Review: The Road. Cormac McCarthy. NY: Randon House, 2006.
ISBN: 978-0-307-26543-2 (0-307-26543-9)
and a few announcements
If Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road were a short story, it would be among the best. Father and son journey through alien lands on a mission. The atmosphere leaks black soot like a gentle rain from Hell. Some cataclysm burned the land, emptied the cities. All but a savage handful have left behind their dead where they fell. The pair, who call themselves “the good guys,” push a grocery cart of food along deserted highways, wary for “the bad guys.” Ten miles a day, from somewhere along the Atlantic seaboard to perhaps what would have been Mexico, or Miami.
McCarthy loads this adventure yarn with a powerful moral hook. The father still grieves for his dead wife, the boy trudges on stonily, but like any, looking to dad for guidance. Encounters with depraved locals qualify as pure horror writing, some of which is definitely not for young children or the squeamish. Beware of a scene—the author telegraphs it so the cautious reader can skip past—when the father and son come upon an abandoned meal.
If you’ve ever been hopelessly cold you’ll be glad McCarthy’s synaesthesia falls short. I hate the cold. The cold, and the ever-present danger, wear on readers as much for the tension as the repetitiveness. The cold because it’s the least believable part of the characters’ experience. Despite rain, snow, being caught in open territory, the pair always escape getting soaked and die from hypothermia. When they get wet, their luck holds out and they find a structure with a fireplace and enough wood to build fires. Invariably they’ll find a can of peaches or some other foodstuffs that passed notice through recent history.
Despite their momentary invincibility, readers will pull for the father and son. The boy carries toys with him in the cart, and he’s not sure he can shoot himself through the mouth to prevent his capture by the savages. Their monosyllabic exchanges give the relationship between son and father a feral nature. Still, it’s a father raising his son to do his best with whatever they have, a few grains of alfalfa seed for a meal, or the luxury of wizened apples that escaped the fires that flattened Georgia.
I usually resist reading jacket blurbs but one stood out when I picked up my copy at Costco:
A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.
“Postapocalyptic” caught my eye cause it’s the word that comes to mind when I think of the landscape of Waiting for Godot, which always struck me as post something, but still, lofty company. Several titles suggest themselves as masterpieces of the postapocalyptic, setting the bar high for that bit of backcover hyperbole. Of the four that come immediately to mind, I rank The Road as fifth.
In the 1950s, we used to worry about nuclear war and spreading clouds of radiation. The last safe place on earth, the myth went, would be Australia. That was the postapocalypse that moved readers to On the Beach by Nevil Shute. The Disappearance by Philip Wylie splits the world into mirror dimensions, one for women one for men. The women learn to make do among nations. At the novel’s end, the men are launching nuclear missiles at each other’s land masses. Something went wrong with the world and civilization and people live in the forests outside where there used to be cities, in Oryx and Krake, Margaret Attwood’s venture in the post apocalyptic. Finally, to my mind, Lord of the Flies by William Golding sprang to mind as a classic of the postapocalyptic list, the abandoned boys dancing madly around the fire. McCarthy finds himself in good company.
from Alex Espinoza:
I wanted to alert you of an upcoming event I have scheduled in the Denver area. I'll be appearing at the LIGHTHOUSE LIT FEST's second annual SUMMER LITERAY FESTIVAL. My event, a literary salon and discussion on the topic, "The Exotic in Fiction: Finding Your Yoknapatawpha” will be on June 16 at 7:00 PM at the Tattered Cover in LoDo. Do you think you can make mention of it on LaBloga?
Please join PAGE in welcoming three outstanding writers
to our last reading of the season:
MIN JIN LEE
Free Food for Millionaires
The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue
HELENA MARÍA VIRAMONTES
Their Dogs Came with Them
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The National Arts Club
free and open to the public
open bar and refreshments
books sold at a discount
The National Arts Club * 15 Gramercy Park South * NYC 10003
PAGE is directed by Fran Gordon and Wah-Ming Chang.
For more information,
please e-mail email@example.com
or go to
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Here we are, Tuesday, May 12, 2007. A day like any other day, except you were there. Say goodnight Gracie. Goodnight Gracie.