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``No Country for Old Men'' by Cormac McCarthy; Knopf ($24.95)
It seems like it has taken all summer to trudge through ``For Whom the Bell Tolls.'' On the other hand, Cormac McCarthy's desert-hued, blood-drenched ninth novel, despite possessing a snipping of Hemingway's stylistic genes, races along from start to finish.
In ``No Country for Old Men'' (Knopf; $24.95), McCarthy intertwines the fates of three men. Llewellyn Moss is an innocent, a welder by trade, who happens upon the scene of a desert massacre and makes off with a valise of drug cash. Chigurh (sounds like "sugar") is the icy, flawless killer who's after him. And then there's Sheriff Bell, whose capacity for balm in this brutal world is sorely tested. "I think we are all of us ill prepared for what is to come," Bell reflects.
That money corrupts and goodness doesn't always win are no great new ideas. But in McCarthy's hands they seem transformed. McCarthy's astringent vision comes wrapped again in bare-naked, near-reckless prose. It smokes; and it tolls for thee.
You'd think that a book on the sex lives of Iranian women would be of little interest to the average reader. Well, consider that it's another gem from the hand-drawn world of Marjane Satrapi, author of the two-volume, graphicized childhood memoir ``Persepolis.''
Her latest is ``Embroideries'' (Pantheon; $16.95), in which Satrapi, who lives in Paris, depicts a frank and lively Tehran gab session presided over by her grandmother. The grandmother is a woman, we learn at the outset, who chases off the morning grumps with a spot of opium in her tea. Except for the occasional reminder of Iranian cultural tradition, you'd think you were eavesdropping on an appletini klatsch. These women think as little of their men as any. Satrapi's comic style has a guileless, unpolished charm, even as her subjects get downright nasty. Graphic, indeed.
(c) 2005, The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.