Marchado mini-bio, is, for me, probably the best part of it, although there are several other very quotable passages:
    “When someone looks at a diamond, he wants to share in its eternity, to celebrate the fleeting nature of beauty, the nobility of its fragility … we announce to the darkness, we shall not be diminished by the brevity of our lives,” reminded me of the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night”.
    Also, “You don’t know someone until you know what they want”, (ouch !)
    And, “Greed really takes you to the edge, doesn’t it ? That’s not what greed does, that’s what it is …”
    The first time I saw the movie, I typed up the quote, “When you cease to exist, the world you have created will also cease to exist …”, and left it at that. Then, just a few days ago, I watched the film again and this time I felt compelled to transcribe practically the whole conversation, especially the summary of Marchado – “he was a school-teacher, he loved a beautiful girl, she died and he became a great poet”, which is truly masterful.
    And the way it leads into a reflection on the futility of regret – “In grief, the normal rules of exchange do not apply – for grief is worthless”, no matter what a grieving man “would give to lift the grief off his heart.”
    As the Jefé says, “We should all prepare a place … for the tragedies that come upon our lives.” I will try to prepare such a place, and the Jefé speech will be its centrepiece as well as lending itself well to sharing with people, friends who may be suffering in their souls.
    And when the day comes that I must “understand that I’m living the last days of the world”, I hope that it’s true that, “Death acquires a different meaning … in that transcendent despair,” I hope I’ll, “understand that the philosophers’ stone will always be found despised and buried in the mud … and then, all the grand designs and all the grand plans will finally be exposed for what they are.”
    In the meantime, I will keep an eye open for Cormac McCarthy’s novels as you have recommended them so well in this thoughtful, reflective, warm and very honest piece of writing.
    Thank you, and to all the other contributors here who somehow influenced me to offer these reflections of my own.

    • The more intelligent, thoughtful reponses like this I get the more my feelings about this film evolve. Thank you Caminante. The movie is a mess, though enjoyable. The dialog is however valuable. The ideas valuable. Heck, I’m still talking about it. All of what I say/have said must be understood through MY experiences with McCarthy and my own filters and my own journey. But even now my feelings have mellowed. We can talk about this as a film, and we can talk about it thematically and neither POV negates the other. In this sense this is the function of art. I think I may have said this in a previous comment. Thank you for your truly wonderful response. ~ Vincent

  22. To happen upon an essay such as this elevates me for some reason. And even more than that is my surprise at how the spirits of many others are provoked to launch their own musings in the comments section. Like your response to one writer, I too, find myself giving you the broadest of artistic license because you are speaking your own truth. I saw the movie before I read your essay, and reading your piece gave clarity to
    something the movie stirred in me, which I can’t say share yet as I’m still processing the feelings. But this is what I can share for now: that the movie, for me, was an art piece, sublime. And much like all great art, it was to be beheld for its own sake, like watching a sunset. I’m overwhelmed by the scene, yet the thought of possessing it does not enter my mind. Or watching a lion brutally chase down a gazelle in the countless National Geographic specials I’ve seen. Without prompting, my judgment is suspended, neither damning the lion for its
    nature, nor projecting my own morality on the creature. I may have felt a pang of pity on the gazelle, but the feeling passes on as quickly as the sense of awe takes over me again. I hope I haven’t digressed too much. This is merely my own, long-winded way of saying, “Thank you”.

    • It really was a very personal experience for me, that film at that time. And I didn’t imagine it had the power that apparently it does, to have moved so many. I wonder how I’d feel watching it again now? Thank you Galahad. And of course, you’re welcome. : )

  23. To happen upon an essay such as this elevates me for some reason. And even more than that is my surprise at how the spirits of many others are provoked to launch their own musings in the comments section. Like your response to one writer, I too, find myself giving you the broadest of artistic license because you are speaking your own truth. I saw the movie before I read your essay, and reading your piece gave clarity to
    something the movie stirred in me. I can’t share much about it as I’m still processing new insights given to me. But this much I can say for now: that the movie was, for me, an art piece, sublime. And much like all great art, it was to be beheld for its own sake, like watching a sunset. I’m overwhelmed by it, yet the thought of possessing it does not enter my mind. Or watching a lion brutally chase down a gazelle in the countless National Geographic specials I’ve seen. Without prompting, my judgment is suspended, neither damning the lion for its nature, nor projecting my own morality on the creature. I may have felt a pang of pity on the gazelle, but the feeling passes on as quickly as the sense of awe takes over me again. I hope I haven’t digressed too much. This is merely my own, long-winded way of saying, “Thank you”.

  24. Pingback: The Crossing, The Counselor and the Timely Death of Cormac McCarthy – difovoice

  25. Found this after looking up the quotes I found important in the movie. This is beautifully written and even brought tears to my eyes.

  26. Vincent … a late thanks for your response to my comment, it meant / means a great deal to me and I don’t think the continually growing readership of this posting at all ‘crazy’. For as long as this piece stays up on your blog, and as long as ‘the Counsellor’ continues to make ‘friends of its own’, (as one film-maker said, “like growing children, our movies go out into the world and make friends all of their own”), this posting of yours will also continue to make its own friends amongst those of us whom this film moved to find this, your commentary, which still, for me – and obviously many others, continues to extend and deepen our appreciation of the film, and stir our curiosity about other works by Cormac McCarthy, Marchado and others – including your own 🙂

  27. [Context: I have read, in this order, Outer Dark, Child of God, The Cherry Orchard, and Blood Meridian; and I’ve seen No Country for Old Men and the Road. I want to read Suttree; I feel dubious about reading the Border trilogy. Lastly, I came to McCarthy by way of Faulkner ultimately.]

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so I might have missed if anyone dwelt on the part of the title of your blog where you name the timely death of McCarthy, but the remark seems apt. Thematically, I don’t think Hollywood has been good for McCarthy’s process, though the relationship between book and film, between author and Hollywood (so adorably played with by the Coens in Barton Fink, incidentally) are subject to tons of exploration.

    If I’m reading you correctly–and, by the way, you needn’t feel surprised anyone still finds this blog entry; it’s cited in Wikipedia–your emphasis is on the irretrievability of crossing; the seemingly infinite possibilities before, the seeming inevitabilities behind, and the sometimes agonizing decision that must be made with each step–particularly steps made with a fatal amount of only partial knowledge, so that later on we can see the moment when “fate” (or death) actually placed its mark on us and everything else is just working out at that point.

    This is the one of the major differences between Faulkner and McCarthy. Obviously, McCarthy is inspired by Faulkner, so that both of them are utterly involved in what we would call “history”–but for Faulkner, however he personalizes the narrative, is a collective history, symbolically using Yoknapatawpha County to represent the South, if not the United States; whereas McCarthy particularizes the narrative, providing an individual “history” embedded in the world at large, and using the (existentially empty) world to represent the world.

    One of the ways this most comes across: there is virtually not a single word in Faulkner’s body of work that is not uttered through the framework of some character. Even in his last book, which can look like third-person narration, begins with the first line, “Grandfather said:” and then the rest of the book follows. Of course, like his characters in As I Lay Dying, “grandfather” talks pretty weird at times and hyper-nonrealistically, but that’s not the point. (Nor is it the point that ultimately all of Faulkner’s characters “are” him.) With McCarthy, we have many speaking characters, a wealth of dialogue (apparently almost exclusively lately), but the narrator still reserves a third-person point of view. In Faulkner, you never see “the world” unmediated; in McCarthy, the unmediated world is the conventional one of narrative most of the time. Even a “realistic” like Jason Compson in The Sound and the Fury shows us the world through his eyes–and Faulkner gives us four visions of the world (through Benjy, Quentin, Jason, and Dilsey). It maybe that McCarthy is specifically reaction against this, but I don’t think so.

    Sorry if this is all a lot of background (especially if you already know it) just to get to a point, but the contrast matters. Because Faulkner perpetually invests his characters with an absolute refusal of defeat, no matter how hopeless their situation. In fact, some of his most ennobled characters are precisely the ones that march off into their damnation, not as suicides, but still in protest, dragged kicking and screaming as it were. Reading this in a hostile way, you could say Faulkner believes in hope while McCarthy doesn’t, or is at least quickly sceptical about it. (I always find that authors who finish books about hopelessness have contradicted their attempt.)

    But, if I centre my attention on what you highlight in your blog, the crossroads, then there’s a less facile comparison between the authors. In Requiem for a Nun (a rather wooden drama by Faulkner), his protagonist argues that she is responsible for her black maid murdering her infant child. The maid did so as a mercy killing, so that it would not have to grow up under the care of someone like the protagonist. But the protagonist argues that the fault is still hers, because it was she who’d fatefully left the house one night and wound up in the situation (depicted in Faulkner’s Sanctuary) by which she became pregnant. This sense of distant causality is all over Faulkner’s work. In Absalom, Absalom, Faulkner construes the Civil War as the mechanism by which a personal disagreement between two half-brothers will be settled. (If one or either of them is killed in the war, that ends their dilemma). And in the Bear, famously rather tediously and belaboured, the entire history of the region is genealogized back to Adam and Eve.

    Against these enormous historical weights, all of which signify the position of the South after the Civil War, Faulkner’s characters try to move forward. And importantly, if memory serves, Quentin Compson (in Sound and the Fury) is the only one who opts for suicide. He’s the only one who stands at the crossroads and refuses to go forward (or “turns” into the river of death instead). But all of them are burdened by constraints and inevitabilities from the past. They are all guilty, not even like Oedipus, of crimes and sins of their forebears.

    Again, yes, in Requiem for a Nun, the protagonist identifies her own (classically tragic) fatal mistake in leaving the house. When she stepped across that threshold, she says that’s the moment when she murdered her infant (via the proxy of her black maid). She certainly didn’t want that, and her nobility (racially paternalistic as it is for the day) is in stepping forward to accept the punishment (a death sentence) for her act.

    In McCarthy, he waffles on the degree to which individuals make the classically tragic mistake–whether an act of hubris, intentional or not, actually informs that all of the furies then rain down execration and death upon them. In No Country for Old Men, for instance, stealing the drug money is the fatal act that unleashes Chiguhr, etc. In Outer Dark, one can blame the incest as the fatal error, but the scourge of the strangers wandering the countryside seems far more vast and impersonal than punishment for any merely human act of hubris.

    Of course, we feel that classically ambiguous sympathy/fear for Moss in No Country–it’s not just that he’s crossed a line and annoyed the wrong people, he’s indulged in crime himself. This just seems an entanglement of the tragic form itself, but McCarthy brings it to a stereotypical end, with the fury of the gods (Chiguhr) wiping out the cast, even the wife, and then moving on. It’s a very conventional message, and warning (as tragedy always is) about not crossing lines. Of course, in Blood Meridian, crossing into Mexico takes the Kid into no man’s land. The Platitude, “Don’t go there” applies–and unless you are supernaturally ruthless, like the Judge, then you won’t do well. No doubt this is pursued in less cosmic terms in the Border trilogy–you’ll have to fill that in for me, because I haven’t read it.

    So, why McCarthy’s timeless death. What struck me about the Road (and I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its movie), but McCarthy indulges in a surprising degree of sentimentality in that movie. That the son gets to a safe place is a remarkable thing in McCarthy’s body of work as far as I have known it. It might be “ambiguous” how well the son will do or whatnot, but the death (sacrifice) of the father is construed as adequate to save the son (the next generation). [I’m certainly not excited that McCarthy has to already kill off and have the mother play no role in the son’s salvation–standard male fantasy stuff at work there.]

    In general, it seems like McCarthy is attempting to resurrect the notion of metaphysical evil, not just bad behaviour by people. The no god thesis of this–at least in our Protestant ethos–means that there’s only a devil but that’s just a polite fiction; if there is any metaphysical evil, then it is certainly YHVH. [Tom Waits has that brilliant line: “don’t you know that there’s no devil; that’s just god when he gets drunk”]. But you can’t write a world about hopelessness and evil–your book contradicts the effort.

    So, having said all the above, the major difference between Faulkner and McCarthy becomes that Faulkner still understands that history, as much as good or evil, are the stories we tell. This is why everything said in his books is said by someone. McCarthy, by contrast, disguises or masks his point of view in a third-person frame.

    And this goes to what you are saying about hope, broadly speaking. Standing at the crossroads, all of Faulkner’s characters still have the opportunity to–in fact, they rather compulsively insist on–construct a narrative about their situation; they explain their circumstance (to us as well) in a narrative, so that they can keep moving forward. IT contrasts strikingly with Hemingway’s rather cheap cynicism, which ultimately seems like thwarted little boy attitudes. McCarthy adopts this as well, but with considerably more artistry and thoughtfulness, but the narrative he selects out of all that might be said is that violence and defeat are inevitable (unless you are violence or defeat itself, like Chiguhr). This is cheap, and I think it is why you have outgrown McCarthy. Because even the doomed characters in McCarthy still go forward to their doom. We, as readers or viewers, can always see an element of hope, even if the characters claim there is none.

    And this, ultimately, explains the sentimentality in the Road. The pious wish (unexamined by a sequel) that the children will make good on what the adults have fucked off is just as vacuous and shallow as “there’s no hope”. If you make evil so total, and predestined so entrenched, that nothing matters at all, then the only thing you can counter that with is some vague “intuition” about heaven, or the good, after all.

    If McCarthy originally engaged Faulkner and literature and life through the lens of the radically agonising moment of (sometimes) fatal choice at the crossroads, he’s pushed that idea beyond its human context to the point where he has nothing left to offset it but vacuous piety. That may even explain the final monologue in No Country to some extent. If so, then he has indeed suffered a timely death and stopped being humanly relevant, though still a gorgeous sentence writer—all that’s left then is aesthetic pleasure (an emotional rush); a very symptomatic outcome for our present era to be sure. It concerns me that he’s started writing plays and screenplays rather than novels, since novels are what he writes best–I think he’s done for. Previously I would have considered him a shoe-in for a Nobel Prize in Literature, but he might be fucking that off, if he hasn’t already, no thanks to Hollywood. Blood Meridian is likely the place where he fell off the horse (his penchant for resorting to Mexican drug dealers and Mexico as the essence of evil is pretty xenophobic) though maybe he still had enough left for the Border trilogy. Maybe that’s where his best work is. I don’t know. My impression is that the sentimentality has already started to creep in there–sentimentality rather than a clear-eyed assessment of the actual human condition of the crossroads and crossings.

    But whatever he’s up to, the fashionable cynicism his fans draw from his work (or put into his movies) is banal, and overwhelmingly far too often expressed males—more disappointed little boys that the entire universe didn’t gratify their every wish.

    • Snow Leopard – this is the best, most thoughtful, comprehensive comment I’ve received on any blog post. Thank you so much for taking the time to draft this incredible response.

      So much I could say but I’m going to stay brief here. I am not well-read when it comes to Faulkner, so I can’t speak to the comparisons intelligently, though your insight is illuminating as heck. If nothing else you are inspiring me to read more Faulkner, and I will.

      Since you confess to have not read the other comments (and who would?) let me explain that this essay is quite personal in nature and is not meant to be a literary analysis. You seem to not only know these writers well but your euridition leads me to believe you might even be an academic, and I just don’t have those kinds of chops.

      I’m a writer, and McCarthy was for me a big inspiration for me as a writer. He was also a sort of spiritual touchstone in terms of his worldview. When I was a younger man I shared that worldview. I don’t any longer. And The Counselor was the watershed moment for me. It’s when I realized I had changed. A lot. I love Cormac McCarthy. If I ever get the chnace to meet him I will kneel and kiss his ring, not because I worship him but because of what he gave to me. I am the writer that I am in no small part because of him (it was Hemingway too, they are my pillars). His ‘death’ was metaphorical for me. And my blog is nothing more than a medium through which I explore who and where I am in any given moment.

      I think your letter/essay deserves a better repsonse than this but I’m at work and functioning on only half a brain. I would welcome a correspondence or connection with you outside this medium if you wish. I am very active on Facebook and my email is serpentbox_at_gmail_dot_com

      Thank you again sir (I say sir because I infer from your tone a masculinity but you may well be a woman so please excuse my assumption if that’s so).


  28. That conversation between the counsellor and Jeff. I have been exposed to conversations that can alter one view of Life, But that is wow. Everytime i listen to it, something new comes to mind, like a realization, Especially about the Despair which is transcendent, I even went as far as reading the word of Soren Kierkegraard. I believe The movie is fantastic, it has many quotes that can teach one more about life, choices, death, greed, Sex, is it safe for me to say it is philosophical? I would not want to be specific about the angle of philosophy?

  29. Eh. Too much pretentious and arbitrary philosophizing going on in this thread of pseudo-intellectuals petting each other’s egos.
    The film is telegraphed from the get-go? Virtually all films are, to a greater or lesser extent. What a horrible metric to put to use on anything meaningful.
    The film is no more telegraphed or cliched than your “novel” insights are.
    “I looked down on that crazy skeleton and for the life of me I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. What does it even mean to be living? If I don’t understand living, how can I possibly understand death? There’s no point in wasting one moment’s thought on a mystery such as this.”

    Wow, beautiful. Are you ready to be a human now? Do you want to say what you’re thinking or feeling? I won’t waste a sentence telling you how hypocritical it is to include those questions in a lengthy blog in which you muse over meanings and various philosophical notions. I’ll waste two.

    What a platitudinous garble of word salad and cheap ideas. If this is somehow ameliorating or cathartic, have at it, but this is lame writing with a guise of sophistication and depth only the desperately shallow won’t see through. If you’re going to spend time doing this, find some ideas that are either new or sensical.

  30. Thankful for this horrendous movie because it spawned this post and I got to read it… Cheers mate!!! Love love only love!

  31. I still watch this movie from time to time for the scene with Jefe at the end. I don’t get the philosopher’s stone line (I think that was way too pretentious anyway), but the rest of the lines make sense.
    I would LOVE for more context, and this page is the best on the entire Interwebz.

    Can’t believe how masterful Rueben Blades is.

  32. Just watched it for the first time. I’ve read all the comments and won’t belabor most of the points and that marvelous scene. That said, one line that has not been discussed is El Jefe says at the end that he may take a nap after the call. What do we make of that? Is it something akin to ‘the show must go on’? Either way, great blog post, I enjoyed reading it.

    • It’s been years since I’ve seen the film. Who knows what McCarthy means? Everyrthing is cryptic, and I like it that way. It could mean whatever you want it to mean. Thanks for the comment.

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