Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

2006; 287 pages. Genre : Contemporary Literature. Awards : 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; 2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Fiction); Oprah's Book Club selection for April 2007. Soon to come out as a movie, starring LOTR's Aragorn. Overall Rating : B+..

   "He lay listening to the water drip in the woods. Bedrock, this. The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void. Carried forth and scattered and carried forth again. Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported in the ashen air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone."

   .In a post-apocalytpic world (most likely done in by a hit from a comet), a dying father and his son struggle just to survive another day. Ash is everywhere; all plant life is dead, as are most animals; the weather is unchanging : cold, rainy, and blowing ash; and the few remaining humans scrounge desperately for whatever scraps of food might still be found.

What's To Like...
    The father and son are two great character studies. The former remembers "the world before", but refrains from telling the son about it, for fear of depressng him about their current lot. Ironically, the son (who apparently was born right around the time of "the event") has a lot more hope and humanity within him than the dad. Yet the father's stoniness is driven by his love for the son, and his resolve for the boy to somehow survive.

    .Then there's the concept of Character Development, something almost unheard of in stories anymore. The father gradually succeeds in instilling in his son the skills and the mindset to cope with the bleak world, and in the end, their roles are almost reversed.
    The "e.e. cummings" literary style takes some getting used to, and some of the technical details are hard to believe - such as a dog somehow managing to survive for 10 years or so without anyone eating him. Also, if you're not in the habit of watching The History Channel's "end of the world" shows, you may find some of the horrors of this foodless world repulsive. Such as the "shish-ka-baby" scene.

"Mankind is only about three missed-meals away from degenerating into savagery."
    Cormac McCarthy is 75 years old, and this book is dedicated to his 8-year-old son. The Road seems to me to be a message to that son from a father who recognizes he won't be around for most of his kid's life. The fact that McCarthy weaves that message into an end-of-the-world setting and writes it in a unique style makes this book worthy of its Pulitzer Prize. The book offers much to think about in this world where most of us would starve in a couple days if the supermarkets and Circle-K's disappeared. But in the end, you will enjoy The Road more if you focus on the people, and not the post-apoc events.

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