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Cormac's tale of survival
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Member Name: Praskipark
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Date: 12/12/12, updated on 12/12/12 (48 review reads)
Advantages: Eloquently written with clever phrasing and use of descriptive words, fantastic imagery,
Disadvantages: Could be too depressing for some readers
The landscape is bleak, it has been blasted apart by a nuclear war, seems like it ended years before, only we are never told this in so many words. Dead bodies are everywhere, thousands strewn around, carcasses that have been caught in the tar as it melted around them trying to escape the end.
This all happened before the boy was born, he was still in his mother's womb. We are never really sure from his monosyllabic outbursts if he remembers his mother. His Papa is here with him on the desolate road to the coast although within the text we haven't been informed that the man travelling with him and the one he calls Papa, is his father. We assume he is as there is parental affection between man and boy.
As they trudge on through a wilderness of ash, torn and frightened with only a pistol to defend themselves and the clothes on their back, they keep their thoughts of dying to themselves, although the man knows that the boy is terrified and at times, wonders if killing him would be the best thing to do. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind; this is no life for a boy.
The sun has died, the wind blows grey snow everywhere and the bitter cold bites through their ragged clothes. Still, they persevere, moving on with their broken down cart of scavenged food from burnt out homes. They are not alone on the road; bands of weirdoes are out, scouting for food and clothing. They are lawless and will do anything to get what they want, to feed their hunger, and even eat human flesh. The man knows that the only way he and the boy can survive is to live like rats among the filth.
The Road was written by America's Cormack McCarthy, a novelist and playwright from Rhode Island. He has written several books in the Southern Gothic, Western, Post-apocalyptic genres. He's good; I like his work because he is powerful yet at the same time, thrifty with words and pronunciation.
The Road is a small book with 287 pages. There are some powerful phrases and beautiful poetry, 'Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world,' this describes the dark nights and grey days, darker and greyer than what had gone before. This was the fifth line on the first page, I was hooked.
I've had this book quite a while and tried to read it once before. Even though I was hooked straight away I felt depressed by the time I was half way through and had to stop reading. I loved the writing but the futility of it all jarred my nerves.
The second time was this year when I was in the airport in Amsterdam and had a very long wait for my flight. I decided to give it another go and started over again. I liked the fact that there were only two main characters and not a lot going on. The book is very eloquently written and the poetic descriptions of the landscape drove me on to read more. I did at times wonder how he managed to write so beautifully about a landscape so savaged. I would have run out of descriptions by the time I had got to the 20th or 30th page.
The amazing thing about the book is the coldness about it and the stark descriptions of two people surviving in the most horrendous conditions. We do feel love and affection and it is there between man and boy but it is shown in lots of different ways. It isn't all about hugs, the ruffling up of hair and tender kisses. It is about survival, about trusting each other and about man teaching boy to live in a desecrated jungle where he could be jumped upon and killed while sleeping. It is very clever too how McCarthy delivers the book in a trudging way. It is like every page tells the same desperate thing but in a different way. The images he creates are so illuminated. At times, I felt if I reached out my hand, I could feel the cold wind blowing, the hardness of the stones underneath their feet and the ash in their hair. McCarthy's poetry is so vivid I could even smell the charred ruins of houses and the dampness of books rotting away in soggy bookcases.
From what I have read about Cormac McCarthy he is a hard man, a recluse who has always put his writing first. He has lived in tough conditions without certain necessities in life like running water and heating and put his family though hard times for the sake of his craft. He is a very private man and doesn't seem to suffer fools. Some of these traits come through in The Road and other books like No Country for Old Men but I think this book is more personal.
I managed to finish the book the second time around. I wouldn't say it was a laugh a minute but it is a clever piece of work. It is a moving story of a journey, showing how man can be destructive, tenacious and tender.
If you are in the right mood, The Road is a book not to be put down. The language is intense, haunting, devastating and beautiful. Mr. McCarthy is a powerful storyteller and deserves 5 stars for this tale of survival.
Summary: Cormac McCarthy's best novel