by Walter Chaw When I read The Crossing, I believed it to be the finest American novel in the Southern Gothic tradition since Faulkner rolled up Yoknapatawpha County under his arm and went home. Then I read Blood Meridian, and thought I was in the presence of maybe the most important American author since, who, Pynchon? But after that, Cormac McCarthy dried up. I didn't care for Cities on the Plain, his wrapping up of the lauded "Border Trilogy" that began with All the Pretty Horses and sandwiched The Crossing in between, and I thought No Country For Old Men was weak and obvious, lacking fire, while The Road was well and completely flaccid. Going backwards didn't help: Child of God was a fragment, Suttree had that bit with the pig but not much else, and the incest fairytale Outer Dark seemed a sketch. But then the Coens adapted No Country for Old Men as a summary critique of the key themes of McCarthy's work, and I was entranced again, or at least willing to give his stuff a shot again. It's the mark of a gifted critic, and the Coens are our most gifted literary critics, to reanimate something that's been dead for a while. So we land here, following a too-faithful screen translation of The Road and the curious, forgettable, elderly HBO flick The Sunset Limited (first written by McCarthy as a play) with the inevitability of a film, The Counselor, based on an original screenplay by McCarthy, supervised by McCarthy to the point of McCarthy giving line readings to frickin' Michael Fassbender, and promoted with McCarthy billed almost as prominently in the breathless trailer as director Ridley Scott and co-star Brad Pitt. And, yes, this film by a novelist twenty years past his prime, dabbling now in a new medium like old Michael Jordan playing baseball, stinks of an almost Greek hubris, an almost Icarean overreaching. The Counselor is uniquely awful.