The recommendation is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. You may have seen the film, but if you have or haven’t then let this be your introduction to, in my view, the best living American novelist. No Country is a chilling thriller, written in the pared down, stark but still beautiful prose that is McCarthy’s trademark. His recent writing (cf. The Road) has become more explicitly apocalyptic and religious in force (in the sense that McCarthy’s work seems to me to be an attempt to articulate the consequences of God’s absence). If you enjoy it then go back to All the Pretty Horses, which is the one that got me hooked.
The quotation comes from a couldn’t-be-more-different-if-it-tried novel, Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, or rather from the introduction to the edition I am reading by the writer John Burnside. He is discussing the human desire to withdraw and escape from the demands of living in the contemporary world:
For may of us, the only sphere of authenticity is the personal; the public realm, the political and social, appears to have become corrupted beyond redemption. The desire to withdraw, to be quiet, to stake out some limited, controllable space, is widespread, and the longing for authenticity is presented, not as a profound spiritual need, but as a form of treatable neurosis … Most important of all is the way in which we have been persuaded that what we need/want is parephernalia, rather than a path; entertainment, rather than thought; tidiness, rather then order.John Burnside, ‘Introduction’ to Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (London: Vintage, 1999), ix.