Sunday, November 30, 2008

the end of The Road

now finished: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Well, would you look at that? I almost went the entire month of November without a post to this here literary supplement! But never fear: in the nick of time, and thanks to the holiday weekend during which I did not feel guilty about picking up the novel from the bedside table instead of lugging a few law textbooks into my lap, I have just finished reading The Road.

Short answer? I love it.

Of course I have more to say than just that. But it's one of those about which it is hard to speak eloquently. The book itself is simply and elegantly written, despite being about harsh things. Or maybe because it's about harsh things. You'll surely hear a lot of people going on and on about how it's depressing, dismal, bleak, and so forth because it is about a man and a boy journeying together along the road through a post-apocalyptic, basically destroyed country. There's a lot of death. And desperation. And ashes.

But the book is so life-affirming, as these so-called "depressing" works often are. I'm not going to give away the ending, because I highly recommend it and want you to read it. I am just saying this: how can a book that contemplates death, destruction, and the real possibility of entirely destroying civilization not make a reader contemplate life and come away with a renewed sense of all that is good about your life, relationships, and communities?

I am all kinds of excited for the movie, which, unfortunately, has been delayed until next year. (It was supposed to be out this month, but needs more time in post-production.) It's such a powerful story. It's kind of weird that just last year we had Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, which was the first book of his I'd read, and which I basically read because the movie was coming out. Actually, I read half of it because the movie was coming out, and then I went back and read the second half of it to try to figure out how it ended, since the movie certainly doesn't tell you. I must say I am glad I delved deeper into McCarthy's oeuvre because I was much more impressed by The Road, but I was expecting to be thoroughly impressed because as you may know The Road won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. See, everyone loves the road - me, Oprah, the Pulitzer committee. What more do you need?

The book starts a little slowly as it draws you into this world, but you become a part of it and it's really hard to put down. I'm sure if I hadn't been obliterated by law school fatigue on any given night I would have read it in one or two sittings; it moves quickly. But there are moments when the boy or the man expresses some thought summing up all the despair and hope into one tight, worried, heartbreaking sentence and at those moments you pause, you must pause, before going on to the next page.

While it is about what would happen to the survivors as they approach the end of the world, it's much more about the relationship between the man and the boy, and what that says about all of us and how we treat each other even before we get to the end of the world.


Kim Diaz said...

So which McCarthy book is NOT depressing, dismal, bleak, and about harsh things? I read two and a half volumes of The Border Trilogy. In The Crossing alone he breaks your heart twice and then - just when you thought he was done - Bam! - a third time. He is a phenomenal writer, I think, also, because he is so economical. Yet the first 30 pages or so of All the Pretty Horses is basically a lyric poem. I'll probably get to The Road when I finish Border Trilogy and then Blood Meridian, which I hear is another tiptoe through the tulips...

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