This essay explores the suggestion that many American narratives are supplementary, correcting narratives – alternatives to the main story on offer. The guiding thought is that of Henry James's “possible other case,” and the chief example is Cormac McCarthy's “No Country for Old Men,” in which one story after another fails to cope with the ongoing mystery it faces. The novel may imply, then, that narrative itself, rather than any individual report or fiction, is in crisis or has come to the end of its road. A coda to the essay proposes the option of nonnarrative understandings of the world in those extreme situations where storytelling is no longer the sense-making activity we so often take it to be.

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