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THE ROAD _ read if you dare

November 11, 2009

The Road: Awesome Book

I recently finished The Road, an excellent book by Cormac McCarthy and a soon to be released movie starring Viggo Mortensen.  I came across the book a bit unexpectedly. I had heard good things about it among the blogs and websites I frequent but, to be honest, I thought it was a graphic novel.  Imagine my surprise when I came upon the book on display at my local Barnes and Noble. Without hesitation l picked it up and headed toward the door.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. The books on display were the stupid editions that come out when a movie adaptation is near release: the book cover consisted of the movie’s poster and the eye rolling marketing badge “soon to be a major motion picture.” Maybe this makes me some sort of literary snob but I hate reading books cross-marketed with upcoming movies (ironic considering one of my favorite novels as a kid was the Back to the Future 2 novelization… talk about quality literature.)  So, instead of heading straight for the door, I went back into the fiction section, found McCarthy’s shelf, and picked up the book sans any movie tie-ins.  Petty, I know.

Okay, I need to back up a few thoughts and clarify that The Road is not a book adaptation of the movie (like the Back to the Future 2 novelization) but a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, who also wrote No Country For Old Men (a movie I was never fond of.  Best Picture my ass.)

Wow, so I’ve written some 250 words and I’ve talked about almost everything but the book itself.  So, The Road is post-apocalyptic, a genre I love. I don’t know what it is but I’ve always been fascinated with life after “the end of the world.”  The writing itself is wonderfully minimalistic, a style I love. Put those together, minimalistic + post-apocalyptic, and its not a surprise how much I loved this book.

Can I ask you something? he said.
Yes. Of course.
Are we going to die?
Sometime. Not now.

~ The Road

Now, since the movie’s release is only a few weeks away I’m going to shy away from direct spoilers (your welcome) and just give a brief synopsis: Taking place a decade or so after a dramatically cataclysmic event (the details McCarthy give are vague) we find a man and his son (no names given) traveling, on foot, out of complete desperation, the former United States toward the coast where who knows what awaits them (hope, salvation, good people?)

Sound cliché?  Maybe.  But I found McCarthy’s take on the genre surprisingly refreshing and completely unnerving.  He takes many of those tired clichés, scavenging for the necessities of life, and makes them brings them down to earth.  He makes them personal.  This story is never about the “big-picture.”  No attempt is made to answer why this happened.   Unlike The Terminator, there’s no war against machines. Unlike Mad Max, there’s no climatic battle for water or fuel.  This book is about survival for one man and one child, nothing more, nothing less.

When it comes to details McCarthy is incredibly vague (that’s what I love about minimalists!) He only hints at what might have happened to the world.  Unfortunately, the marketing for the movie seems to imply some sort of environmental disaster and, I must point out, environmentalists have hailed the book as the single most important climate change book ever written but, in my opinion, what little clues McCarthy does give the reader hints at nuclear war.   Whatever happened, all plant life, all vegetation, and, consequently, all animal life (except one dog they spot) is dead… leaving man not far behind.

After a decade of these conditions, fuel is nonexistent and food is scarce.  The father and son live off what little canned goods they can scrounge up (their days pretty much consist of this search.)  Almost everybody else they encounter in their travels has resorted to cannibalism.  And, as you probably could guess, these are some pretty scary people.  Once again, McCarthy never goes into detail about their lifestyles but the glimpses he does offer the reader are quite terrifying.

He pulled the boy closer. Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, don’t you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.

~ The Road

The Road is captivating.  There’s a good chance you won’t be able to put the book down (seriously). The way it is written is haunting.  There are moments in this book, however brief, that you will never forget.   Few books have enthralled me as this book has.  When the father and son are cold and hungry, I found myself cold and hungry.  When the father and son are scared and desperate, well, I couldn’t stop reading… almost as if my own life was in jeopardy.

If you’re looking for an incredible read… I highly recommend The Road.  Just beware, it’s not for the faint of heart and this probably isn’t bed-time material unless you don’t want to fall asleep anytime soon.  And it might make you want to invest in bullets.  Bullets and canned goods. And shoes.

Since the movie is only a few weeks away, expect a few more posts on the subject!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Hack Riven permalink
    November 11, 2009 10:08 pm

    El Camino.

  2. cklockwork permalink*
    November 11, 2009 11:57 pm

    Ha. Random. Looking to buy one?

  3. Hack Riven permalink
    November 12, 2009 5:47 am

    i was dismayed after i bought mine and asked someone who knew Spanish what El Camino was in English. i dunno, i guess i was hoping for something with a little more mystique, like “The Camel” or “The MeatPlow.” Well, turns out that El Camino simply means “The Road.”

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